Water district candidates, appointees address issues
Last updated 10/20/2006 at Noon
The Rainbow Municipal Water District (RMWD) board governs water and sanitation services in Rainbow, Bonsall and a portion of Fallbrook. The district covers approximately 49,800 acres on both sides of I-15 and the San Luis Rey River. Its service customers are primarily agriculture, but area housing development now adds residential customers in growing numbers. The board is divided into five districts, each having a seat that represents an equal number of registered voters with addresses within the district’s boundaries. In November voters will choose from two candidates vying for seats in Divisions Three, Four and Five.
William (Bill) Bopf, Division Three, is an incumbent who says, “The past four years have been critical for the Rainbow Water District.” He refers to establishing and funding two capital improvement funds to eliminate outdated pipes and provide adequate maintenance for newer assets. In addition, Bopf says, the district has been ordered to cover its 30-year-old reservoirs, a project now needing accomplishment. Further, he adds, “Rainbow is facing a raid by the developer-driven San Luis Rey Water District to annex 2,000 existing and new Rainbow customers,” which will cause substantial costs to all Rainbow customers if they succeed. Bopf says, “I will resist this injustice with all legal means available.”
He believes serving on the board is a civic responsibility and should not be a paid position. During his four years on the board he has been instrumental in reducing board director stipends from as much as $1,200 per month to less than $300 and consistently votes to reduce the payment to zero.
During Bopf’s 30-year public service career he was city manager of three cities that had full-service water and sewer systems. He has resided in the Fallbrook area for 19 years.
George McManigle, Division Three, says, “With the current leadership at RMWD [ratepayers] have suffered increased meter charges; high water-rate increases; reckless spending, often without competitive bidding; State Health fines of over $63,000; and Air Pollution Control District fines of $6,250. It’s got to end!” McManigle says he knows that water is vital to our area but like many district customers has “often been frustrated with the political power struggle and mismanagement that has plagued the Rainbow Municipal Water District.” He believes the developments at I-15 and 76 need to be carefully evaluated in terms of what is best for the water district to make sure they are in the best interest of the district and its ratepayers. McManigle says the improvement projects planned need to be carefully analyzed and competitively bid. Further, he suggests professional and community input must be sought in their regard. He believes “board decisions need to consider the opinions of the current customers and take into consideration future growth throughout the district.”
McManigle is an exotic fruit grower. He is an alternate on the board of the California Avocado Commission and is president of Gold Crown Macadamia Association. He is also a member of the Fallbrook Planning Group and the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce board. McManigle is a founding member of Keep Fallbrook Clean and Green.
Stephen Abbott, Division Four, states his number one priority for service on the board is bringing stability to the district. “Simply put, employee turnover at the field, administrative and board levels is unhealthy and counterproductive to long-term change,” Abbott says. He believes his presence on the board would have a conciliatory affect. He says, “I am effective in solving issues in a collaborative fashion. I believe in balancing interests. To that end, my goal is to fix the current problems; I am not pursuing political agendas.” Abbott adds he would gather information from a variety of different people and sources in order to make informed decisions. He believes his background in public administration and consistent track record of providing public service in a fair, firm and consistent manner would be an asset, particularly his experience as a fire marshal within the community. Because of this local knowledge, Abbot says, he is “uniquely prepared to serve on this board, in that I am familiar with planning, development and public finance issues.”
Stephen Abbott is a Fire Battalion Chief with the North County Fire Protection District and has been employed as a firefighter since 1989. He has lived in the Fallbrook area for 15 years.
Robert C. Lucy, Division Four, says, “My number one priority if elected to the Rainbow Water Board will be to bring stability and better management to the district.” Lucy says “with the growing pressures of urban development, Rainbow is at a crossroad. Better management of Rainbow is essential to control costs, protect our water supply and preserve our rural character and quality of life.” Lucy is a founding member of Fair Plan, which in its Mission Statement asserts, “Fair Plan is dedicated to protecting historical densities and preserving the character of the Pala Mesa Valley.” He wants the district to focus on being a very well run rural water district that provides clean, safe and affordable water to both residential and agricultural users. He believes his ag-business experience will have a positive impact on the operation of the district.
Lucy also served on a water district board in the Pauma Valley, now absorbed by a larger entity, for seven years. He is an owner of Del Rey Avocado Company, was a director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau and has served on many agricultural and community boards for the last 30 years. He is currently on the board of the California Avocado Commission and is Chairman of the Board of Fallbrook Hospital. Lucy has lived in North County since 1975.
