Candidate Q&A: Tahoe City Public Utility District
October 22, 2008
McMorrow: I support a community where everyone has adequate water services, both for drinking and fire protection. If an acquisition request is made to the PUD, I would begin the process of fact finding to determine the costs and benefits. I would support a decision to acquire a private water company if: 1) current rate payers are not put at a disadvantage (increased rates to pay for an acquisition), 2) it serves the greater good of the community (fire protection) and 3) those served are overwhelmingly in favor of the acquisition.Friedman: The acquisition of private water companies should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. There are private water companies and mutuals (that is, member-owned) that are responsive and have very satisfied customers. The bigger issue concerns adequate emergency water flows to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, which must be addressed regionally.Milner: Yes. Everyone deserves to be able to drink their homes tap water. If a private water company is not providing quality water to its customers and that neighborhood can agree to upgrade their system, then the TCPUD can maintain the quality. Wood: I support the acquisition of the private water companies to coordinate services and minimize redundancies. The independent owners do not provide the infrastructure improvements that are necessary nor do they fully meet TCPUD standards of water quality or service. There are 15 private water companies that operate under the auspices of the PUC however the actual application of those rules and regulations are not always adhered to. We need a coordinated and properly monitored and metered system to avoid water waste which contributes to declining wells and questionable water quality.Perman: Yes. I have had concerns about the cost of neglected repair and maintenance of these systems and any added cost to current TCPUD customers. However, I spoke with residents in these private districts and they have signed petitions asking for inclusion and offering to pay assessments in the thousands to defray the costs. Also, it is inexcusable to have fire hydrants with insufficient pressure and delivery for firefighting as happened this past year.Henrikson: In the past, the District has maintained a very strict policy concerning private water company acquisition. Only when the District is approached by a willing seller, and after careful consideration and evaluation of many factors, such as value, age and infrastructure replacement cost, or benefit to fire support, will we acquire the system. Only under extreme circumstances would I consider acquisition of a private water company. In the case of Lake Forest, there are myriad issues to be considered.
McMorrow: If the state decided to exercise its ability to borrow our property taxes (the state is allowed to borrow, not take, our property taxes with repayment due in three years), parks and recreation programs would be most impacted and most likely where costs would need to be trimmed. My first priority would be to figure out how to do more with less in order to maintain the current quality of service. Forming new community partnerships to augment services, seeking new efficient ways to operate and outreaching to the community about potential program cuts or user fee increases would be a part of my decision making process before determining exactly where to cut spending. Friedman: Any budget cuts from the state would require a serious review of services at the PUD level. The primary responsibility of the PUD is to ensure public health and safety as it applies to water and sewer services. Self-sufficient recreational programs provide lively and dynamic activities that serve residents and attract visitors, thus enhancing the regions economy both for the business owner and the tax roles.Milner: The board is an oversight committee and I wont have the ability to make cuts. Once elected, I will be able to review, advise, and approve/reject. I find that employees are capable of doing different/multiple jobs, filling in where needed, which creates a more efficient work enviroment. The TCPUD has done a wise job on how they run their employees, having many with multiple job descriptions. Currently, there are two less people employed than five years ago.Wood: If faced with State budget cuts, I would have to carefully evaluate all services and determine the degree of reduction to determine where the services can and should be reduced.Perman: I do not have the detailed knowledge of the departmental budgets to make such a decision. Also, I believe you need staff as well as community input before making any necessary cuts and I do not know our district’s exposure to state funding. I believe I can make good decisions with other board members based on the data should the need for cuts arise.Henrikson: We have to ensure that essential services are provided, and the environment is protected. Since sewer collection and providing adequate water at the highest possible quality is our most important function, I would consider exploring cutting all other District services as potential cost-savings.
