Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Water agency candidates weigh in

Rainbow Municipal Water District Board

On Election Day, November 4, only one seat will be open for voters to decide on for the Rainbow Municipal Water District (RMWD).

The open seat exists in Division Two. Incumbent Jack Griffiths is campaigning for reelection, while his opponent, Sheri Leigh Rumble, is the contender for this spot.

For the Division One seat, incumbent Gerald R. Walson is uncontested on the ballot.

The RMWD board is comprised of five board members, known as directors. There are five divisions that make up the board, each covering a specific geographic area of the district. Each board member is to serve a four-year term.

Questions were posed to Griffiths and Rumble. Walson chose not to participate in the series.

Please provide your full name as listed on the ballot, occupation and/or retired occupation.

Jack Griffiths: RMWD board member/engineer

Sheri Leigh Rumble: Grower/corporate office manager

Where do you reside and how long have you lived in the area?

Griffiths: “The Post Office says Bonsall, since April 1, 1991.”

Rumble: “In Fallbrook, 39 years.”

How do you feel you can be of benefit to the board?

Griffiths: “I have extensive business and engineering management experience and can, in a responsible way, save millions of [taxpayers’] hard-earned money that is presently planned to be spent on over-elaborate pumping projects. I am a licensed mechanical engineer in the State of California and have worked in Venezuela and Mexico (14 years total), which required me to become fluent in Spanish and can thus understand all segments of the Rainbow population.”

Rumble: “I can benefit the board by providing a voice for fair representation to ratepayers which has been lacking in Division 2 and by protecting the confidentiality of the board. My comments and presentations will be succinct. I will disregard personal agendas; being “the new kid on the block,” I have no old political ties and influences that will color my decisions. I will follow Robert’s Rules of Order and remain ethical.”

Do you feel it is really justified that farmers should have to cut back 30 percent on water usage? Why?

Griffiths: “If the gross water supply is limited, water use must be cut back. However, the farmer should not take on all the burden; it is unreasonable to allow unlimited expansion of housing projects the same time as cutting 30 percent of the farmer’s water needs.”

Rumble: “No; as farmers, over the course of decades, we have found new watering techniques which have resulted in lower water usage.”

If more water conservation is mandated, would you support additional water cutbacks to farmers or begin a mandatory water cutback for residential users?

Griffiths: “We have no choice. Water demand must not exceed water supply even though reservoirs might mask the effect for a while. All users must support the program and no expansion of users, farming or residential, must be permitted.”

Rumble: “I support conservation 100 percent and believe we all have a part in it for our future water supply. I do not support mandatory cutbacks for anyone.”

What issues do you feel the board has failed to address that you feel strongly about?

Griffiths: “The board has not restricted the free spending culture of the Rainbow MWD staff.”

Rumble: “Not enough on sewer capacity has been said. It falls under the endless procrastination and failure to address issues in a timely manner.”

How can RMWD put itself in a better financial position without increasing rates?

Griffiths: “Rainbow MWD must institute a firm austerity program covering all aspects of their operations. It must be noted that some price increases are just ‘pass-throughs’ from water suppliers that have monopoly powers and without alternative sources of supply, RMWD has no bargaining power. Where RMWD does have control, every expenditure, even the smallest, must be scrutinized.”

Rumble: “Pursuing local water sources, going after public grants, completing projects on time so we don’t incur more fines and by being smarter with the money we have.”

Are you supported in your candidacy by the RMWD employee association?

Griffiths: “No.”

Rumble: “Yes; I have support from the staff and employees.”

Fallbrook Public Utility District

This election year, Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) has three open seats coming up on its board of directors in Districts 1, 2 and 3.

Only District 2 features a contested race – between incumbent Keith Battle and candidate Archie McPhee. In District 1, incumbent Bert Hayden is the solitary candidate, as is incumbent Don McDougal in District 3.

Five members comprise FPUD’s board of directors and terms are four years in length. The Fallbrook Public Utility District covers a 28,000-square-acre service region.

Battle, McPhee and McDougal have participated in the question-and-answer series that follows. Hayden chose not to participate.

District 2

Please provide your full name as listed on the ballot, occupation and/or retired occupation.

Keith Battle: Incumbent, local small business owner

Archie D. McPhee: Retired farmer/civil engineer

How long have you lived in Fallbrook?

Battle: “I have lived in Fallbrook since 2000 and I was raised in Bonsall area. My family and I are actively involved in the community, supporting Fallbrook FFA by purchasing livestock yearly and helping to promote the Christmas Parade. I am a member of the Village Rotary and Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce.”

McPhee: “I reside in Fallbrook’s De Luz area among beautiful avocado trees which are now being cut down due to FPUD’s savage water conservation demands. I purchased my property in year 2000, designed and built my home as an owner builder, then moved into my beautiful, county-approved home in 2002.”

How do you feel you would be of benefit in this board position?

