Tuesday elections: 4 compete for 2 KID positions

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldDecember 8, 2013 

Kennewick Irrigation District customers will get to choose between two farmers and two residential property owners in the upcoming Tuesday election.

Penny Hermanson, who was elected to Position 4 last year, is running against Dean Dennis, who was appointed to that position but lost to Hermanson in the last election.

Kirk Rathbun, who is finishing his first three-year term, is running for Position 1 against Jim Wade, a KID critic whom Rathbun defeated in the 2010 election.

The KID election is from 1 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the KID administrative office, 12 W. Kennewick Ave.

By law, property owners on parcels of five acres or fewer get two votes, while those with more land get two votes for each five acres. Joint property owners each get half of the votes.

Board members are paid $90 per day for official meetings or days spent on official duties.

Position 1

If re-elected, Rathbun, a farmer and a developer, plans to focus on completing the project to bring Yakima River water to Red Mountain, he said.

He also plans to focus on canal lining, building a re-regulation reservoir -- a man-made pond that stores extra water when demand is low to be used when demand is high -- and automated canal gates to improve service to residential customers, he said.

KID also needs to continue planning for drought mitigation and pursuing Columbia River water, he said.

Rathbun has a better grasp on the issues involved in dealing with federal and state agencies, he said.

If elected, Wade wants to stop what he says is wasteful spending by KID. He feels that not as many board members need to travel to out-of-area meetings, he said.

Rathbun said travel is a necessary for board members to stay informed about state and federal regulatory issues and helps KID qualify for grants.

Wade, a retired business owner, thinks KID is doing a decent job with canal lining, but that it could be done better, he said.

As a single-lot owner, Wade has a different perspective than the current board members, he said, and would represent the concerns of KID's residential customers.

"I want people to be able to have a say in what's going on," Wade said. "I want everything transparent."

Wade also wants KID to a better job getting information about elections and rate changes to the public, he said.

He also feels that residential customers pay a disproportionate share when compared to agricultural customers, he said.

Rathbun countered that KID provides a greater level of service to residential customers, with higher liability. For example, KID often is responsible for the ponds, pipes, and turnouts to each resident, while with agricultural customers, the district only delivers the water to the edge of the canal, and the customer takes the responsibility from there.

Position 4

If re-elected, Hermanson's main objectives would be to preserve current water rights and focus on drought planning, she said.

Both she and Dennis say KID needs to continue working on the canal lining project, which helps prevent water loss. KID is also looking at updating pumps and other ways to become more efficient, Hermanson said.

Water conservation is also an important issue, as well as looking for Columbia River water for the district, said Hermanson, who owns 45 acres and farms grass feed.

Hermanson works to represent all customers fairly, whether they are farmers or residential homeowners, she said.

Dennis thinks the current management of KID is going a good job and is very conscientious, he said. He would like to help with efforts to control spending.

He is a Vietnam veteran who served three tours. He retired after 21 years in the Navy as a chief petty officer. He volunteers with Operation Thank You, which thanks veterans coming home from tours, and is president of the Pheasant Run Homeowners Association.

Dennis believes it is important for KID to maintain its current water rights and protect the interests of both residential and agricultural customers, he said.

Dennis would like to see a change in state law for voting for irrigation districts, he said. It needs to be made easier for irrigation district property owners to vote.

Dennis was glad to see KID accept the $8.3 million offer in the recent auction of property the district owned on Red Mountain, he said. While he would have liked to see more than one person get the property, it was a fair and acceptable offer.

Hermanson was satisfied with the board's decision to sell the Red Mountain property, she said. She did hear some people wish the auction had been structured differently so there was more than one buyer, but said it would have been better to hear that kind of opinion prior to the auction.

Dennis does have a problem with having a married couple on the same board, he said. Hermanson is married to Patrick McGuire, who is also an elected board member.

Dennis admits that the arrangement is legal and has not accused the couple of doing anything wrong, but does not feel it is ethical, he said.

Hermanson said it's a low blow to criticize her personally for being married to a fellow board member. Dennis has not pointed out anything that she has done wrong as a KID board member, she added

"I have my own personal opinions," Hermanson said. "I have my personal thoughts. I listen to other people's opinions and then I make my decision."

-- To submit business news, go to bit.ly/bizformtch.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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