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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for November 23, 05: The Bay News, Los Osos, CA

O Loooocy, It’s High Noon in Sewerville. Tell Gary Cooper to bring the cheese!

Doooo nawt forsake meeee, O mah darlin’, twang-twang-twang. . .

The CSD met Thursday night to mull over the State Water Board’s New! Improved! ultimatum: Get the townsfolk to betray their voice by re-voting to rescind Measure B, agree not to sue the SWB for breach of contract, and now (now?) pass a “do-over” Proposition 218-type vote to assess their property in order to continue to build in the middle of town a sewer plant they just voted to get out of town. If not, the SWB will pull the low-cost loan and thereby make history – 15 years of granting loans and this one would be the first that failed.

Amazingly enough, the New! Improved! deal didn’t also require that the three recalled CSD board members be reinstalled.

In all the well-orchestrated huffle-duffle (“Sheriff, the noon train’s a-comin’ we’re all gonna die in the streets like dawgs!”), what’s gone missing are the answers to some questions. And since I’m really stupid, perhaps Mr. Katz of the State Water Board could explain the answers slowly.

1. Just why is this loan in crisis? Could it be because this loan never had a Prop. 218-type vote to secure it? Instead, it was to be repaid by the service fees earned when the sewer plant went into operation. The original loan was then later increased some $40 million dollars on the say-so of three CSD Board members under threat of recall, AND before the Measure B vote that could also put the loan in jeopardy AND despite pleas from two board members and the community to wait on indebting this community until after the election. Was that decision by the SWB ill-advised? Or illegal?

2. If the State Water Board screwed up on the original loan, why is this community being blackmailed into burying the corpse, assuming all the liability, and then taking the fall?

3. Just who is in breach of contract when the State stopped payment? And why would the state now require that the CSD drop any legal attempts to answer that question? People usually do not resort to blackmail unless they know somebody’s got the goods on them and they’d better take them out before they can spill the beans.

4. Is it legal for the CSD to use tax money to pay attorneys to go into court to oppose a taxpayer-supported initiative – Measure B? If it’s illegal, why does the State Water Board require that the CSD violate the law?

5. Why does everyone keep forgetting to mention that this loan is from The State REVOLVING Fund. Folks are acting like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime Lottery. It’s not. Unless, of course, the appointed board members administering the loan have illegally and improperly turned it into some sort of personal patronage, punishment or reward fund, and if that’s the case, then that needs to be addressed without delay.

6. In the CSD’s “Response and Request for Continuance” brief to the Regional Water Quality Control Board [copies available at the CSD office], the CSD’s attorney notes, “Although LOCSD staff has only had time to review a limited amount of [RWQCB] staff’s written and electronic documents relating to the September 27th Special Election, it is already apparent that [RWQCB] staff was coordinating efforts with the opponents of the recall and Measure B initiative both before and after the election. More troubling still is the fact that this information reveals [RWQCB] staff’s motive in issuing the Complaint: to bushwhack the new LOCSD board before it did anything and to punish the electorate for failing to vote the way [RWQCB] staff had wanted.” (p.8)

Is “punishing” or “bushwhacking” or attempting to influence an election what these Boards are suppose to be doing? If these Boards or their staff have lost their professional objectivity or are violating the law, then that needs to be addressed by (1) a federal and/or state Attorney General’s investigation or (2) in a court of law.

If the original SRF Loan came in a box that already smelled from day one, the New! Improved! box the State Water Board is presenting to this community on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, now has creepy scrabbling and squeaking noises coming from inside it. Personally, I smell a rat. Several, in fact.

And if the CSD is trapped and blackmailed into buying that box without the right to demand a legal peek inside, then this community will have been betrayed and locked into spending gazillions to buy a lifetime supply of unwanted but very, very expensive cheese.

Blog Note:

Since the Can(n)on was put to bed before the Tuesday night CSD meeting and vote, an update: The Board voted 5 - 0 to have the CSD request the "Inspector General of the United States Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the circumstances surrounding the State Water Resources Control Board’s issuance of a State Revolving Fund Loan,” and they voted 5 – 0 to request the "San Luis Obispo County District Attorney investigate certain activities pertaining to the Los Osos Community Services District.”

Then, at about 2 a.m., they voted 5 – 0 to “respond” to the State Water Board’s Byzantine New! Improved! deal by politely and regretfully pointing out that they are constrained by law from accepting it, oh, dang, BUT, they’d be happy to accept the original deal negotiated and voted on at the October 30th CSD meeting.

