Both candidates for a vacant Whitworth Water District Commission seat tout their backgrounds in construction and utilities as evidence they can serve a district entering a period of increased demand for coverage and new management.
Dave Tewel, one of the candidates, said a big challenge the district faces is more requests for water from areas that are remote, but still within the district’s bounds. He said the necessary infrastructure for this expansion would drive rates up.
“And yet,” he said, “it’s not fair to a current ratepayer to pick up the burden.”
He said he does not know the magnitude of the situation, but that he will work with the new general manager, Timothy R. Murrell, who recently replaced long-time manager Susan McGeorge, to find a solution.
Steve Irwin, Tewel’s opponent, said if elected he would research future growth by talking to city and county planners.
“It’s all a matter of just working together with the various agencies and interacting and just making good decisions,” he said.
Overall, Irwin said, he is satisfied with the state of the district. He said there is always room for improvement, but he wants to become more involved and learn about the district’s dynamics before delving into issues.
“I don’t have any specific points like that,” he said. “I’ve found in my career that a lot of times it’s better to go in and be open-minded and just absorb a lot of information your first three to six months.”
As for current infrastructure, Tewel said some water mains may need upgrades, and that the district should always be alert to sources of water loss and work to fix them.
“Everybody has leaks and no system is perfect,” Tewel said, “but to be mindful of it … I think is important.”
He said one of the best methods of conserving water is education. Rather than increase rates to encourage conservation, he said, the district could increase its public outreach.
“We could always do more to be better educated as to what proper water usage is,” he said.
Both candidates agreed the district’s current rates are attractive, and they have never personally experienced or heard of any problems with water quality.
“Everything looks to be up and up,” Irwin said. “We just wanna keep it that way.”
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