Election 2016: Truckee PUD candidates talk conservation, communication
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Candidates for the Truckee Donner Public Utility District Board of Directors participated in a public forum on Sept. 15 at Truckee Town Hall, where each were given one minute to respond to several questions submitted by community members.
Incumbents Joe Aguera, Jeff Bender and Bob Ellis, all running for reelection, participated alongside challenger Jim Hemig. The board currently has three open seats, each for a four-year term.
The candidates took turns answering questions on the impact of the California drought and development on utility costs.
Current board members used the time to highlight accomplishments they’ve made while with the TDPUD, but said few specifics about future plans for the utility district.
“I don’t see a lot of need for a lot of major changes in the way we operate, but there are little things we can improve on such as communication,” said Ellis.
Aguera, who’s been on the TDPUD board for the last 28 years, said the district ranks high among other California public utility districts.
“The rest of the state can’t touch what we’ve got. We’ve done a great job on our renewable power, and we’re ahead of the game with the state,” he said.
Aguera also said that he wouldn’t seek any major changes if reelected, and added that the board’s job is to respond to state-mandated restrictions.
Bender had a similar response: “I wouldn’t change anything immediately … we’re staying on top of things like the water meters — that was brought down by us by the state and we had to figure out how to pay for it.”
Bender did acknowledge the need for TDPUD to update its water systems.
“A big part of the production is the water systems in this community are pretty old … we’re spending about $1 (million) a year, and we’re going to up that soon, to really fix those pipes, fix those leaks, and get water production down,” Bender said.
He said the PUD has reduced water production 40 percent so far, and that replacing pipes would not only reduce water usage, but also cut back on electrical costs.
The three incumbents reiterated their interest in maintaining open communication with the public throughout the forum.
As for Hemig, whose background is in newspaper publishing, he focused the majority of his responses on the topic of communication.
“Over half of the PUD customers live outside the region, so to reach them we have to use new technology to send the message and let them know about conservation measures,” he said.
Hemig — whose father, Ron Hemig, was a Truckee Donner PUD board member for several years up to 2014 — said that if he were elected to the board, he would not become complacent.
He also said that he’d use his experience to use both social media and the local media to communicate with consumers.
“My goal would be to understand what’s going on with the PUD and turn around and communicate that,” he said.