Anyone holding their breath for the State Water Board’s answer will be blue, then comatose, then deceased.

And then, the following day, this snippet in the 11/23/05 New Times: Montgomery Watson Harza, project design engineers for the controversial Los Osos sewer, reported Monday that files and computers had been stolen from their local office at Sunnyside Elementary School. The theft coincides almost perfectly with an announcement from the CSD of a resolution to investigate activities pertaining to sewer contracts, spending and design.

Dooo-deee-dooo-dooo, dooo-deee-dooo-dooo. Now, stealing and fencing stolen computers, I can see. But I have to wonder about those files. Last I looked, bid contracts, bonding agreements, budgets, engineering reports, and other miscellaneous paperwork and emails concerning sewer design wasn’t a really big seller on e-bay. But then, I could be wrong. At any rate, it now remains a mystery to puzzle over whilst munching dead bird in front of the telly.

So, Happy Turkey Day. Chapter II of the Great Sewer Wars starts up again Friday.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh My! This just keeps getting more strange, My bet is that the "Water Gods " will be are angered! It will affront their Egos. They will attempt to punish us mortals for being too fiesty. The mortals "us" will beseach a War God of Laws and a King of Beuracracy! "Come save us! We have been proven too weak to defeat the powers of Gods. We will give you a quiver of arrows to help in the fight!"
Me, I'm going to sacrafice a fowl, and make merry with my dearest family and friends, I wish the same joy to all of you too. Happy Thanksgiving. Mike Green

Shark Inlet said...

Mike,

Thanks for the laugh!

Happy Thanksgiving ... and in the spirit of the US ... merry Black Friday as well!

Anonymous said...

Google "Black Friday" It's a hoot. I just love humor. Mike Green

Anonymous said...

mike green for jester of los osos

Anonymous said...

Ann, as usual, you hit it out of the ballpark! MWH documents lifted from Sunnyside! The very place where we bears have our emergency meetings! Most folks go shopping on Friday but not us...no way. We are the bears of sewerville!

Churadogs said...

To all of this Blog's Bearish Regulars (or, it being Los Osos, should I say, Irregulars?) as the imortal line in "All about Eve" has it, "Hang onto your hats. It's gonna be a bumpy night."

On the other hand, there is impish humor in the Tribune quoting folks like Stan or Gordon on this issue. That's like asking the drunken engineer who lashed his controls at full throttle and deliberately headed the train off a cliff to crash and burn on the rocks below, killing all aboard, to comment on railroad safety issues. Bwa-hahahahah

On a serious note, everyone, please. Breathe in, breathe out.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

I thought that asking Lisa about whether we would lose the SRF and be fined was like asking that engineer about railroad safety ... I guess it might depend on one's perspective. Perhaps we will eventually find out whether either group was "dirty". However, for now it would appear to me that one should take actions which will limit one's costs. Let's assume for now that the loan was "dirty" and the previous board was "dirty" and that the SWRCB and the RWQCB are both "dirty" as well. Would the most prudent course of action be to fight or to limit one's costs.

I would suggest that while it might feel better to fight for "Truth, Justice and the Los Osos way" (TM) [T-shirts available at Rexall for only $16.95, now thru Christmas!], if your presumptions of who is to blame are wrong ... we are far worse off than ever before for no benefit. If your presumptions are right, I would still argue that it would likely be far less expensive to build at TriW than to pursue an "out of town" plant.

Here is my nightmare scenario:

The CSD board runs out of money and offers up the TriW, Broderson and Pismo sites to the contractors and State as a way of paying off our debts. Somehow TriW is sold off to someone who refuses to sell it back to the County. The goal of those who don't want a sewer would be accomplished by this board who claims to want one.

Churadogs said...

Dear Inlet, The word "dirty" carries a connotation that, in this case, can be misleading. I know there's folks who claim there's some "dirty doings" involving pay-offs, etc. going on. But absent proof of any of that, the critical thing gone missing here isn't "dirty" stuff but lies.

