October 25, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – Water Company President Joel Scalzitti is squaring off against incumbent Helix Water District board member Richard K. Smith for the District 5 seat. ECM sent a questionnaire to both candidates. Smith declined to answer the questions, instead responding, “I refer you to my web site, www.richardsmithforhelixwaterdistrict5.com.
Scalzitti , who previously served on the Helix Board but left office 13 years ago due to residency questions as a result of a divorce, says he now meets residency requirements and owns and runs a small ranch in Granite Hills. He answered each question in detail and his responses are below. Scalzitti’s website is http://www.joel4water.com/index.html
1. Motivation: What is your motivation for running? My motivation is that we need new representation at the Helix Governing board. The current directors are asleep at the wheel, and “staff” is steering the ship at the ratepayer’s expense. They have given away our future in the form of higher rates required due to the opulent employee wages and medical benefits.
2. Qualifications: What is your professional/career background, and how will it help you in the position for which you are running? My wife and I currently own Kelly’s Water Works a Trucking and water Distribution Company. We are currently building Freeways and Transportation pathways. We Have Trucks and Equipment Similar to the district’s I’m running for. The District just retired a work truck with 47,000 miles on it (similar truck to ours) and our trucks have more than 483,000 miles on them. All trucks and equipment need to be in service twice as long as they are. This is one area I believe we can tighten our belts! Also retirements and salaries need to be more competitive to the Private industry. In this economy, giving employee raises two years in the future (approved last month by the board) is irresponsible!
3. Leadership: Describe your view of what leadership as it applies to serving on your water board. To what degree should Board decisions be swayed by public opinion? I believe leadership needs to work more with the ratepayer who elect them. Watching the budget and controlling cost! I will work with the public and directors to turn around the endless rate increases by lower labor costs.
4. Challenges: What are the main challenges you believe your District faces and what ideas do you have to address those challenges? The high legacy costs that the board has placed on the future ratepayers. I will endeavor to reduce the labor costs and the excessive retirement benefits thru negotiations and forced furloughs.
5. Vision: What is your long-term vision for meeting water needs in your District? Helix is one of the few districts with a local supply and large storage capacity. I will insure that we support long-term arrangements to insure our local supply and work with the County Water Authority on economically feasible water supplies/solutions. Water usage is 70% of what is was only 4 years ago and this is with population growth. We can live within our water constraints and still maintain a vibrant economy and growth.
6. Implementation: Has your District published a Strategic Plan to implement its goals and visions? Would you please expand on this, and any other ideas you have to implement your vision expressed in the previous question? The plan only covers the operation of the district and does not address the larger problem of labor costs. The plan needs to be expanded to include more automation and consideration of bidding on the work required. THERE is no job that the district does that a private contractor could not at least bid on. In fact, many of the more technical and larger tasks are performed by private contractors.
We should also study the economics of merging with some of our surrounding districts. This would alleviate one or more general manager at cost of over $350,000 per year, legal counsel, another $200,000 per year saving, and many redundant staff positions..
7. Rates: Do you believe all water users should pay the same rate, or that some users should subsidize others? Please explain. // would is your view of your District’s rate structure? Yes we should all pay the same rate for water. To subsidize for conservation it should be from you past year bill cycle to date. Like if you used less water last year at the same time, I could see a reward just like good drivers. However, we should all start out the same rate and meter. I would support a water budget approach for each ratepayer. Those that require more water, because of family size or lot size etc. would be allocated a larger base amount. Once the base amount is exceeded, I would support increased tier pricing.
The board only recently adopted a capacity fee requiring new users to “buy into” the existing system. Since the existing ratepayers had to pay for the NEW infrustrure, the rates had to be increased to cover the costs. Another example of the Board asleep at the wheel.
8. Transparency: What have you done or will do to promote transparency in your district? I have personally spoken out a many of the Board meetings for and against polices the Board was considering.
I have tried to make the public aware of the close relation between the Board and the Employees and how this relationship is causing excessive labor costs in the form of high employee benefits and retirements. With the help of other concerned ratepayers, we have attempted to publicize an insidious relationship that is costing the ratepayers millions of dollars annually.