Idyllwild Water District residents have a choice of five candidates for the three director seats up for election in the August mail-in ballot election. Running for re-election are President Jim Billman and directors Warren Monroe and Dean Lattin, who is in his first election. The two challengers are Steven Kunkle and June Rockwell.

Ballots must be received by the election officials no later than the close of the polls on election day or be postmarked on or before election day, Aug. 25, and received no later than three days after election day to be counted.

On Wednesday, Aug. 5, the Town Crier will hold a candidates forum for IWD voters. The forum will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Idyllwild Nature Center.

This week’s issue completes all of the interviews with the water district candidates. This interview is with Warren Monroe. The interview with Billman is on page XX. The interview with Rockwell was published in the July 16 issue of the paper and the Kunkle and Lattin interviews were in the July 23 issue.

Warren Monroe, Idyllwild Water District board member. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

Warren Monroe was first elected director of the Idyllwild Water District in August 2003 and sworn into office three months later in December. He was re-elected in 2007 and without opposition in 2011.

A Purdue University graduate, Monroe moved west to California more than 50 years ago. He devoted 40 years to aerospace engineering. Since he retired, Monroe remains active, volunteering his time at the Redlands Community Hospital, the Idyllwild Garden Club, the Nature Center and the Orange Empire Railroad Museum as the engineer for the Jo’An’s Restaurant railroad in Idyllwild.

He is chair of the Local Review Board for the Idyllwild Area Historic District.

He became acquainted with Idyllwild in the late 1950s. By 1992, he and his wife became part-time residents and full-time seven years later.

TC: Why did you originally join the board? Why do you want to continue?

“I had engineering experience that I felt could be beneficial for the district and I wanted to contribute to the community,” he said proudly. He contributed his engineering skills early in his IWD career as the chair during the construction, installation and implementation of the district’s solar power facility at its Foster Lake property.

But he is equally proud of his contribution to revising employee benefits, which are now guaranteed, but that would have bankrupted the district at some point without any change.

TC: With respect to revenues and water supply, what should customers expect in the next 12 months? … and the next five years?

“The key thing that drives my thinking is ‘sustainability.’ The last thing I want to see is people in Idyllwild Water District opening their taps and not see anything come out,” Monroe said. “I’d like to keep it coming out; but it’s so easy to turn around if you misdirect the budget or cut expenses in the wrong place.”

While water rates have steadily risen over the past six years, he sees them remaining constant over the next year. Beyond that point, Monroe said, “… rates may have to be raised if the drought continues for five years.”

TC: How do you assess the district’s infrastructure?

Monroe also sees the need to begin developing a plan for replacing the district’s older pipelines, which will be expensive. A strategic plan for funding and scheduling the replacement is being developed, according to him.

TC: What is the purpose of the recycling facility?

Monroe stressed that the recycling facility as currently planned and its design will be a pilot project. “The state wants to see if a recycled wastewater facility is feasible for small water districts,” he said. “Its purpose is two-fold: Provide a source for landscape irrigation and provide a source for water recharge [of groundwater wells].”

Monroe expects that selling the landscape water will be sufficient to cover IWD’s cost of the facility. The district expects Idyllwild Arts Academy and perhaps two local camps to be important consumers of this water for landscaping. Much of facility’s cost will be funded though a state grant and loan, which the district hopes will be forgiven.

Whatever amount of the recycled water is used for irrigation, it will reduce demand for the district’s potable water, thus, expanding its water supply.

He also stressed that on the Hill the availability of the recycled product provides water that might be used for fire protection.

TC: What is your view on “will serve” letters during stages 2 & 3? Should new development be curtailed?

In response, Monroe emphasized, “IWD has a commitment to deliver water to existing customers. The board, not being omniscient nor omnipotent, needs to plan for current customers and, if the weather turns better and we are no longer depleting our resources, the district can consider expanding through new ‘will-serve’ letters.”

While he said IWD does not intend to curtail new development, he stressed that a bigger district would be “more costly to operate.”

The district encourages new development such as the planned brew pub, which is developing its own water resources.

He also mentioned that IWD accommodates larger meters for existing sites. These are often necessary for complying with fire regulations, he said. Larger meters pose a potential greater demand for water and IWD has to plan and manage this possibility.

Complicating the issue of identifying water demand, Monroe acknowledged that IWD “is the only Hill district with schools, camps, restaurants and industry customers. All are major water users.”