Stephen F. “Steve” Brannon, Division Five, states, “My number one priority will be to provide leadership within the board of directors. This has been missing for the last 20 years. The board must act as a team rather than five individuals with their own agendas.” For Brannon, the focus of the board should be to enact policies that provide a clean, reliable and cost effective water supply to the ratepayers of the district, not micromanagement of day-to-day operations, which should be left to the general manager. For this to happen, he says, the district must hire a qualified general manager who has previous water works experience and a proven record of effective leadership. Making decisions that benefit the district, listening to ratepayers’ concerns and supporting policies that benefit all, not just the vocal minority, are high on his list.
Brannon is a registered professional engineer who has held positions at two local water districts, which provides him with unique insight into the needs of the district. He worked for the Rainbow Municipal Water District for 13 years and ended his career with Rancho California Water District after 19 years where he served as the district’s engineering services manager for 15 years.
Rua W. Petty, District 5, an incumbent, emphasizes his number one priority “…will be to ensure the district maintains its current mission, which is a rural water district that provides safe, adequate water to its owners at a fair price and a limited amount of sewage treatment.” In addition, Petty says, if the board pursues any change in that mission or any changes in its boundaries it should have frank, open discussions about the issue and solicit information from the ratepayers affected. Petty comes out against expansion of the district to the east and the annexation of the Pardee property and says, “I do not believe this would be in the best interest of the ratepayers.” He justifies his objection by stating, “We should concentrate our efforts on becoming a very efficient district serving and protecting our existing ratepayers and not expanding and becoming an urban supplier of water and sewer to a new city.” Further, he says the challenges facing the board demand an open dialog with district ratepayers, employees and board members that must result in an atmosphere of teamwork.
As a board director, Petty says he was instrumental in removing a former “ineffective management team that brought Rainbow the back-flow fiasco” and hiring both an in-house engineer and general manager. Petty has served as the representative of the RMWD to the California Special Districts Association and represents the RMWD on the board of directors of the San Diego County Water Authority.
Petty owns RJT Ranch and grows avocados and proteas. He was in the association management profession, including service as the president and chief operating officer of Colorado Management between 1986 and 1997.
Fallbrook Public Utility District
The Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) Board of Trustees consists of five directors, elected at large to overlapping four-year terms by registered voters in the district. It establishes water charges, levies assessments and has the power to adopt all policies, procedures and regulations. The district operates as a public agency under the California Public Utility District Act and provides imported water and sewer service to 35,000 residents living on 28,000 acres in Fallbrook. It also treats sewage and provides recycled water.
Board seats Number Four and Five are up for election in November. Candidates Al W. Gebhart and Milt Davies will be appointed by the county to these seats, respectively, because they are uncontested. Although their names will not be on the ballot, information about the two candidates follows.
Milt Davies says, “My number one priority after providing safe and clean water to the residents of Fallbrook and De Luz is to secure a local water source from the Santa Margarita River. Fallbrook needs to secure a second source of water for our residents other than imported water from Northern California or the Colorado River.” Davies says he is committed to drought-proofing Fallbrook and De Luz from a catastrophic failure of its current and fragile imported water system.
Another concern for Davies is maintaining consistent pricing, in particular keeping water and sewer rates stable and predictable. He says FPUD water rates are in the lower one third in the county and its sewer rates are average. To offset tax revenue raided by the state for the last decade and particularly in the last two years, Davies says, the district has made cuts in services and expenditures resulting in minimal rate increases to customers.
Davies has served area residents within this district for 25 years, first on the board of the former sanitary district, then continued when it merged into what is now the Fallbrook Public Utility District. During these years he oversaw providing new sewer connections for businesses and residents, reduction of pollution entering streams and rivers, establishing horseback and walking trails in the river bottom, reclaiming water for area nurseries, administrative oversight to staff, cost containment measures, rate reductions and service increases.
Milt Davies has lived in Fallbrook for 55 years. He has Public Administration Certificates from San Diego State University and recently retired as a Fire Division Chief from the North County Fire Protection District after 42 years.
Al W. Gebhart’s number one priority is “to work with the existing board members <and> ensure water supplies.” Gebhart believes as “a farmer, business owner and my existing work experience I can bring additional financial perspectives to the board.” He is a certified financial planner with a degree in natural resource management who has 30 years of work experience in areas that he says will bring additional strength to enable the board to achieve its goals.