Battle: “Having served on the FPUD board of directors for the past six years, I have gained a wealth of experience and knowledge regarding the needs of the district and ratepayers. My experience in local, county and state government is beneficial because I am able to knowledgably interact with county and state agencies to promote the interests of the district and the people of Fallbrook. I represent the district on the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) and serve on several of its committees, including the following:

• Energy Committee: I promote the development and implementation of sound public information and education programs and practices among member agencies.

• Federal Affairs Committee: I coordinate with other ACWA committees regarding their input on any issues directly related to federal issues before both Congress and the federal administrative branches.

• Energy Committee: I work with staff in developing and making recommendations to the board of directors to assure an adequate power supply for member agencies, including energy, availability, pricing, distribution and hydro generation.

• Groundwater Committee: I monitor state and federal regulations and legislation that could affect the quality or quantity of groundwater, conduct studies, develop policies regarding the management of groundwater and coordinate with other ACWA committees on issues directly related to groundwater.

• Local Government Committee: I plan and present a program at each ACWA conference relating to local governance issues affecting water agencies.

• State Legislative Committee: I read relevant legislation and work with staff to draft appropriate amendments to bills, provide input to the ACWA Board of Directors and direct ACWA legislative staff on legislative matters.

• Water Management Committee: I work with staff in developing and making recommendations to the board of directors regarding policy and programs on significant areas of concern in water management.”

McPhee: “I would not rubber stamp all proposals by FPUD management. I would weigh costs and benefits and vote always in favor of ‘best for FPUD ratepayers.’ I would strongly campaign for the special water/sewer discounts for needy senior ratepayers as SDG&E and AT&T does. I would strongly campaign for the monthly FPUD director meetings to be held at 6 or 7 p.m., thereby allowing more employed ratepayers to attend. The present 4 p.m. meeting time does not allow employed ratepayers to attend who work until 5 or 6 p.m. The vast majority of attendees at these meetings are FPUD employees. I would treat all FPUD ratepayers with compassion and understanding and try to understand their problems and help them as much as possible. FPUD employees must treat all FPUD ratepayers with respect and dignity. FPUD board president Hayden has stated that FPUD is not allotted water by the SDCWA and that FPUD can purchase the water that our M&I ratepayers require. In other words, FPUD can purchase as much water as they want. Therefore, FPUD should not be the only water district in San Diego County with a Drought Management Plan. This is completely unnecessary and I would fight to change this plan. Report the truth to FPUD ratepayers about the difference in printed statement between California’s Energy Commission and FPUD concerning the amount of potable water FPUD will provide Orange Grove Energy’s power plant for 25 years. California’s Energy Commission is the government agency approving the ‘Application for Certification’ of this power plant located in Rainbow Water’s service area. California Energy Commission states FPUD will supply Orange Grove Energy from: a minimum of 6.9 million gallons per year of fresh water (not reclaim water) to a maximum of 20.2 million gallons per year. A fresh water hydrant pick-up station for trucks will be constructed by FPUD near the intersection of Mission Road and Live Oak Park Road.”

Do you think it is possible to lower water rates? If so, how?

Battle: “As the demand for water increases, water costs typically go up. The entities that provide water are faced with increasing operating costs and they in turn pass this on to their customers. Solutions such as increased regional storage capacity and options such as the proposed Peripheral Canal are matters that are dealt with on the state level. Desalinization is not a viable option given facilities and infrastructure currently available. As a board member I have and will continue to hold water costs down to the best of my abilities. FPUD has worked with various federal agencies to implement the Santa Margarita River project which will provide water to Camp Pendleton and Fallbrook. I worked with the board to prevent the ‘toilet to tap’ that was initially proposed with regard to this project, protecting the water supply for our ratepayers. The water that is eventually provided by this project will cost less than the water that we are currently importing, and the savings will be passed on to the ratepayers if I have any say in the matter.”

McPhee: “I believe it is possible for FPUD to lower water rates. All new FPUD hires should start co-paying into their retirement fund as soon as employed. No free lunch. This fiscal year General Manager Lewinger will receive at least $195,000 salary and bonuses. This wild spending by FPUD’s directors, especially in a period of recession, must stop. Freeze all salaries, all cost of living bonuses and all employee benefit increases, such as increases in vacations, until the recession is over. Stop all work on the Santa Margarita Conjunctive Use Project. FPUD’s share of water will be 30 percent of Camp Pendleton total water. Camp Pendleton’s present water supply is so unclean that base standing orders do not allow babies or children to drink Pendleton’s tap water even if boiled. A water treatment plant for this water will cost FPUD, and only FPUD, at least $25 million for this small amount of unclean water. Obtain a voter referendum requiring FPUD ratepayer approval for all FPUD spending over $100,000 as the Rainbow Water District requires. Oceanside and the water districts of Rainbow, Valley Center, Vallecitos, Santa Fe, Olivenhain and Sweetwater have signed contracts for desalinated water from Carlsbad’s Desalination Plant. Why not FPUD?”

Do you think that farmers should have to cut back 30 percent right now since FPUD is still providing new water meters within the district?

