Scary Halloween Present for Los Osos
It was a creepy feeling sitting in last night’s CSD meeting, listening to and reading the Proposal Summary that came out of the week-long negotiations with State Water officials, the CSD negotiating team, Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee and others.
It was really disturbing to know that the State Water officials have given the green light to move ahead with this project, including moving the sewer plant out of town. Why was that disturbing? Well, for years the previous board has told this community – repeatedly—that they had examined all options, had looked at everything, that any out of town plan would be WAAAAYYYY more expensive, that Ag Exchange wouldn’t work, was pie in the sky, that the out of town site had restrictions on it and was impossible, that if we tried to move the plant we’d lose our low-cost State Revolving Fund loan. Even our Supervisor said the Coastal Commission would make it virtually impossible to get a permit to cross a creek with a sewer pipe. In short, we were repeatedly told by our elected officials that the Tri W site was the ONLY solution, the ONLY option.
So the majority of the community trusted and believed the old board and so did nothing as the previous CSD majority patiently, slowly eliminated alternatives, and then shut down and locked any and all remaining options, one by one, until it was nearly too late.
NOW, we hear that in negotiations the folks in that room, including the State Water Guys, all penciled out numbers and an out of town plan is both cheaper and/or allows you more bang for your buck. So the State Boys said, We’re confident the out of town plan will work, we’ve gone over the timelines and permit processes, so, sure, keep the State Revolving Fund and go ahead, put the plant out of town.
NOW we’re told the move is doable? NOW we are told there always were options? NOW we’re told the move penciled out as either cheaper or, since it offered lower O&M costs, more options and flexibility on the plant site, it gave the community more bang for their buck? NOW we find out the State Water Guys are willing to keep the SRF loan in place for a move out of town?
The mere fact that the State Boys even offered some of the terms to this proposal, even stayed in the room for a week, is evidence to me that our previous CSD Board majority has lied to us. This goes beyond “bait and switch.” To me, it’s clear that this community has been the victim of a multi-million dollar fraud. We were Told & Sold & Locked Down with Plan A and are only now told, “Oh, did we forget to mention, there always was Plan B & C and maybe D available to you. Too late, too bad, heh-heh.”
Yet, as the discussion in the meeting made clear, those options had been severely limited by the previous CSD majority which moved heaven and earth to lock us into enormous debt, sign contracts, stick the town with impossible-to-overcome obstacles and then pound as much money and pipe into the ground before the recall election so as to permanently cripple this community.
Which makes the Proposal hammered out both an opportunity and a sad reminder of just how much harm this previous CSD majority did to a town they professed to love and lead. And which makes the suspicions and trepidation evidenced by many speakers totally plausible. There was mention of a Trojan Horse. Understandable.
For now, the devil will be in the details. Will the community negotiate through the rock and the hard place they’ve been jammed into? Will they be betrayed again? And, the biggest question of all: The Deal requires a Prop 218 assessment vote to secure the State Revolving Fund. The vote will probably be by mail-in ballot. In the original mail-in ballot assessment vote of 2000, 40% of the ballots were never returned. In the recent election, about 34% of the voters didn’t bother to vote. So, in the upcoming assessment vote, will The World Famous Los Osos Apathy O Meter top those numbers? Stay tuned.
Meantime, the community certainly owes a debt of gratitude to Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee. He took enormous political risk in going into a cave with a bunch of growly bears armed only with a sharp pointy stick. While many may think the Proposal as it now stands wasn’t the best possible outcome, it probably can fairly be described as being the best of a really bad lot, given the handicaps the previous CSD had deliberately saddled this community with.
As for Mr. Blakeslee, he’s a public servant who knows what public service is all about.
The rest now is up to the voters of Los Osos. It’s our Sisyphean task to choose the best of a bad lot and to now get that ginormous sewer rock OVER the hill, not merely up it.
Good luck to us.