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

Jeffery Kleefisch, a challenger in the August election for a seat on the Pine Cove Water District Board of Directors.
Photo by JP Crumrine

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 has interviewed the four PCWD candidates. 

The interviews began last week with Board President Robert Hewitt and will be completed with Joel Palmer’s next week.

Jeffrey Kleefisch moved to Idyllwild in 2015 from Escondido. He is a native Midwesterner, but moved to California from Vermont.

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

Kleefisch is concerned about the increasing water production, which may be related to leaks in the pipelines. His professional experience suggests that flash corrosion may be occurring.

He recommends more investigation and pre-treatment of pipe before installation. “If you don’t treat it, it will do the same thing,” he emphasized.

“My technical experience can be helpful for the entire community,” he stated.

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

In the first 12 months, we need to save more money. The price of water, undoubtedly, will increase. People say that water’s value will approach the price of gold soon.

“We need to reclaim, recover, recycle and save as much water as possible,” he urged.

He also suggested studying the possibility of more hydroelectric projects between Pine Cove and all the way to Hemet.

“Why not generate electricity? Gravity is our friend and will reduce the cost of electricity for the districts,” he said.

Why do you want to serve on the water district board?

“My goal is to help my community. We need to reclaim and recycle as much water as we can in the time available to do it.

“I have more than 20 years experience with water, waste water issues — macro-, micro- and failure-analysis. I’m a scientist, not a politician.

“I’ve worked in [industrial] plants and know all the water systems,” he said proudly. “I’m familiar with the technology.”

Kleefisch has a patent for precipitation of arsenic. A graduate of Purdue, his career has been working with Fortune 500 companies for 32 years and he wants to share that experience with the Pine Cove 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?

Water recycling and reclamation are critical technologies Kleefisch says are proven and will help water districts as future supply becomes threatened. They are critical.

“You can buy tanks at stores to help use grey water outside,” he stated. “People need to start using greywater.”

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

“With my experience, I think it’s leaks. I don’t see residents using any unnecessary water when I drive through the neighborhoods.

“The increased production is attributable to non-destructive leaks and testing needs to occur. A million gallons can add up fast.”

He noted that a leak seemed to run down Sylvan Way for two weeks earlier this year.

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?

“We should not deny operators the access to the high points. Raising the prices on the leases looks inappropriate at this time.

“But I don’t understand the accounting functions and will look into that.

“Water is our resource. Every Californian has a right to have water.  I can’t see raising [water] prices every year.

“We have to be smart on how we use it. For example, using graywater to water the yards and plants.”

Editor’s note: In August 2016, Kleefisch was charged with driving under the influence and a blood alcohol level recorded as greater than 0.08. The incident took place on Sylvan Way where he blacked out, drifting to the left shoulder and hitting a tree and an unoccupied car, according to California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Darren Meyer. Kleefisch pleaded guilty in June and was convicted of a misdemeanor DUI. He has paid his fines and sentencing of eight days in jail. 

He has attributed the incident to combination of a beer with medicine that he was taking due to heart problems. He also is a cancer survivor.