Politics & Government

9 vying for 3 seats on Malaga water board

Expanding recreation programs and community beautification are the top issues in races for three seats on the Malaga County Water District board.

Nine candidates are running for the board, which primarily oversees the community's water and sewer systems and parks and recreational programs. The board manages an annual budget of nearly $1.9 million.

The district is the mostly highly contested among the water and community service boards in Fresno County on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Six candidates are running to fill two four-year terms. They include incumbents Charles Garabedian Jr. and Irma Castaneda. The other four candidates are Johnny Hernandez, Henry Murrieta, Florence Valdez and Armando Blancas.

The three candidates seeking to fill a two-year term are incumbent Frank Cerrillo Jr. and challengers Vincent Fernandez and Becky Salmeron.

In addition to supporting more recreational programs for teens and seniors, the candidates say more attention needs to be placed in beautifying Malaga, an unincorporated community of about 1,200 residents just south of Fresno.

"It looks like nobody cares right now," Murrieta said.

Cerrillo said dry weeds and trash at the Chestnut Avenue overpass at Golden State Boulevard are an example of what needs to be cleaned up.

"It's an eyesore," he said.

Another issue is the need for speed bumps to slow traffic in neighborhoods and around Malaga Park, candidates said.

Garabedian, district board president, said he wants to see Malaga maintain its independence.

An effort to make Malaga an incorporated town in 2004 failed after supporters worked for five years and spent about $1 million. The Local Agency Formation Commission denied the incorporation request.

That in part led to the recall of Valdez and Blancas in April 2005. Recall proponents said Valdez, Blancas and another board member interfered with the community's effort to become a city.

The ousting of the three board members triggered celebratory gunfire and fireworks the night of the recall election.

Valdez and Blancas ran again for the board in November 2005, but lost.

Blancas concedes that he probably won't be elected Nov. 6, but said he is running so board members know that other people are concerned about the community.

Board members receive $143.50 per meeting. The board meets twice a month.

Each board member also receives medical health coverage or reimbursement for what the district would pay if the board member accepted the coverage, said Russ Holcomb, the district's general manager.