South Tahoe Public Utility District candidate profile: Jim Jones
Age: 75 years
Occupation: Retired Civil Engineer
Why are you running for reelection?
I have the enthusiasm, commitment, passion and the time to continue the job of serving our community. I believe that I have an obligation as a responsible citizen in our society to use my skills and knowledge of the “water business” to improve our community.
As a civil engineer, I am concerned about our aging infrastructure. Major issues have been ignored! We have structures and pumps that are going on 60 years. Pump that have been rebuilt numerous times by staff because the manufactures are no longer in business. We need to upgrade the older sections of the water system.
About 10 percent of the residences in in our system do not have minimal pressure for fire protection. The 250 to 300 miles of asbestos cement sewer pipelines need to be replaced or new linings installed to prevent failures and spill. The majority of the existing board is proud of their decision to keep rates low and put repairs and replacements on hold for 10 years which will result in major rate increases.
But there will be a cost. Major increases will be the result. We should be building for the future, not stealing from it!
What are your qualifications?
My involvement in water issues for 50 years as well as my education, training and experience gives me a unique understanding of the “business” of water. I am a semi-retired licensed civil engineer.
I have a B.S. in civil engineering from Cal Poly and a M.S. in civil engineering/environmental engineering from Stanford.
I worked for the Bureau of Reclamation, Environmental Protection Agency and National Science Foundation before starting my own engineering consulting firm here at South Tahoe in 1977.
Over my years on the Board, I have represented the District on the state and federal level. I have served on several committees for the Association of California Water Agencies that have benefited our District. I was the chairman of their ACWA MTBE Committee and as part of a nationwide coalition of water agencies, I testified before Congress in the successful goal of banning MTBE, the gas additive that poisoned our wells. I have been directly involved in obtaining $90 million of federal benefits for our community.
What is the No. 1 issue facing the district? How would you address it?
I am deeply concerned about the financial stability of the District. I have not voted or supported the budget for the last eight years because the funding was not adequate to maintain our long-term fiduciary responsibility to maintain the facilities.
Because of the reluctance of majority of the board to adequately raise rates for the past nine years, we are now losing ground in keeping up with maintenance, protecting our infrastructure investments and protecting our community by improving fire protection.
The lack of enough funding has painted the District into a corner where important projects and maintenance will be delayed many years. This puts the District in jeopardy of infrastructure failures and potential spills that could threaten Lake Tahoe.
We should not repeat the history of the 1970s when rates were not increased to properly maintain the sewer system. That resulted in numerous failures, spills, cease-and-desist orders, heavy fines and a moratorium for new sewer connections from Lahontan RWQCB.
We all have an investment in the District. Our existing water and sewer infrastructure are valued at about $2 billion. With about 17,000 sewer connections, each home owner has about a $115,000 investment in the District infrastructure.
If we are to consider a maximum 100-year life expectancy of all facilities, then we need to spend at a minimum of 1 percent or $20 million in replacements each year. Over the past 10 years, we have averaged less than one-half of that. That cannot continue without detrimental results.
I have worked to make sure that dollars spent will give the greatest long-term benefits. We must balance the concerns of our customer with the needs to protect our investment in facilities, environmental protection and the state or federal regulations.
Why should voters select you to serve on the board?
I have been an active and involve board member and I take the responsibility to heart. I have represented the District at the state and federal level. Even though I have a long history in water issues, I regularly take advantage of attending conferences, such as the Association of California Water Agencies, to continue learning more about the issues. I am the only board member that does that.
I enjoy and look forward to continuing to work with our staff at STPUD. We have a wonderful staff at the District that is dedicated and proud of the work that is done.
My primary goals if reelected are
1. Restore the budget to reflect gradual increases over time to cover needed infrastructure improvements.
2. Upgrade and upsize the water system with priority for fire protection.
3. Repair the aging sewer collection pipelines and related infrastructure.
I am looking forward to another term on the board of the South Tahoe P. U. D. I will continue to bring professionalism, accountability, openness and dedication to the task of representing our community.