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MWSD candidates debate future of water, sanitary district

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Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013 9:02 am

Four of six candidates for three seats on the Montara Water and Sanitary District board turned out Wednesday night for a forum moderated by the San Mateo County League of Women Voters and sponsored by the Midcoast Community Council. It is the first of three candidate forums planned this fall.

Incumbents Jim Harvey and Bob Ptacek joined challengers Bill Huber and Dwight Wilson at Seton Coastside Medical Center for the hour-and-a-half videotaped forum. The moderator said that candidates Darin Walker and Brandon Kwan had been expected, but they failed to show up for the forum.

The incumbents defended their record on the board, which governs water, sewage and garbage service in Moss Beach and Montara. They said they have kept costs down and defended recent litigation as necessary to protect district assets. The challengers, meanwhile, suggested greater cooperation with adjacent agencies would cut costs and chided the district for its limited Web presence.

Despite a history of rancorous Midcoast politics, the forum was civil and without any notable fireworks.

Businessman Bill Huber said he was running because he thinks the district would benefit from greater cooperation with other governmental entities. “We can no longer see each issue as a confrontation with an adversary,” he said. He aligned himself with Wilson, but said he would also like to serve with Harvey.

Wilson was a longtime member of the Cabrillo Unified School District board of directors. He said he was not opposed to consolidating some of the Coastside’s government agencies, but was focused instead on greater cooperation.

Wilson said he thought recent MWSD litigation – against San Mateo County and the North Coast County Water District – could have been avoided if the district had better relations with its neighboring agencies.

Ptacek countered that he has personally reached out to other agencies during his tenure on the MWSD. While acknowledging there are no pipes in place to connect the two, he pointed to a cooperative agreement with the Coastside County Water District in Half Moon Bay that would allow for water in the event of an emergency. If needed that water could be trucked north to serve MWSD users.

Ptacek said the district is already looking to improve its website and promised to hold down costs for area residents on wells should they choose to convert to the municipal system.

Harvey said there was a plentiful supply and heralded the district’s work to bring more water online through the Alta Vista well. He said the district is currently awaiting approval from the California Coastal Commission but that it had effectively eliminated the longtime moratorium on new connections. He was opposed to consolidating with nearby districts.

“Now we have our own district and you talk to people” rather than waiting on hold with operators elsewhere when you have a concern, he said.

The next forum is set for 7 p.m., Tuesday, at the Granada Sanitary District offices, 504 Avenue Alhambra in El Granada, and brings together five candidates for the MCC. A third event, for GSD candidates, is scheduled for 7 p.m., Oct. 9, at the GSD offices. The election is Nov. 5.

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