Editor’s note: Four directors for the Pine Cove Water District are on the August mail-in ballot. The terms for three — Board President Robert Hewitt, Joel

Robert Hewitt, president of the Pine Cove Water District Board of Directors, seeks re-election in August.
Photo by JP Crumrine

Palmer and Lou Padula — expire in December. They and challenger Jeffery Kleefisch are on the ballot for four-year terms.

The fourth director, Vicki Jakubac, replaced Tim Lange, who was elected in the August 2015 election and resigned in March 2016. She is unchallenged for the final two years of Lange’s term. 

Ahead of the election, the Town Crier will interview the four PCWD candidates over the next several weeks. 

The interviews begin with Robert Hewitt who was originally appointed to the board in 2012. He was elected to a four-year term in 2013 and has served as president since 2015.

Hewitt moved to Idyllwild in 2010. He is a retired battalion chief for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, where he served for 35 years. He currently serves on the County Service Area 38 Advisory Committee and is a volunteer at Animal Rescue Friends of Idyllwild.

What are your thoughts about the district’s goals for the next 12 months?

As we have discussed at board meetings, I want to continue our improvement of the district’s infrastructure. We have several plans to replace water mains and the addition of several fire hydrants.

Locating the hydrants nearer the district’s border will improve the fire protection for all.

Also, I look forward to the relationship with our customers.

I expect and will encourage the board to continue its collegial working relationship, especially our efforts to analyze issues, discuss them at meetings and improve the district’s service.

What are your thoughts about the district’s goals for the next four years?

We need to replace one or two vehicles in this period and continue the replacement of aging mainline piping. I don’t see the need for any well digging.

We will continue to improve our service to customers and account for every gallon of water.

Why do you want to serve another term?

For the same reason that I initially wanted to serve. I wanted to make my experience in the fire service available to the community of Pine Cove. One way that I use this is service on CSA 38.

With my fire background, I have an understanding for water systems and their use. Once involved, I learned more about our responsibility to the customers. And I enjoy the challenges to better serve the community.

The state just came out of a historic drought. Do you believe PCWD can withstand another drought? Or what should the district do to mitigate the effects of another drought?

One of my priorities with the other directors is the promotion of water conservation. The principles of conservation apply whether we’re in a drought or not.

That is the number one program we need to press.

Given the nature of our system of wells, we were still in a very good [water] position in the height of the recent drought. Pine Cove Water is in an outstanding position to withstand another drought.

We will review and discuss our plans to increased resources if an extended drought were to re-occur. We’ll study ideas.

The nature of our system and the focus of past general managers and staff has put us in a really good place and it’s easy to feel comfortable. But we’re not sitting on our laurels. We need to plan for the next one.

Water production, through May, is the greatest since 2007. Are you worried about the conservation ethic dying or leaks in the system?

The loss figures, discussed at our meetings, are always a consideration for me and other directors. They are always mentioned during the general manager’s report and primarily somewhat discouraging.

But the increased production is also attributable to an increase in population [within the district].

The staff has checked meters to be sure we’re not losing water. We’ve bought new leak-detection equipment for the staff to evaluate the distribution system.

As an agency, we’re doing all we can to maximize how to account for water. I don’t believe the customers are falling back on conservation.

Without the lease payments from the Rocky Point communication companies, PCWD’s budget would be in a different position.  Should rates for water usage be increased and the lease payments set aside for “rainy days” or capital projects?

With respect to water rates, I’d never support an increase without a lively discussion from the staff, board and public, and a justification.

The current budget structure has operating costs supported by radio fees. This is a very stable situation.

The recent audit report suggested increasing reserves in case of an emergency and we’ve been doing that for two years.

The Rocky Point fees don’t concern me. There is no need to change what we’re doing. They are only a more stable funding source.