Early water board election results lean toward incumbents

It appears the three incumbents on the Crescent Valley Water District board may retain their seats, according to early election results Tuesday night.

With two out of seven precincts reporting, James Bodnar had received 512 votes, or about 32% of the total votes counted. Kerry Erickson had garnered 445 votes, or about 28%, while Kenneth Putnam had gotten 360 votes, or roughly 22%.

Challenger Charles Beatty, a former member of the utility board, had received 287 votes, or about 18%. Beatty currently serves on the Crescenta Valley Town Council, an advisory body for Los Angeles County.

The Crescenta Valley Water District has implemented several sizable water- and sewer-rate hikes recently because of higher costs for wastewater treatment by the Los Angeles Sanitation Department, and because of plans to fund improvements to the utility’s aging infrastructure.

The incumbents prefer to cover those costs with cash rather than take on debt, while Beatty leans toward bonds to pay for improvements such as solar panels to reduce long-term energy costs for producing water.

Erickson, who worked for 44 years in various positions at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the utility is already paying off a $10-million bond that will cost the district about $18 million by 2037, the end of the bond’s term.

He added that his main objective is to try to cut operating expenses by reducing employee benefits or freezing open positions.

“I think we’re starting to rein in our costs,” Erickson said Tuesday night, adding that the utility should offer benefits that are “fair and equitable” to its employees, but still within what the district can afford.

Bodnar, who has served as the board’s finance committee chairman and is board president, said one of his priorities is to review the water-rate structure.

For example, customers who use less indoor water should not pay the same as customers who use more indoor water, said Bodnar, who is a senior water resource engineer with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“I’m committed to keeping water rates as low as possible, while keeping the water district on a sustainable path,” he said Tuesday.

Bodnar also wants to look for creative solutions to reduce the district’s imported water demand and work cooperatively with the city of Glendale.

The district is using some of the revenue from the rate increases to repair pumps that are not collecting groundwater efficiently. The more groundwater the district collects, the less reliant it is on expensive imported water.

Putnam, who also voted for rate increases to repair the utility’s infrastructure and respond to increasing costs, has said one of his priorities will be to get the district pumping as much of its own water as possible to save money.

Putnam, who is a civil engineer, and Bodnar both supported a new district program to replace old water meters that were malfunctioning and underbilling some customers.

Putnam could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

As the election results came in, Beatty said the race came down to whether voters want the status quo or prefer someone who will “think outside the box.”

He added that he thinks the board shouldn’t have so many engineers on it because engineers don’t need to watch over engineers. He would prefer more business professionals, teachers and residents who are not engineers because they make up most of the district’s customer base.

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Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam.

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