Nipomo Community Services District Candidate Forum

The Nipomo Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum for all six candidates running for the Nipomo Community Services District on 9/27/06. Other obligations prevented me attending personally; however, the Santa Maria Times had a nice write up, which I will post here for your review. I anticpate that I will endorse the third candidate for the NCSD election within the next few days. The candidate summary follows:

Nipomo Community Services District Board face off at forum

By Randi Block/Staff Writer

With monumental decisions looming, six candidates vying for spots on the Nipomo Community Services District Board faced off Wednesday night on issues of supplemental water, park powers and growth.

Incumbents Larry Vierheilig and Cliff Trotter and challengers Thomas Novak, Jesse Hill, Bob Blair and Jim Harrison are hoping to fill three vacant seats on the board. Director Judith Wirsing is not seeking another term.

District customers will be able to vote at the polls Nov. 7, with the newly elected directors starting their four-year term Dec. 1.

In a forum sponsored by the Nipomo Chamber of Commerce, the candidates were pegged with questions from the public, primarily targeted at the community’s potential water crisis and project to construct a pipeline between Nipomo and Santa Maria to pump in supplemental water.

Everybody said they agreed it’s necessary to bring in additional resources, and added that requests to annex land into the district should not be granted until supplemental water is secured and being actively brought into the community.

However, Hill and Blair said several times they did not think Nipomo was suffering from a water shortage, and were interested in pursing the supplemental water as an insurance method against a future drought.

“I’m not going to say the sky’s falling,” said Blair, who added that his property’s well has plenty of water, which is usually a reflection of Nipomo’s water table.

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Blair was on the NCSD board for 10 years, before losing his seat to director Ed Eby in 2004.

The panel also agreed that it would be prudent to investigate the feasibility of building a desalination plant in Nipomo, as a back-up to the pipeline.

The differences between the candidates were illuminated when they were asked to state their NCSD priorities and changes.

Hill focused on the higher water and sewer rates for multi-family homes, commercial buildings and agricultural land, and said most landowners should be charged the same amount for services.

“Through my experience on water committees, I’ve clearly learned exactly what goes on with respect to water,” Hill said.

One of Blair’s primary focuses, if elected, would be to stop funneling money to the nearly decade-long Santa Maria groundwater basin litigation, which has cost the NCSD more than $2 million. He also said he will concentrate on keeping rates low and finding “the best possible project for the least amount of money.”

Incumbent Vierheilig said he wants to focus on long-range strategic planning for the district, to understand Nipomo’s current water levels and plan for additional growth. Having a plan for the future, he said, will help the district make appropriate decisions when dealing with applications for water and sewer service.

He added that he will take a “pragmatic” approach to solving issues, and will “represent the people who vote for me, the people who don’t vote for me and the people who don’t vote at all.”

While a focus on bringing in additional water is important, Trotter said more attention needs to be paid to the district’s aging infrastructure and setting aside funds for maintenance. He also said that his top priority for the next four years will be monitoring Nipomo’s water levels.

Harrison said he’s interested in investigating the NCSD’s park powers and possibly expanding the district’s oversight into other community areas. Also, he said the district needs to work closer with county planners to monitor large projects that are being planned for Nipomo.

“I understand water and believe we have to be concerned about the rate payers of this community,” Harrison said.

A top priority needs to be updating the district’s water allocation policy, Novak said, to produce a supply-based formula that dictates how much is available for future growth. He also added that purchasing property for possible expansions or a future desalination plant should be considered before property values and construction costs escalate too high.

“I’m a conservative by nature and an environmentalist that can think outside the box,” he said.

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