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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 5:48 am | Fair 42º


Goleta Water District Board Challengers Face Off at Chamber of Commerce Forum

Meg West and Chuck McClure, both landscape architects, discuss their plans for addressing the drought and other issues if elected

The two challengers hoping to win seats on the Goleta Water District board went head to head in a forum on Wednesday.

Charles “Chuck” McClure and Meg West spoke at the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce roundtable event, but the two incumbents, Bert Bertrando and Jack Cunningham, didn’t attend.

With no Goleta City Council race this November, attention is being turned to the special district races.

Like other water providers, the Goleta Water District is facing dwindling supplies.

The board didn’t put mandatory water use restrictions into effect until recently, months behind neighboring districts, and will start denying applications for new water customers Oct. 1.

This November, the board has two seats up for grabs, but both incumbents are seeking re-election: Bertrando has served on the water board since 2006, and Cunningham has been on board member since 1995. 

Both challengers are local landscape architects making their first bids for the district seats.

McClure has local experience as a contractor, architect and businessman. He designed the irrigation water delivery system for the Santa Barbara Cemetery, which he called a “microcosm of a water delivery system.”

He serves on the board of the Goleta Cemetery District and the California Special Districts Association

If elected, he said, the district should study water-supply alternatives such as de-silting reservoirs and desalination.

Instead of using “water police” and punitive measures, the district should put more effort into communication with customers about conservation and incentive programs, he said.

In response to a question from moderator Don Donaldson, McClure said his top priority would be to look at the water district budget since expenses have increased 30 percent since 2007.

Water costs and personnel costs have been increasing every year, and the general manager was given a contract “cast in stone” until 2020, he noted.

West, who serves on Goleta’s Planning Commission, said her experience as a contractor, landscape architect and business owner have prepared her for the position.

She’s also attended every water board meeting since January, and has the endorsements of the three board members not running for re-election, she said.

“There is a lot to learn and I am doing my homework,” she said.

As a landscape architect, she has experience with gray-water systems and drought-tolerant landscaping, she noted.

West said her top priority is providing safe, clean water for the district’s customers, and doing more long-term drought planning.

She also wants customer service to be more responsive and decision-making to be more transparent, including recording the board meetings.

The district has to be honest about the State Water Project — the deliveries were cut this year and will be again next year — and the fact that it may not be available in the long term, she said.

Cutting back on landscaping irrigation is the best way to conserve water since about half of residential water use is for outdoor watering, West said.

McClure and West both support looking into alternative water supplies such as desalination, expanding reclaimed water services, and storing/reusing rainwater.

They also support pursuing more incentive programs to help people with low-flow appliances and drought-tolerant plants.

When an attendee asked the candidates about the SAFE Ordinance — the voter-approved rules governing water storage and restrictions during a shortage — McClure said he wasn’t familiar with it.

West said the ordinance is the core of the district’s water strategy, and called out McClure for not knowing what it is.

“The intent of it is exactly right, to have water in the ground for a not-rainy day,” West said.

The Goleta Water District supplies water to about 87,000 customers in the Goleta Valley and Santa Barbara area, and has about 16,800 accounts between residential, commercial and agricultural customers. 

For more information about the upcoming Nov. 4 election, visit the Santa Barbara County Elections Office website

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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