The Idyllwild Water District lost two of its five directors in September. Former President James Billman and Director Mike Freitas resigned unexpectedly within the same week.
The remaining directors have not been able to appoint replacements because Vice President John Cook prefers to wait and hold an election in March 2017. Regardless of the victors, the newly elected directors would have to stand for re-election again in August 2017.
California Government Code section 1780, subdivision (f)(1), authorizes a county’s board of supervisors to appoint replacements after 60 days of the resignations.
Four individuals — Geoffrey Caine, David Hunt, Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly and Vic Sirkin — have decisively and publicly expressed their interest in serving on the IWD board.
Whether IWD ultimately holds an election or the supervisors choose the replacements, the Town Crier organized a forum for these individuals to speak to the district residents. The forum was Thursday, Nov. 10.
The Nov. 17 issue had part one of the forum’s questions and answers. Below are more of the questions posed to the candidates and their responses.
Q. How do you believe climate change is affecting the local water supply for IWD and the other two water districts? How does this shape your opinion about “will serve” letters?
DH: We need to pay attention to our water sources. “Will serve” letters have to be coordinated and worked with Riverside County planning staff. In some cases, you can’t supply water.
VS: That’s the paramount question in a period of climate change. The reality is life on the mountain is different than in the flat lands. We have precipitation, no agribusiness, no burgeoning population. We should find a professional, independent [water] engineering company to develop a comprehensive capability plan. For example, ask them how much rain do we need to re-charge our wells?
Before denying a water meter, give the property owner, in writing, an explanation for why they can’t have one. It should not be an arbitrary water board decision. They are not de facto economic decision makers. We should sell meters if we have water and; and if not, no.
CS: We know we haven’t had the precipitation we’d like for several years. What are our well levels — up or down? Do more research and identify some indicators of precipitation and wells.
We shouldn’t deny “will serve” letters because we think the worse. The best solution is to get additional opinions on what we have and need.
GC: In an ideal situation, 10,000 gallons captures all water running off roofs. We need water in the long term. The policy of the board should be to guarantee more service. Rain water is a place to begin.
Q. Do you have any relationship, as a board member or otherwise, with the Idyllwild Community Center?
CS: I have no connection, but I do like it. It’s a good project and I support it.
VS: I’m strongly in favor of the community center. The contention that the facility would use too much water is mistaken. There’s no irrigation. They could use a 5/8-inch line, but are required to use 2 inch simply for the water sprinkler system. The community center will be built to safe earthquake standards and in event of a major quake here, it could help us.
DH: I serve on the County Service Area 36 Advisory Committee. We may handle recreation in the future, but I’m not in favor of the pool.
VS: Pool is a contentious topic, but offers opportunistic service of water in case of fire; it’s a dual purpose.
Q. Are you aware of the board of directors’ compensation per meeting? And what is your view of it?
DH: It’s $100 per meeting and I’m willing to forego it.
GC: It used to be $50 per meeting and became $100. I’d like to go back to $50.
CS: I want a box of chocolates.
VS: I’m not planning to take the stipend and not interested in the money.
Q. What qualities can you bring to the board?
DH: One quality that I bring is knowing the community for a long time; also, the ability to work as a team member and solve problems.
CS: I research things well.
GC: A long time ago, I studied and understood the nature of legal procedures. I know group processes and how to help people work together.
VS: I was an electronic technician, workforce engineer with a technical background and in real estate for 30 years. I’ll look for the balance between property rights and stewardship of water.
Q. Are you aware, according to a report from the IWD board, that nearly all of IWD wells are not working and have not for several years?
DH: I wouldn’t say “nearly all are not working,” but they need a lot of maintenance.
VS: IWD has more than 27 wells but uses only nine or 10. Seventeen wells are not being used, or are damaged or abandoned. This should part of the study — how many do we rehabilitate.
CS: I was not aware of that study.
Q. What is your knowledge of and intention regarding the reclaimed water grant and project?
CS: We have time, I suppose, to save unrecoverable water, but we need to recover the costs; otherwise, we’ve spent a lot time and energy deciding it wasn’t effective
GC: We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Already spent modest amount of money, and it may cost even more.
My initial impression is to cancel it and go after more potable water. Really difficult to know based on conversations.
DH: The grant money is not spent, and I don’t support it.
VS: I agree with everyone else. It appears to be a failed project and we have to repay the grant funds. State refuses to grant approval to deliver the recycled water to Dutch Flats and Pine Cove residents don’t want it. Again, I suggest an independent study and analysis of its costs and benefits. Make clear we have to answer taxpayers.