EAGLE COUNTY — Aside from a pair of tax and spending questions, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District is also conducting an election for board of directors.
Nine people are running for four available seats in four director districts.
Kaye Ferry and Rick Sackbauer are running in District 1. Sounia Nejad Chaney and Paul Testwuide are running in District 2. Matt Scherr and Tom Allender are running in District 5. There’s a three-way contest in District 7. The candidates are Ellen Smith Eaton, Bill Simmons and Tommy King.
All the candidates except Ferry and King responded to a request for information. Here are the replies:
• Residence: Minturn.
• Occupation: Castle Peak Senior Care Community campaign coordinator.
• Why do you want this job? Minturn and its residents have unique perspective and interest in working with the district as we provide our own water service with our own water rights (and use the district’s sewer service). That, along with the imminent Battle Mountain development, have substantial consequences for both Minturn and the collection of its water partners, represented largely by the district. It’s important to have a Minturn representative on the board to ensure the most collaborative and productive stewardship of all our water resources for the future.
• The district is facing several major projects during the next few years. What do you think of the current plans? Most of the planned projects are regulatory requirements or responses to requirements, and the district has done a good job of making changes to not only respond to those requirements, but at the same time address future capacity and operational necessities.
Sounia Nejad Chaney
• Residence: West Vail.
• Occupation: IT consultant and business owner. I also work with the Vail, Beaver Creek and Edwards interfaith chapels and ski instruct at Lionshead on part-time basis.
• Why do you want this job? I am passionate about water, as everyone should be, and believe that serving on the board of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District will allow me a great opportunity to give back to the community. I have served on many national and international boards and look forward to using my business background, coupled with community involvement experience, to assure that the local water quality, sanitation service and education are delivered in exemplary levels by the district while being conservative about spending and responsible with growth.
• The district is facing several major projects during the next few years. What do you think of the current plans? As mentioned by the fine staff at the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District during the candidate briefing, the district is forced to make the required changes by the EPA even though the current nitrogen levels are barely over the required amount. And, during the recent “Lunch ‘n Learn” event where the health of Gore Creek (which affects Eagle River) was discussed, many proactive changes to the buffer area, limiting chemical use around the river and controlling or improving the quality of the run off, could substantially improve the level of nitrogen and aquatic habitat.
Nevertheless, since we have to move forward with the required improvements, we must not let fear dictate impulsive reactions to increase taxes and surrender our rights as residents. (For example, the $1 million savings over 30 years of the life of the bond could be considered normal cost of business and oddly enough, accepting some small grants could actually hurt the financial standing of the district in the long run.) Therefore, I am against increasing property taxes and the elimination of TABOR. Please vote for me as the director for District 2 and “no” for both A and B issues on the ballot.
• Residence: Eagle-Vail for 15 years, the valley for 40 years.
• Occupation: Director of mountain planning for Vail and Beaver Creek resorts.
• Why do you want this job? My motivations for running for the district board are straightforward. I have a passion for the issues and for representing the entire upper Eagle River Valley. My goals as a board member are to continue to use and build on the experience I have gained over the last eight years in the water supply arena; to help maintain the health of our watershed through efficient water use and waste water treatment; to help ensure that the upper Eagle Valley has a reliable, high-quality water supply; to help ensure that the district is financially responsible in meeting ever-evolving regulatory requirements; to help ensure that the sanitation district customer’s water and sewer needs are met at a reasonable cost; to help maintain the financial health of the district; and to help build on opportunities to expand our water supply.
My experience includes eight years representing Eagle-Vail on the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority Board, eight years representing Vail Resorts on the Eagle Park Reservoir Company Board, participation on the Eagle River Urban Runoff Executive Committee, working with the Watershed Council on the Eagle Mine water quality issues, being a member of the Camp Hale Restoration Steering Committee, and involvement in the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement.
• The district is facing several major projects during the next few years. What do you think of the current plans? The state of Colorado, per the EPA, has put new limits on the discharge of nutrients from wastewater treatment plants. Because of this, the district is required to upgrade the treatment systems at all three of its treatment facilities. While these upgrades are expensive, they are required and they will improve the water quality in both Gore Creek and the Eagle River. I believe the district board and staff have done a good job at planning for these upgrades to control cost in both the financing and the implementation of the plans. To that point I would encourage everyone to vote “yes” on both ballot questions.
