Interview from 9/30/09 issue
By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer
Q. How many MCSD board meetings have you attended since you became a candidate?
Penny Elsebusch: I have been going to their board meetings faithfully for the past 16 years. I started going soon after I moved to McKinleyville, and have rarely missed any meetings.
Q. What makes you qualified to be a candidate?
Elsebusch: I have a business background, and I understand the financial reports, and the budget. I also have a good historical perspective on the MCSD, from having gone to all their meetings for so many years.
Q. Do you support extending Measure B? If so, how would you like to see the money spent?
Elsebusch: When Measure B runs out, we’re still going to need a source of money to keep the sports field maintained. It takes $118,000 a year to maintain it. It doesn’t seem likely we’ll be able to get any grants for that purpose. Quimby funds can be used to build new facilities, but they can’t be used for maintaining existing facilities.
So much community work and effort went into creating that sports field – trees were donated, and volunteers planted them. We have to be able to maintain it some way. Otherwise the Little League and the soccer teams would be gone.
I also strongly support the skate park. Our kids need something constructive to do. There’s so much community support for it, and donations will be coming in.
But I am concerned about all the different bonds that McKinleyville residents are paying for. We’re already paying for the Fire District and College of the Redwoods, and the school bond.
We have so many seniors here that are living on fixed incomes. Some of the older seniors are living on very small Social Security incomes, because their Social Security goes back to a time when people didn’t earn as much money as they do now. And those seniors can barely make ends meet.
So I don’t know how the voters, especially retired people, will react to the idea of one more bond.
Q. Should the MCSD extend its powers and provide additional services? If so, how?
Elsebusch: No! We already have enough on our plate!
If the county, which gets our tax revenues can’t afford to pave our streets, how is MCSD going to be able to afford to do it? It would be impossible, fiscally.
Let’s concentrate on providing excellent service for those things that we already do: water, sewers, recreation, some landscaping zones, and some street lighting zones, and maintaining the library building and the sheriff’s building.
Q. How should the MCSD upgrade its sewer system?
Elsebusch: Upgrading our wastewater system is going to cost big bucks. Our “BOD” (biological oxygen demand in treated wastewater) numbers are much too high to meet water quality standards. It’s pretty clear that we’re not going to be able to use Fischer Ranch much longer as a way to get rid of our treated wastewater.
One possible solution is building an ocean outfall line; another is building a tertiary wastewater treatment plant. Both solutions are terribly expensive, but improving our wastewater system is a necessity.
Q. What’s your view of how the board dealt with its conflict with former MCSD Manager Marking?
Elsebusch: The board started the conflict with the manager. It was pretty obvious that several of the board members wanted to get rid of him.
Tom Marking was always very responsive to questions that my husband and I asked him, even when we disagreed with his views. He would fax us materials that we asked for, and would always take our phone calls. He was a very hands-on type of person. He is responsible for getting the sports field built. He went out and got grants, and was very active in the community.
Q. What would you like to accomplish on the board?
Elsebusch: My chief concern is with fiscal responsibility. I don’t want to see any expansion of services. And I want to make sure that the solution we come up with for improving our wastewater is the one that is the most economically feasible, and that it is a long-term solution, and not something that we’re going to have to re-visit in five years.
Q. What are the biggest challenges facing MCSD?
Elsebusch: Our biggest challenges are keeping water rates affordable, finding a way to spread out any increases so that they’re manageable. So far, we have the lowest water rates in this area.
We also have to figure out how we’re going to pay for our wastewater improvements, and how we’re going to continue to maintain our sports field.
I am very concerned about our water rates and how they will be affected by the problems that Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District is having. They are not a profit-making organization; they pass their costs directly through to their customers, and we have a five-year contract with them. If their costs go up, ours go up, and of course the increase is passed directly on to the individual rate-payers.
I’m concerned about seniors and about families with young children who are struggling to make ends meet. I’m very concerned with keeping our water rates as low as possible.
Q. What is your occupation?
Elsebusch: I’m a Realtor, and I also help my husband in his business. He is a licensed insurance adjustor and a private investigator.
Q. How long have you lived in McKinleyville?
Elsebusch: More than 16 years.