Mommy, Mommy, will we die of old age before the Tribune tells us “the rest of the story” – some of which you posted previously?
Yes, Dear. When I talked to Editorial Page Editor, Bill Morem, he said he’d look into it, but so far nothing’s appeared. I’ll bet if I called again he’d tell me that the editors feel it’s now “old news” and so won’t do any follow up, heh-heh, which tells me their original intention was to scare and bamboozle and mislead their readers, not enlighten and inform them. If you are a Tribune reader, you have been warned.
The following comments are from Gail McPherson, posted on the Los Osos Recall list-serve. Gail has actually run a wastewater treatment plant so she’s one of the few people in the community who actually knows s—t. Since a lot of people in the community are simply NOT getting accurate information, from the Tribune, at least, here’s a necessary corrective regarding just who to hold responsible for all the “wasted” money folks keep talking about.
I know how the Regional Water Quality control Board has frightened the community. For our community, it is important to understand the issues of who is fined and how it happens within the framework of the regulatory process. This process of enforcement – RWQCB imposing fines – is actually required, and of course, it was expected. In fact, not it will become part of the process of moving the plant.
But first, did you know if we had not started the construction we would not be facing the fines? It’s true, the enforcement action is directly tied to stopping work, and the 3 recalled CSD directors knew this would happen, and deliberately set us up for it.
We didn’t have to start the construction. The SWRCB (State) was in no rush for a funding hearing in January for Los Osos. The Loan had expired in September, 2004. But after the recall was served in December, the CSD rushed the loan through. The State allowed more time for re-bid, and for the bid award, and even for the election – A full 3 months, in fact.
But the 3 recalled CSD directors not only refused to wait, they rushed forward accepting non-competitive bids $36 million over the engineer’s estimate. In June they set the election about as far out as possible. In July they asked the RWQCB to fine us retroactively so the amount would be shocking, and they threatened to sue the RWQCB if they didn’t do it. In closed meetings, they barred the 2 minority directors, and instructed the contractors to front-load the contract work, to put as much cost as possible in the start up activities.
But now back to enforcement. The letter that was sent on October 6, 2005 from Roger Briggs [the one the Trib used to scare the community to death without bothering to get the “rest of the story”] is a letter of intent. It is the legal requirement that puts us on official notice from the RWQCB of the reasons for the enforcement action, as well as the amount that can be assessed. The $11 million is what the RWQCB Staff is recommending. This is based on stopping the project, and violating the Time Schedule Order (TSO). Never mind we consistently missed the schedule since 2001. [Something the Trib also forgot to tell its readers.] The RWQCB cannot look the other way and let us just “start over,” and move the plant without giving us a modification to our TSO order. That can’t happen without the enforcement process. That is partly due to the long history of the County and the screw-ups of the old CSD33, but mostly, it’s [Gordon] Hensley’s group’s [Taxpayer Watch, et al] threat to sue the RWQCB if they fail to enforce . . . .
Funding is a huge challenge because the rules change after construction begins. The funding for the project could have been revised based on project modification if we did so before start of construction. Once construction begins it is extremely difficult to modify the project and retain the same loan. But it is not impossible. CEQA rules kick in and we may have to reapply for funds. The good new is that projects that are ready to proceed are at the head of the line. With dirt turned and contractors here, we are ready. We also may have some parts that keep moving which would help us to retain the loan, and avoid the fines at the same time.
. . . . Fines are decided through a formal hearing process. The process takes several months, and now is complicated by the legal requirement of Measure B that stops the plant construction, and which is technically beyond the control of the [new] CSD. The RWQCB has never faced this issue before. Further, the CSD has the petition for review that was filed in 2000 that promised the Sate would intervene if enforcement was threatened. [More of what the Tribune forgot to tell you.]
Like many of you, I wish the old CSD 3 had not started the project, but we no know why they did it . . . like a city under siege, if they could not retain power, they could leave Los Osos in rubble. . . That is, after all, what ‘Scorched Earth’ policies are about.
. . . But even in the face of the obstacles ahead, the CSD Board will do everything to assure the best and most cost effective project is delivered. They will work to put the amended plan for an out-of-town facility in front of the people of Los Osos and before the State for approval. The new plan will be sustainable, sensible and complete. The cost and location will be known and approved in advance. Los Osos, through this CSD board, can meet a reasonable time schedule and we will keep moving to do so.