|Commissioner candidates discuss issues facing Water District|
|Written by Briana Gerdeman, News Writer|
|Monday, 14 October 2013 12:30|
Two candidates are running for a Water District position that was left empty when Commissioner Tim Matson resigned in February. The Board of Commissioners appointed Rick Chatterton to fill the spot.
Now, Chatterton, who applauds the Water District’s financial success, decision-making process, and plans for emergencies, is running for election to keep his position as commissioner 2. His opponent is Dale Knapinski, who says the Board is doing some things right but believes there’s room for improvement.
The Board needs to "continue to be cognizant of the future" in several ways, Chatterton said — preparing for emergencies, accommodating population growth, investing in infrastructure and conserving water.
The population served by the Woodinville Water District will grow by an estimated 30 percent by 2060, Chatterton said. But due to conservation efforts and more efficient appliances, the District expects water consumption to stay at the same rate.
Emergency preparedness is one of the Board’s accomplishments Chatterton is most proud of. Although the Water District hasn’t had to use the plans before, "the District is fully prepared to continually deliver water," even if not through the pipes, Chatterton said. The District has bladders it can fill with water and deliver by truck if pipes break, and people can come to the Water District and fill their own buckets.
Chatterton’s involvement with local government started with the Emergency Preparedness Commission, which he’s served on since 2009.
"I’ve always had an interest in being prepared for disasters and the unknown," said Chatterton, who always keeps a two-week supply of food and water for his family.
Chatterton retired from Royal Caribbean International after 18 years of executive experience, including finance and human resources. He’s also the president of the Woodinville Heritage Society.
"My interest has been in building community and working with community," he said.
His enthusiasm for community service was what earned him the Water District commissioner position. Ken Goodwin, the chair of the Board of Commissioners when Chatterton was appointed, said the Board picked Chatterton because of his demeanor and the fact that he had read the city’s Comprehensive Plan before applying.
Chatterton, in turn, emphasizes the way the commissioners on the Board work together to serve customers and keep rates low.
The Board has earned a AAA bond rating, which allows the Water District to save money on bonds for capital improvements by getting lower interest rates, which saves customers money, Chatterton said.
He’s also proud of the way the commissioners and the Water District staff handle customer service —for example, when someone wants to replace or extend pipelines through their property — by considering each situation individually.
"We don’t often make a decision that night," he said. "We ask staff to come back with more information so we can make a fair decision."
Knapinski also applauds the Water District’s conservation and customer service, but he decided to run for the commissioner position because he wants the Board to do some things differently. He wants to ensure that no one is forced to connect to the sewer system rather than using a septic tank, and he believes the Board needs to be more open to the public.
Connecting to sewer systems is "the biggest issue, because it can be extremely costly," Knapinski, a septic system owner, said. The capacity charge for connecting costs almost $10,000, plus the monthly usage rate and the cost of dismantling the septic system.
The City Council ensured that people inside the city limits wouldn’t have to connect to the sewer system, but people outside of the urban growth area (UGA) don’t have that same protection, Knapinski said.
Debbie Rannfeldt, public information coordinator for the Water District, said the District doesn’t intend to force people to connect to the sewer system.
"We’ve never made anybody connect, but we can, if there’s a health issue," she explained. "We provide service for people who want service."
If he’s elected to the Board, Knapinski will be be more responsive to the public, he said. The Board has gradually moved its meeting times earlier, and the public meetings are now held at 5 p.m. on weekdays when many people can’t attend. He pointed out that all five current commissioners were originally appointed by the Board to fill a vacant seat (three of them have subsequently been reelected by the public.)
"They’re not looking for public input," he said.
His 27 years of hands-on experience as a contractor make him more qualified for the Water District than Chatterton, who only has financial experience, Knapinski said. The current Board is qualified, but he’ll bring a "different aspect" to the Board.
Since he’s worked on installing sewers and water services, he can understand technical diagrams and languages and make a more educated decision about whether to approve a contract. He’s also been a realtor, which has given him an understanding of legal terms like easements and eminent domain.
"I work side by side with developers, so I understand their situation," he said.
He’s also served as a volunteer firefighter in Kirkland, where he learned about water pressure and piping.
Although the Water District offers good customer service, Knapinski said that doesn’t justify the increase in water and sewer rates.
"We’re missing something between what we’re paying and what we’re getting in return," he said.