Battle: “I do not support cutting back 30 percent. The deal that is currently in place was implemented between our farmers and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). The farmers have been allowed to purchase surplus water at a discounted rate since the early 1990s. In the event of a severe water shortage MWD can opt to reduce available water to farmers by up to 30 percent. At present, the decision to implement these restrictions lies with MWD, not FPUD.”

McPhee: “No. It is disgusting that avocado farmers must cut back 30 percent of their water but developers and contractors can obtain water meters for all new construction. At FPUD’s August 25 meeting, General Manager Lewinger stated that in five years he anticipated all avocado farmers will be paying the same rate for their water as domestic water users.”

How do you feel FPUD can improve its level of service?

Battle: “I am proud of the services that the district currently provides, including looking out for the interests of the ratepayers and actively supporting various community groups. FPUD worked hard to make sure that water service was not interrupted during last year’s fires. The district works with the Mission Resource Conservation District, the Fallbrook Sports Park and provides water to many local community projects free of charge. As a board member I will continue to find ways we can better serve the community and protect the interests of ratepayers.”

McPhee: “FPUD’s level of service needs improvement. Complainants at the board of director meetings must be treated with dignity and respect. Require General Manager Lewinger’s presence in FPUD’s Fallbrook offices at least three eight-hour days a week and require, for the other two eight-hour days each week, written proof that his absence is for FPUD-approved business. Require yearly audits from independent national/state auditor firms. All agenda items submitted by FPUD ratepayers and FPUD directors must be accepted and printed in each requested monthly agenda.”

Are you supported in your candidacy by the FPUD Employees Association?

Battle: “I have not been contacted by the FPUD Employees Association and I am not aware of their position with regards to my candidacy. I very much believe that they perform a vital service to the district.”

McPhee: “No. I am not supported in any way by the FPUD Employees Association.”

District 3

Please provide your full name as listed on the ballot, occupation and/or retired occupation.

Don B. McDougal: VP/CEO of Grand Tradition

How long have you resided in Fallbrook?

McDougal: “I moved to Fallbrook in 1960 with my family at the age of 10. Following graduation from high school, I left Fallbrook to attend college and onto a career in the food/meat processing industry. In 1996, with my wife and youngest son, we moved back to Fallbrook to take over the family business and have lived in Fallbrook ever since.”

How do you feel you would be of benefit in this board position?

McDougal: “First, I have served as a board member for the past three years and have gained significant knowledge in the water/wastewater industry. This prior knowledge is beneficial and eliminates the need for orientation to the needs facing the board. Second, my previous 33-plus years in business management allows me to effectively analyze the issues facing the board, district and its ratepayers. As a businessman and resident in the community, I understand the issues that face our ratepayers/customers and can make logical, effective decisions that benefit the entire community.”

Do you think it is possible to lower water rates? If so, how?

McDougal: “The ability to lower water rates is totally contingent upon the cost of water we buy from Metropolitan Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority. Roughly 70 percent of our customer’s water bill is directly attributed to the cost of water purchased from these organizations. With shortages in water throughout the state and increasing regulatory and environmental decisions adversely affecting water cost, it is unlikely that our water rates will decrease in the future. What we can do (and are doing) is to increase the efficiency of our operations to hold down cost and to seek additional sources of ‘new’ water that will reduce or hold the cost we pay for water down. The project underway with the Santa Margarita Conjunctive Use project will allow us to obtain water out of the Santa Margarita River at a cost below purchased water rates. Currently this water flows into the Pacific Ocean and nobody benefits from it. It is estimated that this singular supply source could replace 30 to 50 percent of Fallbrook’s water needs depending on annual rainfall.”

Do you think that farmers should have to cut back 30 percent right now since FPUD is still providing new water meters within the district?

McDougal: “Yes, and this actually represents two separate issues. First, some 20 years ago, farmers entered into an agreement with Metropolitan Water District (not FPUD) to receive a discount in the cost they pay for water compared to typical residential and non-agricultural water users. Over the years, this reduced water cost to farmers represents millions in dollars saved had they had to pay for water at the regular rate. Their agreement stated that in the case of a water shortage, they would cut back 30 percent of their water before regular customers had to cut back. This was the agreement and there were never any complaints about paying for discounted water. Second, the Fallbrook Public Utility District board has implemented a policy that prevents any new annexations during Level 1 or higher water shortages and will halt the issuing of any new meters when and if a Level 2 water shortage is issued. This is not a major impact, as only 12 water meters were issued last year and this year the number is even lower.”

How do you feel FPUD can improve its level of service?

McDougal: “FPUD can improve its level of service by continuing to implement cost-saving programs, increasing automation and investigating programs that will reduce cost in both the cost of water purchased and operations cost including the evaluation and implementation of staff re-alignments.”

Are you supported in your candidacy by the FPUD Employees Association?

McDougal: “The board does not interface directly with the Employees Association and I have no way of knowing if I am supported by this group or not. I represent our ratepayers and not any specific group within or outside of the district.”

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