Sat10252014

News

Four vie for three seats on water district board


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Purissima Hills Water District – a county entity that provides water service to most of Los Altos Hills and the unincorporated area of Santa Clara County to the south – has three open seats on its five-member board. Candidates include incumbents Brian Holtz, Steve Jordan and Ernest Solomon, all residents of Los Altos Hills, and challenger William Bowden of San Jose.

According to water district statistics, approximately two-thirds of the town of Los Alto Hills and an estimated 6,400 residents receive water distributed through Purissima Hills. California Water Service provides water to the remainder of residents in the district.

Formed in 1955, the water district and its board members are responsible for distributing safe water to area customers, ensuring the system’s readiness for fire suppression and determining the rates that users pay for their water.

Although there has been a decrease in water consumption since 2005, Los Altos Hills residents remain the highest water consumers in the district at nearly 889 gallons per resident per day. After an April water rate increase, users now pay $2.83 per hundred cubic feet.

With necessary infrastructure projects in the pipeline for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which provides 100 percent of the water to Purissima Hills, the board is expected to increase water rates in the future.

Of the four candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot, incumbents Jordan, Holtz and Solomon responded to the Town Crier’s candidate questionnaire. The Town Crier received no response from Bowden.

For official candidate statements, visit smartvoter.org/2012/11/06/ca/scl/race/6066.

William Bowden

No questionnaire returned to the Town Crier. Bowden has no candidate statement on file with the Registrar of Voters.

Without a voting record on the board or an opportunity to interview Bowden, the Town Crier has little information on his motive for seeking office.

According to Bowden’s website, he would like to keep county water free of additives, including fluoride. Purissima Hills Water District users currently receive fluoridated water from the Hetch Hetchy system.

Additionally, he lists wasteful spending as a problem he would address.

“Aside from the cost of providing fresh water to the residents ... maintenance, and essential employees, there should be no other expenditures on the taxpayer’s dollar,” Bowden writes on his website.

Brian Holtz (incumbent)

As a board member on the water district since 2008 and a former member of the Los Altos Hills Water Conservation Committee, Holtz said he is running for office “to ensure that the district runs efficiently and respects the property rights of the ratepayer.”

If re-elected, his priorities include maintaining a reliable and cost-effective water supply and exploring alternative arrangements for water sourcing and district operations.

“I would also like Purissima ratepayer-owners to have explicit ownership of their shares of the system; i.e., the infrastructure buy-in share and the right-to-buy share of Purissima’s SFPUC allocation,” Holtz wrote in his response. “Ratepayers who buy less than their share could potentially turn a net profit on their water bill. This would promote conservation, and would get the District out of the business of setting conservation prices.”

Currently, reductions in water use actually increase per-unit costs for water, dulling the incentive for frugal water consumption.

“Re-election should not be considered a reward for past performance,” Holtz said, but he added that he hopes voters will support him because they believe that his principles and priorities are in the right place.

Steve Jordan (incumbent)

Jordan seeks re-election to Purissima Hills Water District board because he wants to continue his advocacy on behalf of district water users.

“I have a broad understanding of operations of the district, and also a proven ability to work with the nearby entities to minimize future price increases (including the Los Altos Hills County Fire District, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, Cal Water and the town of Los Altos Hills),” Jordan said.

A member of the board since 2009, he helped the district move closer to stabilized prices during his term in office by identifying less-expensive sources of water, as well as projects that the fire district could fund.

Over the long-term, Jordan said he would “establish a five-year plan for sharing capital improvements with the LAH County Fire District, so that the ratepayers primarily fund drinking water operations and improvements, while the Fire District (which receives a significant share of the 1 percent property tax collected in the Water District) primarily funds fire service improvements,” he responded by email.

With experience serving on the water district, as well as cross-government committees in Los Altos Hills, Jordan said he is committed to solving the district’s challenges through collaboration.

Ernest Solomon (incumbent)

As a district board member since 1996, Solomon said he is proud of upholding the culture of a “people-friendly” water district and looks forward to four more years on the board.

Despite calls for privatization, Solomon said the district should remain public. It is a stellar example of how a public organization can simultaneously do a good job and be responsive to people, he noted.

As an engineer with experience designing water systems, he said he understands the importance of long-term capital improvements. They are and will continue to be a top priority for him.

“We have enough water in storage to provide citizens water for three days,” said Solomon of his work to ensure that the district has adequate storage tanks. But, in the event of a major earthquake, where fires may erupt, he is concerned that the district is behind its peers.

Solomon pledged to continue to work to improve the security of district pipelines and storage tanks. He said he is confident that the district engineer, manager and field workforce are up to the tasks with guidance from the board.

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