DanvilleExpress.com and SanRamonExpress.com have merged into DanvilleSanRamon.com. You are seeing this page because the story below was previously on SanRamonExpress.com. The archives of SanRamonExpress.com are available here, but visit DanvilleSanRamon.com for new information and stories about our area.


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.


Posted by Jim, a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 6, 2013 at 8:32 am

It's one thing when the federal and state governments fund education, I get that. But a water/sewer district which is always asking for rate increases has no place funding scholarships. Then every other agency that wants to be politically correct and keep up with the Jones' will start their own scholarship. If one group does $2K the next will do $5K. If one does one scholarship the next will do 5. When does this end. Is every level of government (even the proverbial "sh*^&er") want to give our money away. Unbelievable.

BTW - The kid is probably a great kid, no issue there.

Posted by Dawn Benson, a resident of Dublin
on Jun 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm


Thank you for the article about Justin Tran, the first recipient of the James B. Kohnen $2,000 scholarship. As the President of the DSRSD Board of Directors, I believe this scholarship is a small way for the District to give back to the community, a small way to honor Jim Kohnen who gave so much of himself to the betterment of our community, and it's a small way to inspire young people to consider environmental careers in the water, wastewater and recycled water fields so they too can give to their communities.

Dawn Benson
President, DSRSD Board of Directors

BTW, Mary Gordon is not a member of the Board, she is the District's Organizational Services Manager

Posted by Larry, a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 9, 2013 at 3:51 pm

This modest scholarship won't break the bank. Like Jim Kohnen, Justin Tran appears to be a worthy, hardworking individual. It's too bad, however, that DSRSD did not do a better job soliciting applications from other qualified students.

If you and the rest of the board are so concerned about the community, Ms. Benson, why did you propose and recently approve rate increases to fund such large (excessive) reserves? Why was the temporary infrastructure charge merely suspended? Why weren't low water users given a better discount? If you look at your last board meeting agenda, it looks like DSRSD is planning to spend our money like drunken sailors.

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.