Portland Water District election pits contractor against watchdog

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PORTLAND — Voters on Nov. 8 will choose between a construction contractor and an environmental watchdog for an open seat on the Portland Water District Board of Trustees.

The five-year seat is currently held by David Margolis-Pineo, who is not seeking re-election.

The district provides water and environmental services to more than 190,000 people in 11 greater Portland communities. It is governed by an 11-member Board of Trustees that includes four Portland representatives.

In fiscal 2011, the district had an operating budget of nearly $37.4 million. It employs nearly 200 people.

Bradford S. Cleaves, of 122 Salem St., and John W. Safarik, of 24 Ivy St., are vying to replace Margogolis-Pineo.

Cleaves is a 63-year-old general contractor who has never sought a publicly elected office. He said he was encouraged to run by an existing trustee, because of his 35 years of construction experience.

“I’m intimately accustomed with a lot of what the Portland Water District has to deal with,” he said.

Cleaves said the biggest challenge of the PWD is keeping water rates low, while maintaining existing infrastructure. He said public works has been a part of his life, citing experience with budgets, waste-water systems, pump stations, utility work, wind turbines and bike paths.

“I’m not a politician,” he said. “I come at it from a construction perspective. I understand budgets.”

Safarik is a 74-year-old Green Independent who previously ran unsuccessful campaigns for the state Legislature in 2004 and 2006.

Safarik, who has studied geology, chemical engineering, history of science and political theory, said he is concerned about the effects of pollutants from residential build-up along the shores of Sebago Lake, the district’s water source.

Safarik said he is also concerned about the commercial extraction of public water resources, citing Poland Springs as an example.

“I’m concerned the district isn’t being as much of a watchdog as possible in so far as it can be under the circumstances,” he said.

Safarik noted the water district, along with the city of Portland, will soon be undertaking significant measures to separate storm-water systems from sewer lines.

That project is necessary to prevent raw sewerage from being discharged into Casco Bay during heavy rains.

Safarik said it’s important that water rates remain low, but that is not his priority.

“I believe water should be first safe and second cheap,” he said. “We take our water for granted, and I don’t think we should.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings

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Bradford Cleaves

John Safarik

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