Two candidates are vying for one open seat (Division Two, Solana Beach) on the Santa Fe Irrigation District board in the Nov. 6 election: Holly Smith Jones and Alan Smerican. Below are candidate photos, bios and answers to two questions given to them by this newspaper.
Name: Holly Smith Jones
Years living in the Irrigation District:
Bachelor of Arts, Scripps College, Claremont, Claif.
Retired Business Executive — 37 years experience leading both for-profit and non-profit organizations
Board Member: North Coast Repertory Theatre
•Board Member: Classics4Kids
•Board Member: CAN Insurance Services
•Board/Consumer Member: ONCB (Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board)
•President: GOLD Diggers—nonprofit organization that generates funds for emerging nonprofits serving children, their caregivers, the elderly, and victims of crimes
•Founding Member: Hand to Hand—a fund of the Coastal Community Foundation
1.) What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Irrigation district?
First, we must maintain the quality and security of our water and infrastructure at an affordable cost. Water is essential to our community—something that none of us can live without. That being said, it does not mean that water rates can continue to rise at the levels we have seen over the last five years without a thorough investigation of all the alternatives available to enhance the district.
Then, we must assure that Irrigation District is competently and adequately staffed to reasonably meet the needs of the system and its constituency, without adding unnecessary expense.
2.) Do you have any suggestions as to how the biggest issue in your answer for #1 should be addressed by the board?
At a special meeting of the SFID Board of Directors earlier this month (Oct. 4), an updated Strategic Business Plan was presented. The plan includes six “Focus Strategies—Water Supply, Water Treatment & Delivery, Administrative & Workforce Management, Asset Management, Continuous Improvement, and Financial Management.” The plan has the right focus areas, but in none is there a specific call to find ways to maintain rates at current levels, let alone reduce them other than the statement to “seek an appropriate balance of all available supply sources to optimize value to out customers”
Yes, the cost to certain aspects of doing business will increase. Every utility, for-profit and non-profit corporation is facing that same dilemma. But nowhere in the Strategic Plan is there an acknowledgment that rates may be increasing at levels that may not be sustainable for some of our constituency—especially as water usage continues to drop, and larger users look at other alternatives.
Nowhere is there an indication that staffing levels be reduced other than through attrition.
Nowhere is there an indication that possible cost sharing with other districts should be investigated as a possibility of reducing costs for an expanded community.
Nowhere is there an indication that employee benefits should be reviewed in light of current economic realities or what is being offered to other employees throughout our community. As your board representative, I will decline the current health insurance that is provided to board members and paid for by the district.
This Strategic Plan has completion dates as far out as 2015. Not to include strategies that can be used to level current and future costs is a significant oversight.
I do not want to arbitrarily cut essential Irrigation District costs, but I do want to apply my business experience to assure that every possible alternative is evaluated, making certain that we are operating in the most cost-effective manner without compromising the safety and security of our water supply.