Newhall County Water Board Candidates Address Water Concerns At Forum
Newhall County Water District incumbents worked off each other at a recent forum about the re-election of its board members.
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The candidates gathered at SCVTV studio to answer questions brought forth by representatives from Santa Clarita Valley media outlets on Saturday.
Two of the four total candidates were present at the forum, Maria Gutzeit and B.J. Atkins, both returning board members.
Both Carl Puckett and Kathy Colley, the two candidates on November's ballot who were not present, were contacted for an invitation to the forum. Puckett said he could not attend the forum due to a prior commitment. After receiving the invitation, Colley did not respond to calls seeking a confirmation of her attendance Saturday.
Atkins opened by saying that great advancements have been made since he has served on the Newhall County Water board.
“In that time, we have doubled reserves, we have built a brand new… certified building at no cost to the ratepayers, we’ve been able to serve another 30% in terms of growth and through attrition we’ve lowered the workforce by 11% while maintaining the growth pattern we’ve had,” said Atkins.
Maria Gutzeit started off by discussing the board’s community support.
“People… value having a voice in issues and value having an agency they can call up and get answers from easily,” explained Gutzeit.
Without a challenger present at the forum, Atkins and Gutzeit made an effort to work off each other’s responses, especially when faced with questions regarding health concerns regarding the drinking water.
“We (previously) had a high chloride odor… that was caused by the balance of disinfectant in the state water project coming in and groundwater,” explained Gutzeit while answering a question that was raised at one of Mayor Bob Kellar’s town hall forums.
Gutzeit said the odor of the water was the resulting smell from a chemical reaction, and it does not pose a health hazard to anyone who drinks the water.
Atkins backed up his fellow board member’s statement with reassurance of his own.
“Well, I’m happy to say the Newhall County Water District has never had an exceedance of the maximum contaminant levels,” said Atkins. “The problem that Maria described is cosmetic in nature- there are no health effects that will accrue from drinking the Newhall County Water.”
Among the problems raised by the community was the question of broken boundaries by Castaic Lake Water Agency.
“I do have a problem with (the broken boundaries) because it was illegal,” said Gutzeit.
She explains how Newhall County Water District members originally supported a legislation allowing Castaic Lake Water Agency to extend its borders as a “compromise solution”. However, she became opposed to it when Castaic Lake Water Agency crossed the boundary lines and purchased Valencia water.
Atkins, who also currently has a seat at the Castaic Lake Water Agency board, made it clear that he represents all of Santa Clarita while on the board, and that the crossing of boundary lines
by Castaic Lake Water Agency “was blatantly illegal”.
“As a director on the Castaic Lake Water Agency board, I was shocked and stunned, actually, to find out that Valencia water was being purchased.”
Regarding what the candidates have done so far to advance the Newhall County Water District, Atkins discussed the current board members’ personal contributions.
“We’ve… instituted an enterprise model, which basically takes the entrepreneurialism that I bring to the board and Maria brings to the board and infuses it throughout the Newhall County Water District,” said Atkins, “so that we have the opportunity to be nimble, make quick decisions and protect the ratepayer at every turn.”
To watch the Newhall County Water District Forum, click here.
Elections for Newhall County Water District Board will be held Nov. 5.
Kathy Colley will be running as an incumbent alongside Atkins and Gutzeit, and Carl Puckett will be running as a challenger.
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