Hello, my name is Shannon Pekary and I am a candidate for the board of directors for Palo Alto Park Mutual Water Company. I and my wife April have lived in East Palo Alto since we were married, in 1991, and we have raised our 8 children here. I have lived in the Palo Alto Park service area since 2009. I am the Executive Director of the Ravenswood Youth Athletic Association, which helps run the soccer club that plays at Cesar Chavez school.
My experience as the director of a nonprofit organization gives me a unique insight into the management and finances of our water company, which is also a nonprofit corporation. I also have an engineering degree, which will help me understand some of the technical aspects of delivering safe water to our neighborhood.
One of the reasons I am running for the water board is that I have become very concerned about how the current board is using our finances. From their own financial statements, payroll and contractor fees account for about $400,000 dollars of the $660,000 of income. That is WAY too much money for staff, especially compared to other similar water companies. After showing us their broken pump at the shareholder meeting, and listening to the complaints of many of you, it is clear to me that they are not using our money wisely.
I am also concerned about the safety and appearance of the water. in 2016, the State Water Resources Board ordered the current management to create a plan to clean up the water. The plan they have created does not include a real plan to remove the manganese and iron, but rather to try to reduce it using over-chlorination, which is a cheap and poor substitute and can cause other problems.
Neighbors are reporting that the water company is charging more than $5,000 to install a water meter at new construction and renovations. Water meters do need to be installed, that is a state requirement, but $5,000 is WAY too much for this. Mutual water companies are supposed to run at cost, and there is no way that a meter costs this much to install.
As a board member, my priorities will be:
- Investigate claims of illegal charges and return money to those who have been overcharged.
- Overhaul the bylaws so that paid staff and their relatives cannot be on the board.
- Do an audit of the books and make sure all the income is accounted for.
- Make sure that the office is running efficiently
- Reduce staff expenses and use that savings to fix equipment
- Create a long-term plan to consistently deliver clean water to our houses at a reasonable price.