10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, September 26, 2010

By SANDRA STOKLEY
The Press-Enterprise

Water quality, increased water and sewer rates, customer service and financial waste are some of the issues that are in play in the campaign for the Jurupa Community Services District board of directors.

“They are wasting a lot of taxpayer money,” said civil engineer Umesh Shah, who is challenging board member Jane Anderson for her Division 5 seat on the board. “That board approves things like a rubber stamp.”

“I don’t feel that the customer service (that) people expect from that district is adequate,” said Brian Berkson, who is a candidate for the Division 3 seat.

Opposing Berkson is Robert “Bob” Craig.

“People are saying the water rates are too high. We should look at that and do what we can do,” Craig said. “The board needs to be more accessible and approachable.”

Three seats on the five-member board are up for election Nov. 2. Candidates run from the division they seek to represent but are elected by all voters in the district’s service area.

In the Division 1 race, board veteran Ken McLaughlin is running against Larry Riddle.

McLaughlin and his fellow incumbent Jane Anderson are carrying the baggage of their votes in 2007 to increase water rates and in 2009 to restructure sewer rates.

The decision on sewer rates — which factors water consumption into computing monthly bills — has proven so controversial that the board is poised to commission a study that looks at alternative billing methods.

McLaughlin did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment.

He was appointed to the board in 2000, elected in 2001 and re-elected in 2005.

The board’s decision to shift election to even-numbered years, added a year to all board member’s terms of office.

Riddle, 54, who serves on the board of the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District, owns an appliance repair company.

In 2008, the Jurupa park district filed a lawsuit against the community services district over the disputed sale of property to a partnership that includes Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona.

The two agencies are involved in settlement negotiations.

Riddle said trying to speed up a settlement is not the reason he is running.

“I hope I can help resolve the lawsuit as well as any other issues that come before the board,” he said.

The Division 3 race guarantees there will be at least one new face on the Jurupa district board. The seat has been vacant since April when board member R.M. “Cook” Barela died.

Brian Berkson, 41, has lived in Glen Avon for six years and works as a project manager for Far West Industries, a real estate investment and development firm.

Berkson said if he is elected, he will make customer service a priority — something that he says is not being done at the district now.

“I’ve watched people who have gone to the board and they are getting the brush off,” he said.

Bob Craig, 57, a retired firefighter/paramedic, has lived in the Pedley area for 25 years. He is co-director with his wife, Lynne, at Eddie Dee Smith Senior Center in Rubidoux.

Craig said that as co-director of the senior center, he has had the opportunity to discuss issues with seniors. The increased utility rates have been weighing heavily on them, Craig said.

“A lot of the seniors are on fixed incomes,” Craig said. “We need to look at how we can alleviate the impact on them and on the rest of the community.”

Jane Anderson, 66, who was elected to the board in 2007 to a short term while the board changed over to divisions, is running in Division 5. She has lived in Eastvale since 1999.

Anderson said she can understand people’s concern about paying higher utility rates at a time of economic distress. But she said the board had no choice.

“There were periods of time where no rates had been raised for years,” Anderson said. “There are sewer lines and water lines in the older parts of the district that are 40-plus years old. They need to be replaced. You have to raise rates to pay for this.”

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