Three open spots will be decided in the April 2 race for the Leavenworth Waterworks Board. Though only two candidates filed before the deadline, Leavenworth resident Greg Kaaz announced that he had started a write-in campaign for the third seat, so his answers are included here as well.
Previous elected experience: None (appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Leavenworth Waterworks Board)
Occupation: President of Lexeco Inc.
Previous Elected Experience: None
Occupation: Financial Center Manager/Business Development Manager for Country Club Bank
Previous Elected Experience: None (appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Leavenworth Waterworks Board)
1) Why are you running for the Leavenworth Waterworks Board?
Gervasini: If elected, I feel that using my education and business experience I can make a contribution to the community by serving on this board.
Kaaz: I was born and raised in Leavenworth. Government and public utilities should be an extension of the people. The citizens need to be involved in government since it belongs to them. I want to be involved in giving back to the community I live in. I can add knowledge and experience to the Water Department due to my education and work experience.
Wood: I have lived and worked in the Leavenworth Community for 18 years. I enjoy serving my community and have been involved in several civic organizations. Each of these opportunities combined with my work experience has taught me the importance of people. I believe my experience in management, finance and customer service can add to the effectiveness of the board.
2) Why do you believe the board is important to the Leavenworth community?
Gervasini: Clean, quality drinking water is essential to the health of any community. The Leavenworth Water Board has been an independent entity for about eight decades and has been essential to ensure that the community receives a high quality product at a reasonable cost.
Kaaz: A safe water supply is essential for any community. Most utilities are taken for granted until they aren’t available. The board needs to assure a safe and continuous supply of water at a reasonable price for the citizens of Leavenworth.
Wood: A safe, abundant potable water supply that meets or exceeds all environmental regulations is vital for the growth and health of our community. The Waterworks Board is responsible to assure these mandates are met.
3) How did the flood of 2011 and the drought of 2012-2013 affect the department's operations?
Gervasini: During the flood of 2011, the intake from the Missouri River, which supplies to the North Plant, flooded. The water supply from the Stigers Island well field was interrupted to the South Plant. Using lessons learned from the 1993 flood, the department was prepared to take a proactive approach to continue to provide unprocessed water to both plants. Using in-house resources and contractor personnel, work-a-rounds were fabricated to continue the flow of water for processing. The drought of 2012 was a completely different challenge, with the combined capacities of the two facilities challenged to satisfy the department's requirements for potable water.
Kaaz: Surprisingly, the flooding created more problems than the drought. When the south plant well field flooded, the main water wells were unavailable for service. The Water Department foresaw the need for a temporary well closer to the water plant before the flooding started. The temporary well was used to supply water to Plant No. 2 for several weeks until the main wells could be brought back online. This reduced plant 2's capacity to 1.5 million gallons per day, but it was online. There was no reduction in service to the customers during this period.
Wood: I was appointed to the Leavenworth Waterworks Board mid-summer 2012 to fill the unexpired term of Ms. Joann Runyon. Therefore, I do not believe I am in a position to comment on the Department’s operations in 2011. Although being a board member only briefly, I witnessed the challenges faced by the department but never did I observe a failure to meet customer expectations.
4) It's no secret that some of the city of Leavenworth's water infrastructure is aging. How do you propose the Waterworks board approach making the needed improvements while keeping rates as low as possible?
Gervasini: The city of Leavenworth has some of the oldest cast iron water lines from when the municipal water system was created in 1882. A planned approach to make needed improvements in an incremental manner over several years will spread the costs. By close and continuous coordination with the gas company, we can take advantage of upgrading infrastructure at the same time the gas company may have an open trench. This same coordination should also be continued with the city and other service providers to avoid duplication of planned trenching and minimize costs. Adoption and investment in new techniques and technology, like “pipe bursting,” will also reduce the costs.
Kaaz: We need to continue to maintain and update the capital improvements plan. We need a programmed and strategic plan for updating our aging water mains. There are new methods of replacement such as pipe bursting that can reduce the cost of water main replacements with very little street repair. The Water Department has utilized this method on Shawnee Street and is looking at purchasing a machine to continue this process.
Wood: Any utility demands maintenance, upgrades and modernization. Each of these must be studied, reviewed and prioritized. Once prioritized, we must review our current and projected income and align these projects within acceptable budget limitations. We cannot increase rates without reviewing the effectiveness our expenditures. We owe it to our customers to be good stewards of their money and to be as efficient as possible.
5) What do you see as the water department's biggest priorities over the next four to five years?
Gervasini: Continue to provide a quality water product to the community at a reasonable cost. Maintain the current system to produce and distribute clean and healthy water to the community. Upgrade physical and technology infrastructure, where appropriate. Explore the option of providing water, excess to the community's needs, to adjacent rural water districts.
Kaaz: We need to maintain and continue to upgrade the aging infrastructure. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Environmental Protection Agency continue to add new regulations that the Water Department must meet. We need to find the most cost effective method to comply with new regulations.
Wood: Over the next four to five years we need to actively research drought impacts, work to assess emergency power requirements, and continuously review all federal and state regulatory mandates which may impact out utility. These priorities may force upgrades which can be very expensive. However, we will strive to accomplish them without an increase in water fees.