• Residence: Highland Meadows, de-annexed West Vail, unincorporated Eagle County.
• Occupation: Guest services, Zach’s Cabin and Red Sky Ranch Golf Club.
• Why do you want this job? Water and wastewater are one of the community’s most important, least discussed topics. It has been my passion for the past two decades. It is an area in which my experience and expertise can help our community.
• The district is facing several major projects during the next few years. What do you think of the current plans? The plan is thoughtful and thorough. It encompasses issues from the top of Vail Pass to Wolcott, from Eagle Park Reservoir, through Minturn to the Colorado state line and maybe even beyond.
Ellen Smith Eaton
• Residence: Edwards.
• Occupation: Realtor, Remax Vail Valley.
• Why do you want this job? Water law fascinates me. My work with the ranching community as well as my profession as a Realtor has given me vast exposure to Colorado water law. Whether it is regarding agricultural irrigation or water rights as they pertain to development, I have a working knowledge in both arenas. It is my hope to bring this knowledge, experience and passion to the water board. I know there is a great deal more to learn and I look forward to gaining more knowledge in this complicated field.
• The district is facing several major projects during the next few years. What do you think of the current plans? I am very impressed with the level of research, attention to detail and commitment the members of the district have given these plans. The plans are all works in progress and I have confidence in the staff to work with the fluid (no pun intended) nature of the process.
• Residence: I have lived in the Vail Valley for more than 35 years and currently reside in Old Edwards Estates in Edwards.
• Why do you want this job? I am interested in this board seat because the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District faces a number of significant decisions over the next four years, including how to manage increased water demands on the Eastern Slope; creating new opportunities for water storage; capital projects; and working cooperatively with all users of the Colorado River and its tributaries. For the past 10 years, I have served on the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority Board representing the Edwards Metro District. This experience has provided me with the background and understanding of the water challenges our community has faced in the past and helps lend perspective on how we need to address water resource management for our future, especially the critical need for strong cooperation between the stakeholders spanning the eastern and western slopes of Colorado along with the other states farther down river.
• The district is facing several major projects during the next few years. What do you think of the current plans? We are currently faced with, and are voting on, how our community is addressing plant improvements stemming from new EPA requirements and system replacements. It is imperative that our entire community, the water board and the dedicated district staff implement these projects in the most cost-effective manner possible. I believe that the district has an appropriate plan in place to address the new EPA requirements. At the same time, the plan meets the needs and desires of all of us who live here, to keep water and sewer rates in line. The most important thing we can do is protect our waterways and the natural environment.
• Residence: Vail.
Why do you want this job? I have extensive experience with dealing with water issues over the last 35 years including three terms on the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, as well as the Colorado Water Congress, Clinton Reservoir Board, Eagle Reservoir Board and was in charge of Vail Resorts water rights and water development projects for 20 years, working closely with the community to bring projects on line that benefited both the community and the ski company. A good example of this is the Eagle Park reservoir, which provides water for Vail, Eagle-Vail, Avon, Edwards and, soon, Wolcott. The reservoir also provides snowmaking water for both Vail and Beaver Creek. The Clinton Reservoir provides water for Keystone, Dillon, Frisco and Breckenridge.
I have worked long and hard to be part of the agreements with Colorado Springs, Denver and Aurora and other entities to preserve water for the Western Slope. I also have worked with water districts in California and Nevada with water rights and water development projects. With my 52 years as a valley resident, I would like to again use my experience to help guide the district.
• The district is facing several major projects during the next few years. What do you think of the current plans? When mandates come down from the state or federal government, like the ones that now face the district, it really comes down to how best to comply in the most efficient way. I have worked with many of the district’s staff in the past — they were very good in their respective roles. Attorneys Jim Collins and Glenn Porzak are excellent and have lots of experience, and the incumbent board members have done a very good job. The community has a very good team in place to bring about a very positive result.