Meet the Santa Fe Irrigation District board candidate: Kenneth B. Dunford

Two candidates are vying for one open seat (Division One) on the Santa Fe Irrigation District board in the Nov. 6 election: Kenneth Dunford (incumbent) and Greg Gruzdowich. Below are candidate photos, bios and answers to two questions given to them by this newspaper.

Name: Kenneth B. Dunford

Years living in the Irrigation District:

Resident of Rancho Santa Fe for 32 years

Profession/Education:

•Civil engineer/businessman for over 40 years

•Registered civil engineer and licensed contractor

•Cal Poly State University, BSCE

•Pepperdine University, MBA

Community activities:

•Santa Fe Irrigation District, 10 years, incumbent

•Rancho Santa Fe Community Service Award, 2006

•Village Church, 32-year member, served as an Elder

•Boy Scout Leader, Eagle Scout, Eagle Scout Advisor

•Rancho Santa Fe Association, Art Jury

•Rancho Santa Fe Association, various committees

•California Community Bank, board member

•Past Rotarian and Toastmaster

  1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing SFID?

I’m proud to say that the district is a financially strong utility, run by a professional staff, directed by a board of which I’ve been a member for 10 years. The district offers rates that are among the lowest in the county, is the only AAA-rated water agency in the county, has issued no new debt in over 10 years, and has a long-term facilities replacement program in place.

Going forward, the three issues that stand out most are:

  1. Protecting our local water supply.

Lake Hodges is SFID’s most important asset – it provides 30 percent to 50 percent of our water every year, at a substantially lower cost than “purchased” water.  But the district has been in difficult discussions for over six years with the City of San Diego over a dispute on rights to Lake Hodges, the resolution of which could substantially impact our rates.

  1. Continuing to upgrade our aging infrastructure.

SFID is a 90-year-old water district with assets that have a replacement value of over $275 million. In 2009, I co-led district efforts to complete an Asset Management Master Plan that established a “Baseline 10-year Capital Improvement Program,” a critical plan to maintain our assets on a well-defined, steady basis. This program is ongoing and should be supported every year.

  1. Effectively managing operational costs, including employee salaries and benefits.

During my time on the board, we have proactively and successfully met this challenge, well ahead of many other utilities or municipalities.  This has resulted in a reduction of our operating budget through organizational efficiencies, including:

•Reducing staff by 10 percent

•Eliminating post-employment health insurance benefits

•Negotiating a tougher pension plan, with all employees paying their full share of pension costs.

The district must continue to be vigilant to control our costs.

  1. Do you have any suggestions as to how your biggest issue should be addressed by the board?

Protecting our rights to Lake Hodges and the Lake Hodges watershed is a critical issue for district customers, with millions of dollars at stake. As mentioned, Lake Hodges provides 30 percent to 50 percent of our district water supply each year, at a substantially lower cost than “purchased water” from the San Diego County Water Authority.  Access to this water also provides tremendous flexibility to maintain our low rates in times of droughts or fluctuating customer demand.

Yet legal agreements dating back to the 1930s grant some Lake Hodges water rights to the City of San Diego, which they have just recently begun to assert by pulling water from the lake.  The district has been engaged in difficult discussions with the city for over six years to define and outline our mutual rights to this water supply, and we are approaching a solution which has been carefully crafted to protect the district.

This is an important time for steady, experienced board members who are well-versed on the history of the issues and can lead us to a successful resolution.  The board should be fully engaged in the ongoing process, at the local and regional level, to ensure that the best decision is made to protect the long-term interest of the district. With my 10 years of service to the district, I believe I bring that experienced, steady hand, and focused engagement to the district.

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