Wednesday, October 12, 2016

[San Mateo County] MWSD candidates discuss consolidation, parks powers

Blog note: this article references a 2015-16 county grand jury report on consolidation.
To consolidate, or not to consolidate was the underlying question that framed much of the discussion at Tuesday evening’s forum for candidates running for the Montara Water and Sanitary District board.
Incumbents Kathryn Slater-Carter and Scott Boyd sparred with challenger Thomas “Gus” Peterson over questions that clustered around whether and how to keep Montara’s water and sanitary systems independent from other agencies. The three candidates are running for two seats with four-year terms.
During the 40-minute forum, moderator Karen Bertrand of the League of Women Voters read the candidates questions submitted by the roughly 20 audience members. Of the six questions the candidates fielded, four centered on ensuring that Montara’s water is run by a local agency, the advantages or disadvantages of consolidating multiple water and sanitary agencies, and how to protect the water district from a potential takeover.
Slater-Carter and Boyd opposed consolidation with other districts, despite a recommendation made earlier this year in a San Mateo County grand jury report.
“What are the benefits you would see to bringing (consolidation) into fruition?” asked Boyd. “Over a decade, I have yet to have a single proponent bring forward a single number for why we should do this.”
Peterson struck a more neutral tone, advocating for limited consolidation and a physical emergency intertie that would connect MWSD to another water supply agency to the north or the south. “I’m only somewhat for consolidation,” he said.
That was a position Slater-Carter criticized. “You can’t be partly for consolidation. It’s like being partly pregnant,” she said. “You either are or are not.”
When asked whether it is important to keep Montara’s water supply local, Slater-Carter and Boyd recalled the efforts and cost required to purchase the water system from an investor-owned water utility company and repair it to its current condition.
“This community has a big investment in taking local ownership of our water. We’ve been owned before. We were told it would be OK, it would be run from a distance,” said Boyd. “They ran it all right – right into the ground and we’ve spent 12 years repairing it.”
Peterson took a more philosophical stance, characterizing access to clean water as human right. “I think it’s definitely to our best interest not to keep water exclusively local,” he said.
The three candidates concurred that the district should explore adding parks authority to its purview, although they differed sharply on how to do so. Peterson mentioned consolidation with the Granada Community Services District as a way to bring parks authority to Montara, while Slater-Carter and Boyd emphasized their efforts to use the Caltrans right-of-way in Montara for light recreation.
Looking to the future, the candidates predicted the financial hurdles the agency will face in the next 10 years. Slater-Carter pointed to the task of funding and managing the Caltrans right-of-way, if that project moves forward. Boyd mentioned the challenges of financing recycled water. Peterson cited the district’s “massive amount of debt,” and “very high water” rates as reasons for concern.
“What we’re going to do with what money we have will make a very big difference,” he said.
October 7, 2016
Half Moon Bay Review
By Kaitlyn Bartley

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