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DVHS senior first-ever recipient of DSRSD scholarship

$2k grant from public agency concerns some

A graduating senior at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon is the first recipient of the $2,000 Dublin San Ramon Services District James B. Kohnen Scholarship.

Justin Salomon Tran received his award Tuesday at the Dublin San Ramon Services District Board meeting. Tran plans to study geophysics at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

He has been a member of the National Honor Society since 2011, a camp counselor at Walker Creek Outdoor School since 2011, and captain of the football and track and field teams and vice president of the Gardening Club

at Dougherty Valley high.

The $2,000 scholarship is a drop in the bucket for the district, which has an annual operating budget of $53 million, but the move by a public agency to create a scholarship has raised the eyebrows of some.

The money comes from the administrative budget for the DSRSD, according to spokeswoman Sue Stephenson.

"That means the money comes from ratepayer and capacity fees," Stephenson said. "We used to call that a connection fee."

Capacity fees are paid by developers as they tap into DSRSD water or sewer services.

"The purpose of the scholarship -- the primary purpose is to honor James Kohnen for all his public service," Stephenson said. "The secondary purpose for the scholarship is to inspire young people to follow (Kohnen) in his service. Nobody thinks about wanting to grow up to be an environmentalist. This is a little opportunity to get high school kids to think about us when they embark upon a career path."

Kohnen, a former member of the DSRSD Board of Directors, died last year. He devoted many years of his life to managing and protecting the public water supply.

As a member of the DSRSD Board of Directors from 1992 to 2000, Kohnen was instrumental in developing water service for the Dougherty Valley. He also helped expand the use of bring recycled water in the Tri-Valley, along with helping expand water, waste water and recycled water services to east Dublin and expanding the Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Kohnen served on the boards of the Zone 7 Water Agency, the Alameda County Special Districts Association, the American Society for Quality, the Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District, and the California Special Districts Association.

The idea of a scholarship in Kohnen's name started with a board member. While others have had benches or facilities named after them, one board member, Mary Gordon, said the tribute should be educated related, in keeping with Kohnen's as a lifelong learner.

"When staff took it to the board, they suggested a $1,000 scholarship and the board said, 'No, let's make it $2,000 to take a little bit of the bite out of the cost of college,'" Stephenson said.

Tran was the solo applicant for the scholarship, but Stephenson said based on his qualifications, he would have won anyway.


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