Interview with Darrell Gentry Candidate for Vallecitos Water District Board
Here is an interview with Darrell Gentry who is running as incumbent for Vallecitos Water District Board. *Editors note the interview questions were originally written for City Council candidates, but are relevant for Vallecitos Water District candidates.
Why should San Elijo residents vote for you?
For the past 8 years, I have served as Incumbent to the Vallecitos Water District (VWD) Board Director for Division 5, which includes most of San Elijo Hills area. I am seeking Re-Election to continue my service at Vallecitos. The Board receives no pension benefits and is paid a stipend, not a salary, which is capped by state law. This stipend amount has been unchanged for over 10 years. I also serve as representative to Encina Wastewater Authority, which partly owned by VWD and as representative to a statewide water agency association, ACWA. Other qualifications and experience is listed on VWD webpage and at www.smartvoterguide.org/vote/darrell_gentry.
I have also served a term as San Marcos City Councilmember and was Director of Planning for San Marcos for 11 years. During these 8 years on VWD Board, we initiated and are implementing several programs that reflect ratepayer interests, such as maintaining the 4th lowest water/sewer rates in County and also:
• 2006/07—adopted a comprehensive fiscal strategy plan to achieve water and sewer rate stabilization and to achieve debt reduction through fiscal responsibility. 2011/12—approved a debt reduction plan lowering cost by $30 million over next 10 years.
• Stabilized water and sewer rates for next 2 fiscal budget years and holding the line on future increases to just the wholesale cost of water without a VWD retail price increase.
• Adopted an ordinance that requires new development projects which have received density increases through City land use approval processes that exceed the VWD 2008 Master Plan for water and sewer system capacity/treatment to pay an added fee for its impacts. This development mitigation fee is not a burden to existing residents and businesses. City has approved residential projects of approximately 5,000 dwellings and over 1,000,000 square feet of commercial floor area.
• Finalizing actions to secure ocean desal water and new local water for reliability and security during times of future droughts and allocation cutbacks. Together these will provide approximately 1/3rd VWD water demand. We are working on a recycled water project of 17,000 acre/feet to be used for outdoor irrigation. 17,000 ac./ft of water is the equivalent of enough water for 100,000 family households for a year!
These actions have been achieved while the cost of imported water has increased 107% for VWD and represents 55% of the District’s budget and rate structure. In the water supply agency business is Experience that Counts, Inexperience Costs you and I rate payers!
How can you help solve school crowding issues in San Elijo Hills?
While VWD is a water supplier, we cannot solve school crowding conditions in this area, we can and do work closely with the school district and city officials to identify and resolve problems through careful planning and construction phases. VWD recognizes and has planned for future water and sewer demands that can result from planning and building new school sites, thus we work, at the administrative level with San Marcos Unified School District and the City of San Marcos, contrary to stated uninformed opinions of the challenger in this race. As presently constructed, there is adequate capacity for any new school site, such as the South Twin Oaks Valley Road site being discussed by City, SMUSD and VWD.
We have executed cooperative agreements with the City and the SMUSD on a variety of community problems requiring cooperation but it is apparent that VWD needs to do more cooperatively with City Council, SMUSD and other agencies in the region.
How can the Council help address aggressive cut-through traffic and school traffic in San Elijo Hills?
Well, this is truly a City Council candidate question. I have noted, as a sign-waving candidate in the neighborhood, a significant number of speeding vehicles passing through the community. It is particularly significant at Schoolhouse and San Elijo Road. The tighter and more restricted routes through Town Square seems to slow down most, but not all, vehicles, perhaps the City could assist by increased traffic enforcement presence, in the short term and examine methods to constrict the S.E. Road northerly of Schoolhouse as a means of slowing down the vehicles sooner than the Town Square area.
How can the City of San Marcos work with San Elijo development to complete the San Elijo Hills Town Center?
Again, this is a question for a City Council candidate rather than a VWD incumbent. However, going forward, the national and state economic conditions have seriously hindered economic development in a manner never seen before. There is uncertainty and anxiety about the way forward. True leadership must provide a clear, consistent vision for going forward, at the local level, such as VWD’s rate stabilization plans that have addressed debt reduction, set plans for increased reliability of water during droughts and supply cutbacks, controlled agency spending, restructured employee pension and delivering clean, safe drinking water, even during a crisis like the September 2011 electrical blackout. That is the sort of economic planning that any city must do in these rapid changing economic times.
What are your goals to improve the quality of life in San Marcos, such as events, parks and trails?
As former City Council Member and Planning Director for San Marcos, the quality of life was a paramount importance in shaping our plans and carrying out those plans. This was evident early on when San Elijo Hills was being conceived. The linkage, physical and psychological, to the rest of the San Marcos community was critical, while allowing the uniqueness of a “village” land development pattern for San Elijo Hills to be developed. The quality of life in SM needs to focus on reinforcing this fundamental strategy of ensuring that new development projects, particularly those seeking density increases as allowed by a City Council decision, do not impact schools, roads, water and sewer systems AND placing a cost burden onto existing ratepayers!!
It is far to easy to become a developer-led crony that favors the developer or to simply become a career politician that doesn’t know what he doesn’t know about delivering clean, safe water reliably over long periods of time.
If elected what are the top 3 issues you would focus on for San Elijo Hills?
San Elijo Hills is and will always be a significant part of San Marcos as a whole community. The VWD Board represents a geographic area larger than San Marcos, but the 3 top issues are the same for all areas we represent.
First, we cannot control, exclusively, the wholesale price of water imposed by Metropolitan Water or the San Diego County Water Authority, which has represented 83-85% of water rate increases over the past 8 years. The price of imported water is continuing to rise but we can:
1. Continue our rate stabilization strategies that are working to protect San Elijo Hills and District wide resident from “rate shocks” caused by new developments that don’t want to mitigate their impacts to water and sewer system; Continue our ongoing efforts to reduce our debt and tightly control spending (VWD has an AA+ and AA rating from Fitch and Standard & Poor); secure new local sources of water, such as the present agreements being negotiated for ocean desal water from the Carlsbad facility that is expected to deliver water by 2016 and an agreement with Olivenhain Water District from its new reservoir and treatment facility.
2. Expanding our ability and capacity to produce 17,000 acre/feet, in conjunction with 9 other water agencies in North San Diego County and the military, of reclaimed water for outdoor irrigation and industrial processing thus lowering our dependence to imported water from the Delta and the Colorado River.
3. Continue expanding our public outreach and communications to the ratepayers, businesses and institutions about the true value of water, water conservation methods, such as our rain barrel program, drought tolerant landscaping, leak detection/inspection, and finally our newly instituted Water Academy that has educated interested persons/stakeholders about water and wastewater issues.
How will you clean up the campaign signs after election?
I, personally, will begin sign removal process on November 7th and continue until all signs are removed. There will be no “sign crews” to do the removal. That is my personal responsibility.