The following article first appeared on the front page of the Sunday, February 26, 1978 edition of the “Ojai Valley News”. It is reprinted here with their permission .
Water candidates tackle key issues
Editor’s note: At 7 p.m. on March 1, Candidates George Purvis and Earl Hansen will square off in a candidate’s night sponsored by the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce at World University.
by Tom Murphy
In the March 7 election, voters in District 4 of the Casitas Municipal Water District (Oak View and surrounding areas) will vote on a recall movement against their representative to the district’s board. Earl Hansen is a man who does not want to be recalled. His opponent, George Purvis, claims to be a man who does not even want to run, but has led the move to have Hansen ousted.
Purvis started working on water issues in 1945 when he first moved to Oak View with his wife and realized there was very little water to be had. In 1952 he became publicity chairman for the steering committee of what is now CMWD. He was elected to the board of directors when the district incorporated in 1952 and did not step down until his retirement in 1970.
“THIS IS THE last thing I ever wanted to do, to come back to the board. You’ll have to take my word on that. I thought some knowledgeable person would come forth and run. We need somebody who is knowledgeable and ready to go to work,” says Purvis, in explanation of his campaign bid.
As leader of the Oak View Utilities Investigation Committee (OVUIC), Purvis has promoted the recall movement, which has two basic complaints about present district policy. The first is the proposed conjunctive use agreement with the City of Ventura. The second is the disparity between water rates for residential, commercial and agricultural users.
The conjunctive use agreement would grant Ventura up to 6,000 acre-feet of water per year from Casitas Dam if the water they were able to draw from the Ventura Rivera at Foster Park should ever fall below that figure. The water would be delivered free of charge. In exchange, the district would be able to divert 20 cubic feet of water per second into the Los Robles Diversion Canal from the river.
PURVIS MAINTAINS that the agreement is designed to ward off a threatened riparian rights lawsuit by Ventura against the district and could leave the district without a sufficient water supply during droughts. He also says the pact may spark similar agreements with other riparian users.
The challenger claims that the 20 cubic feet per second the district would get in return would not make up the possible 6,000 acre-foot loss. He also condemns the free water allocation saying the district might incur pumping costs to give Ventura the last of the district water is a severe drought hit.
The second matter revolves around a district rate structure Purvis says was designed by Hansen and former director (and now planning commissioner) Glenn Zogg, who recently endorsed Hansen in the upcoming vote. Pumping rates in the district, which used to vary dependent on the user’s proximity to the supply, are now equalized and charges for water by different users vary widely depending on the use.
According to present rates, Purvis says, a domestic user pays $161 per acre-foot of water. Under a commercial discount, businesses get the water for just $61 per acre-foot , and agricultural users get the biggest saving of all buying their water for just $25 per acre-foot under a discount similar to the Land Conservation Act’s decreased taxing scheme.
Purvis attacks the rates as discriminatory and notes that the rates for agricultural users do not even cover the cost of pumping and storage. In making up the difference, he claims, the other district customers are actually subsidizing agriculture.
RESIDENTS in District 4 used to pay only $8.77 per acre-foot of water to cover pumping charges in the district because they are located in the region closest to the lake. Residents in the Upper Ojai used to pay significantly more. Now the rate is $39 throughout CMWD.
Purvis charges that one of Hansen’s efforts in office as the District 4 representative has been to equalize the rates for all district customers and that this effort has significantly raised the pumping rates in the district as a result.
As the target of the recall, Hansen is in an obvious defensive position. He is upset by the recall because it is aimed at him personally instead of at the board as a whole.
“A lot of people ask me why I just don’t chuck it. Well, I can’t. All I want to do is vindicate myself. And I intend to run again. Of course, if the recall is successful, that may change,” he says.
He answers Pruvis’ complaints about the water rate differentials by saying he merely went along with the board’s decision to adopt the rates, and is not singly responsible for them, though he admits he and Zogg were “probably” on the committee that recommended them to the board.
On the question of the pumping charges, Hansen replies that the single rate system was recommended by a consultant hired when Purvis was on the board and that if makes sense when considering that the differing pumping costs to the district were gradually diminishing due to fluctuations in energy costs and that the cost of pumping in Oak View was lower than the Upper Ojai partly because so much water was being pumped to the Upper Ojai.
Hansen says he is upset by the recall because is it costing the district between $2,500 and $3,000 which will have to be paid by the consumers and he notes there has been no effort to start a recall in any other district, though the issues are virtually the same throughout the district.
ON THE offensive, Hansen asserts that he was responsible for obtaining a new water system for the Oak View area after Purvis failed to do so while on the board, that he helped to cancel the district’s debt from the old Rio Vista Water Company customers, he is actively pursuing the provision of district land for the Oak View Community Center, he has aggressively sought to protect water quality and supply while a director, and he is partly responsible for a drop in the district tax rate of 22%.
Hansen says that he is being forced to run a second time for the same office and that the process trying to drive him from the board will , in the long run, discourage qualified and dedicated candidates from entering the public arena — a factor which hurts the public in the end.