ELECTIONS / WATER DISTRICTS : Drought Woes Ignite Some Races


Only 124 registered voters live in the West Valley County Water District, but 11 of them are running for election Tuesday to the district's five-member board of directors.

Despite the preponderance of candidates, some residents--including some incumbents--can't understand why anyone would want to govern the three-square-mile water district serving Neenach, a town in the far western corner of the Antelope Valley.

"It's a thankless job," said Kathleen Rener, district secretary whose husband, Steve, is president of the board of directors.

But her husband has his reasons.

"Someone has to serve, and it may as well be me," he said.

Politics in the West Valley County Water District and other small water districts in and around the Antelope Valley are typically sleepy affairs. In Tuesday's election, the excitement level appears to be directly proportional to the problems caused by the drought.

Those districts where there is no mandatory rationing--West Valley, Quartz Hill and Palmdale water districts--are quiet.

But in the Green Valley County Water District, whose mandatory rationing program is among the strictest in Southern California, the election has generated some passion among the 519 registered voters, residents have said.

Green Valley County Water District

The Green Valley County Water District is about halfway between the Santa Clarita Valley and the Antelope Valley and is surrounded by Angeles National Forest. It serves about 400 households including 1,200 people in a 300-acre area centered in the community of Green Valley, said Susie Bofenkamp, the district's secretary-treasurer.

The district faces some of the most Draconian water-use restrictions in Southern California, Bofenkamp said.

Residents are forbidden to use water outside their homes to water plants or wash cars. A family of four is limited to 200 gallons daily. The water restrictions have also led to a moratorium on new building permits.

The district has depended exclusively on local wells for its supply, but the water table has dropped dangerously low in the past two years, Bofenkamp said. The board is developing a plan to drill a new well on the outskirts of the district and to pipe water in from Lake Elizabeth, Bofenkamp said. The cost of the project is estimated at $700,000 to $800,000.

The 519 registered voters will choose from five candidates seeking two seats on the five-member board. Two candidates are also running to fill an unexpired term on a third seat. Incumbents David Phillips and Jim Zerillo face challenges from Douglas Mull, James D. Steele and Philip Brazier. Two other candidates, Jim Billesbach and Town Council President Terry L. Kaldhusdal, are also running to fill the last two years of the term of a board member who resigned this year.

The central issue dividing the area is the cost of solving its water problems, which all may place an expensive burden on the community.

Palmdale Water District

The Palmdale Water District, which serves about 23,000 households and includes about 24,753 registered voters, draws about half its water from local wells and half from the California Aqueduct and has been able to cut water use by about 15% through voluntary cuts, said Dennis LaMoreaux, assistant engineer and manager.

Elections are usually low key, and this year is no exception. The five-member board consists of elected members from each of five divisions. This year, two of the three incumbents--Leslie O. Carter and John M. Sidwell--up for election are running unopposed and will be reappointed automatically. In Division 3, incumbent Joe Sage, 78, faces a challenge from retired aircraft mechanic Jay Freeman, 65.

Quartz Hill Water District

The Quartz Hill Water District serves about 3,400 households including about 5,243 registered voters. It gets about half its water from wells and about half from the California Aqueduct.

The five candidates running for two seats on the five-member board include incumbent Lee Richardson, 74, a retired engineer; Ben Harrison, 60, who was district general manager until his retirement last year; John Mason, 64, a retired electronics technician; Frank Tymon, 62, an engineer, and Craig Yoder, 42, the general manager of a land development company. One incumbent chose not to run for reelection.

West Valley County Water District

The tiny West Valley County Water District has nine candidates running for three seats and two others who aspire to finish a term on a seat that became open when the incumbent died this year. The candidates include incumbents Steve Rener and Glyndon Fry and Jerri L. Stoyanoff, who was appointed to an open seat this year but is now running for a different spot. Challengers include Michael Graham, Valentine Ramirez, James Luetger and Paul Ciruso. Mark Gadzinski and Nat Karcham are vying to fill the unexpired term for a position that comes up for election in 1993.

Water Politics 1. West Valley County Water District Number of hookups: 155 Registered voters: 124 Voter turnout in last election: 60% Annual budget: $100,000 2. Green Valley County Water District Number of hookups: 400 Registered voters: 519 Voter turnout in last election: 25% Annual budget: $170,000 3. Quartz Hill Water District Number of hookups: 3,400 Registered voters: 5,243 Voter turnout in last election: 11% Annual budget: $3.8 million 4. Palmdale Water District: Number of hookups: 23,000 Registered voters: 24,753 Voter turnout in last election: 14% Annual budget: $7 million Sources: Water districts and Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters

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