McMorrow: Sewer and water rate increases are inevitable. We cannot avoid the annual anticipated increases in operations and maintenance costs; however, the amount of increase, when increases are instituted and how the public is involved in the process are things a board member can control. Encouraging the staff to seek grant funding sources to help boost revenues for capital replacement projects is a strategy that I think can help keep rate increases in check. I will ensure that every effort is made to keep the public involved when rate increases are being proposed. I will keep a close eye on budget expenditures in all areas of PUD business to ensure fiscal responsibility, efficient use of rate payer revenue and to avoid unnecessary rate increases to water and sewer customers.Friedman: No one likes rate increases, but in order to ensure progress on re-building our infrastructure, water and sewer rate increases cannot be avoided. As ratepayers, we must consider these increases as reinvestment in our community and our environment. The increases are being discussed in an open and transparent process and that process must be continued to ensure that increased revenue is spent responsibly with public oversight and full disclosure.Milner: After attending the TCPUDs rate setting meetings, I feel it is inevitable that we will face increases. Some of our water and sewer infrastructure are nearing the end of their servicable life. It is important that we think forward and plan/save for the time when these systems will need replacement. Small increases to rates now, could prevent disastrous results if an unimproved or poorly maintained sewer or water line fails on/near Lake Tahoe or the Truckee river.Wood: We cannot avoid sewer and water rate increases, we need over $26 million dollars of infrastructure and other improvements over the next 10 years and that is just water, sewer is over $2.6 million. The TCPUD is exploring several alternatives that include minimally raising rates, conversion to consumption billing, floating long-term bonds and other financing, there is a plan nearly in place that is responsible and will serve the community well.Perman: We need to ensure that the current rates cover not only annual repairs, maintenance, etc., but also future contingencies. California has mandated water metering. We have no choice. It is vital that the TCPUD set a fair rate structure so that the average homeowner pays a nominal amount while the rates increase for higher usage. If you choose to have a lawn with extensive landscaping that requires water, then you have to pay for it. New development must subsidize any new increased need for capacity for water or sewer. Nobody wants to raise rates especially in this economic climate. Henrikson: It is always a difficult decision when rates are raised. We strive to find more efficient and cost-effective ways to conduct business to avoid rate increases to our customers. When the cost of fuel, insurance, and other factors beyond our control, adjustments are inevitable.
McMorrow: My experience in nonprofit work has provided me skills in collaborative decision making, partnership development, and large and small group facilitation, all of which are essential assets of a highly qualified candidate. My teaching experience and educational background have helped me to hone my listening skills, practice patience and allowed me the opportunity to work with a diverse group of people to achieve common goals. I feel that these skills and experiences make me the most qualified candidate to serve our community in this capacity. Friedman: As a Tahoe City resident for over 35 years, a homeowner and business owner, with experience in the public and private sectors, I have a thorough understanding of the issues facing our community. Because of my work with multiple constituencies, I listen to many sides of issues, which keeps me in touch with the community and allows me to filter decisions through multiple lenses. I work well on a team and as an individual. I assess priorities and seek the counsel of experts. I pride myself on being prepared, informed and inclusive in my decision making and am committed to serving the interests of the community as a TCPUD Board member.Milner: I feel I am the best candidate based on my diverse life experiences. I created a Research and Developement department within a company, in which I helped hire my own supervisors. I traveled to Japan and Europe for that company to educate the sales staff, in place of three product line managers. I have two children and a great wife that have helped me become less self-centered and much more patient. My 10 years of experience in real estate has honed my listening and negotiation skills. I am very good at finding and developing solutions to problems.Wood: I have been a progressive developer for the past 20 years, mainly in multi-family but most recently completing two active solar homes located in Hurricane Bay on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. I have had to work my way through many development issues with the TRPA, Placer County and the independent water company on my property, Tahoe Park Water Company. My experience living in the East Bay of Contra Costa County and being a customer of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District has provided me with another perspective on a more advanced program of where the TCPUD is headed. I have been a resident of Lake Tahoe for 50 years, full-time for five years and part time for 45 years so I have a fair and objective view of the local and tourist side of the TCPUD.Perman: I have been here since 1960 and have a deep love for this place and have a perspective on how it has developed. As Placer County’s representative on the NLTRA Infrastructure Committee for many years, I have dealt with many of the same issues as the TCPUD: parks, recreation, bike trails, transportation, etc. I have helped channel millions to projects and organizations in our community. As a board member of the Lake Tahoe Summer Music festival for years, the immediate past president of The Rotary Club of Tahoe City, the Heritage Plaza development Committee, etc., I have always cared about and worked for our community. Most important: I have always sought and will continue to seek input from all areas of our community. I will represent you!Henrikson: As a third generation Tahoe resident, property owner, and General Engineering Contractor with expertise in constructing water and sewer facilities and erosion control projects, I am uniquely qualified to serve on the District Board. I love this place, and care deeply about our environment, providing quality water, reliable sewer collection services, and excellent parks, trails, and recreation to District customers and visitors.