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Water agency’s Otis Wollan points to experience, stability in his re-election bid

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The longest-serving member of the Placer County Water Agency Board, Colfax resident Otis Wollan is seeking another four-year term, citing his experience, current board stability and enthusiasm for work to be done in the future. Wollan, 60, is being challenged by Applegate resident Ben Mavy in the Nov. 4 election. Wollan has been a board member since 1987. “This has been a real positive time of stability for the agency,” Wollan said. “It’s really gotten things in order on the infrastructure issue by putting $23 million into water supply reliability over the last year or two.” In the end, water supply and water safety are the key things that the agency is and will be concerned with, he said. Energy will also play a large role in the future of the water agency, with the federal relicensing of the project and the turnover of hydroelectric sales from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to a joint powers authority consisting of Placer County and PCWA in five years. While his opponent wants local governments to consider dedicating the funding to infrastructure maintenance that includes sewer-related issues and not be placed in the general revenue stream, Wollan said that his board has already established that only water and power infrastructure expenditures will be made with profits. “We really have a narrow slice of what we can spend the money on,” he said. One of the areas Wollan said he wants to explore more fully is financing a bio-fuels power-generation project that would not only use fire fuels in the wooded 5th District he serves but also provide better water quality by preventing erosion and other damage that come from catastrophic wildfires. Wollan described the threat of wildfires as Placer County’s “potential Katrina.” Stability with the agency is important for voters to consider, Wollan said. Wollan, a Colfax resident since 1979 and a resident of the area since the early 1970s, has worked the past 20 years in mediation and dispute resolution. He’s also managed non-profits and for-profits, including the American River Watershed Group. He’s served as chairman of the water agency board twice and is currently vice-chairman. Wollan said the agency has grown steadily from one that was just more than a decade old when he joined. “It has matured and we’ve got it to solid status,” he said. “There is virtually no debt and we were able to handle the growth spurt.” The agency has also taken sometimes unpopular but necessary steps like raising rates to pay for infrastructure maintenance and charging developers rates for connections that reflected current costs, he said. “Basically, we told the development community that they have to pay for the hookups themselves,” he said. Wollan said the agency is now in a position to move forward in a predictable and reliable manner. “This is a time when a lot of hard work is coming to fruition,” he said. “And this is a wonderful time for me to continue to be of service to my community.” The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.