MCSD candidate David Couch: ‘ New plant should be a matter of civic pride’

Four candidates are running for three 4-year seats on the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors, which oversees sewer, water, streetlights, open space maintenance, parks and recreation in the unincorporated community. The candidates are David Couch, Dennis Mayo, Erik “Yahmo Ahqha” Rydberg and George Wheeler. Election Day is Nov. 6.

The Union recently asked the candidates a series of questions.

For Dennis Mayo’s answers, click here.

For George Wheeler’s answers, click here.

For Erik “Yahmo Ahqha” Rydberg’s answers, click here.

Below are David Couch’s answers, unedited:

David Couch

1. Why are you running for a seat on the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors?

Couch: I am an incumbent. When I first ran I planned to serve two terms, now I am seeking a third term.  My primary reason to run again is to participate in hiring a new general manager for the district ,Mr. Orsini has warned the board he plans to retire within this time period so replacing him will be a big task.

2. What is your occupation and what makes you qualified to serve on the MCSD board?  

Couch: I am currently employed as the Water/ Wastewater operations supervisor for the city of Arcata. Have worked there for thirty years in operations. My education and other previous employment has always been about water, more orientated in the past about the denizens of  water, now more orientated to our use of water, making sure of the safe supply of drinking water and the treatment of wastewater so it does not degrade the environment.

 On the parks and recreation side, I am more of a consumer without much expertise. Used to be an avid soccer player and referee , now have worn out knees  hips , calcium deposits on my shins from my time as a ferocious center fullback defender. More active now in breeding horses specifically Trakehner horeses and I have served as a director on the board of the American Trakehner Association. Now to digress from myself a little, one of my friends from the Trakehner association is Joe Pimentel who grew up in Mckinleyville but now lives in Florida. His farm in Panama Beach just took a direct hit from  Hurricane Michael . Contact me and I can provide a GoFundMe page for helping Joe to rebuild.

3. How many MCSD board meetings have you attended? 

Couch: As an incumbent have participated in over a hundred meetings as a director. I also was a frequent attendant at meetings prior to serving as a director going back to the 80’s. Did not go to all meeting but when there were issues of concern to me I attended and spoke. I remember the first few meetings I went to in the mid 80’s and how Ben Shepherd was the young progressive guy on the board who thanked me for participating.

4. What’s the biggest challenge facing the district?

Couch: In my humble opinion MCSD is a well run organization that serves the community. However when we have meetings the empty chairs for the public concerns me. I know people have concerns from reading Facebook and have resisted the temptation to debate there. We always have a time period at the start of meetings for the public to address the board and that is the way to have your issues addressed. I really try to listen to input and include that in my decisions as a board member. The challenge is to get more participation, “Decisions are made by those who show up”.

5. What is your position on the increase in water/sewer rates? 

Couch: Rate increases could be the answer to the previous question!  Especially to our rate payers, in my household we split up the bills for payment and my wife gets the water bill, every bill I hear about the increases.

Wastewater rates have gone up to pay for MCSD's new treatment plant. To comply with State Water Quality Control Board regulations a new system was needed and the one the district built was a cost effective solution. To pay for this new plant the district took out a loan through the State Revolving fund. This is the current mechanism to fund infrastructure improvements, low interest on the loan but not like the old days when improvements for Wastewater Plants were grant funded. I remember complaints about the old plant producing such a bad smell that the adjacent sports complex was impacted, not any more.The new plant should be a matter of civic pride. It is performing well and Mckinleyville is in compliance with it's discharge requirements.  The change in the discharge requirements was to do nitrogen removal from the effluent. During the summer Mckinleyville  wastewater effluent can not be discharged into the Mad River and is used for irrigation. To protect the groundwater from potential contamination from Nitrate in the wastewater the elimination  of nitrate was mandated.

Water rates have also gone up, the wholesale cost of water has gone up which Mckinleyville buys from Humboldt Bay Water. We do not have any control there but I believe they had to raise their rates to pay for deferred maintenance and to offset their loss of revenue from the closing of the pulp mills. Mckinleyville has also upgraded our drinking water pump system and in our Capital Improvements Plan is construction of a large storage reservoir. The goal of the new storage reservoir is to have enough storage in case of an emergency that eliminates our water supply we won't run out of water.

 That brings us to the current rate increase proposal. Most of the water distribution pipes that were Mckinleyville's original system built back in the late 70s were a type called asbestos/concrete pipe. This material is not used any more because of the risk of the asbestos. In fact the old pipe is now considered as hazardous waste so working on it is expensive because of the safeguards which have to be used. This pipe has a 40 to 60 year estimated life span, our pipes are approaching the 40 year age. The current rate increase proposal is another small increase to start saving money to replace this pipe. Here is a link about this pipe

The straw that broke the camel's back,  that is the feeling I get when I talk to ratepayers.This rate increase has to go through a process called a 218 process. The board can not just raise the rates, all water accounts received a ballot on this issue in the mail. It needs to be mailed back to the district if you want to vote NO on this proposal. If you do not participate, you are voting yes. I am only trying to be a messenger that tells you how this process works.

6. What, if any, improvements would you like to see with regard to parks and recreation?

 Couch: Parks and recreation needs more money in the budget. The district will be holding a workshop in November to look at ways to increase funding for Parks and recreation. MCSD has several sites that could be developed for more parks and could get grants to develop these sites but does not have the funds to maintain more parks. Maintenance is problematic these days because of severe vandalism at our facilities. Public restrooms at parks have the fixtures ripped out, walls are smeared with feces , objects ranging from needles to pipe bombs are left behind. This seems to be the new normal and it is not acceptable.

The board approved shortening hours  at some sites to combat these problems, hoping that less vandalism would occur when more people were around, of course this is an inconvenience for non vandals who found their access restricted.

 The board also directed Parks and Recreation to try to make the recreation programs self supporting. This means charging more for activities.

 At the candidates forum there was a question of having recreational programs targeted at Native American youth. This stumped me so I asked the staff, seems there is a partnership between Parks and Recreation and United Indian Health services where fees for Native American youth are paid by United Indian Health Care. This has led to a high percentage of Native American youth participating in our programs. This makes me proud! Our local tribes and tribal members seem to be working on maintaining and restoring their cultures, I may be culturally insensitive but to me this is the best way to accomplish this goal. My wife and I attended a  Water Warriors function In Blue Lake that was inspirational and I will always support undamming the Klamath!  Oops losing focus. 

  Parks and Recreation has numerous partnerships. The Mckinleyville skatepark collective is raising money for a skatepark, the district plans to supply the land for the park. The Boys and Girls club operates the Teen Center which the district built with Measure B funds  to help with a community need for teen activities. Great partnerships! Hope there are more in future.

7. Should the MCSD expand its powers? 

Couch: There is a long list of powers that MCSD could assume, planning ,roads, drainage, police, all are possible. The problem is financial, where would funds come from for these services? I can't support expanding services without a funding source.

8. What is the district’s biggest accomplishment in the last five years? 

No answer provided

9. What is the district’s biggest failure in the last five years? 

No answer provided

10. How should the district interact with the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee? 

No answer provided

11. Should McKinleyville pursue incorporation and what role, if any, would the district have in that process?

No answer provided

12. What projects would you like the district to pursue? 

No answer provided

13. What are the last two books that you’ve read?

No answer provided

14. What’s your idea of a good time?

No answer provided

15. What else would you like voters to know about you?

No answer provided


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