For example, since you're so concerned with cost, you really should get to the CSD office. Rob Millar's printed out the sheet with the cost comparisons & etc. that were looked at during the negotiations that weren't negotiations (heh-heh) Please take a look at them and then answer the following question:

Which is correct?
1. Darrin Polhemus of the State Water Board has rocks in his head.(he vetted those numbers)
2. The previous CSD was given totally wrong numbers by WMH or whoever they asked to "carefully study" the in-town/ out of town sites. And now that they've had a chance to study this hand-out, they'll be making an announcement shortly that they were grieviously misled by WMH or whichever company did the "thorough analysis comparison side-by-side report."
3. The previous CSD didn't really "carefully study" and compare the two sites and alternative plans but simply said they did and then deliberately told the community that putting any alternative plant out of town was waaaaay too expensive, that the in-town site and plant was the ONLY, least expensive way to go.

It really is critical to know the answer to those questions, because the implications and impacts on this community are and will be profound.

Spectator said...

To All:

We spend too much time speculating on this blog. "It ain't over till the fat lady sings." "It will all come out in the wash." Great trite phrases, but applicable.

What really counts is the rape of a community by an unfunded mandate that none can truely afford. The responsibility lies with government, and that government was controlled by democrat legislatures on the federal and state level. The democrats were greatly influenced by environmental WACKOS. When have the WACKOS ever been concerned with loss of jobs or cost of projects to the taxpayers?

At this point until the cost is spread over the entire country or the state at least by testing the constitionality of unfunded mandates the property owners in the prohibition zone are truely lost.

Unfortunately a sewer system will be shoved down our throats under existing legislation and by the RWQCB. We are criminal polluters, have always been obstructionists, and have lost every suit to stop this sewer. We have no legal leg to stand on except the above point.

I speculate that we will lose the LOCSD. They have no status or respect from the regulatory boards.

This is a LOCSD that is composed of fools and elected by fools. And then there are those who did not vote, and they are the most foolish of all.

Already a petition to dissolve the LOCSD immediately is being circulated. All it takes is 1000 votes. There will be 2000+ names on this petition within three weeks.

Whether we dissolve the LOCSD or not, we are still screwed, and do not look at government to let us keep our pocketbooks. Government WANTS our pocketbooks.

We can nit pick and speculate on blame forever. Our problem is ignorance and trust in government to do the right thing. When we finally educate ourselves, look at the consequences of governmental action into our everyday life, and stop trusting government, perhaps unfunded mandates will cease to exist and our society will be much better. Vote!!! Vote for the lesser of two evils!!! But be an informed voter and do not listen to false promisses, unfounded accusations, and pure speculation. All our representatives look good and talk a great game, but we need people with foresight who think straight.

We will always be subjected to half truths and speculation by people such as Ann Calhoun and Joey Racano. Beware of any media pundits who are not willing to take on both sides of a question.

They are clowns and do us a service by making us laugh, they are simply intertainers. I don't think anyone would take them seriously enough to let them represent us. So why should we allow them to influence our vote?

Publicworks said...

Here, here Spectator,

Racano parades up and down the state embraced by anyone who will embrace his dribble, but does he pay any taxes? who knows?

Always Another Question Ann in search of truth, justice, and the Los Osos way has never provided a practicle solution nor knowlege of the workings of state government and agencies.

Naivety does not build a sewer. Short of a Supreme Court decision to render State and Federal EPA law as unconstitional for unfunded mandates, the property owners will pay for the burden for cleaning up the groundwater.

The district will do nothing but litigate, all the while the bills will grow, and will be paid by, guess who, the homeowners. Only in Los Osos are people that support a modern wastewater treatment plant branded as evil.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Scapetater is in quite a tizzy! Makes some good points too, I just wonder what would Spacetator wish? That a Repulican controled government would completly re-fund the clean water act, even if caused higher taxes to all? Or would a Republican government repeal the act, because clean water is too expensive? Too much time speculating? What else should we be doing on this blog? Yelling "WACKO"? How about "NUT JOB"? tone it down, I started being diametrical opposed to Sharky, but though his thoughtfull and respectful dialog I came to see that he made valid arguments. I wanted the CSD to take the deal THEN Sue the bejeebers out of em! Didn't get my wish. We are all along for this ride like it or not. Mike Green

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer
I do not know if Sharky is a him or her. Mike Green

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

There are six interesting things about the cost details of the "negotiations".

1. They determined that one cannot save money by a step-steg system. This is something the RWQCB told the solutions group years ago before we formed a CSD. Ron (and to some extent you) have made great hay over that matter but you have conveniently forgotten it recently once the current CSD majority needed to "save money" on a collection system. (The majority of the mythical savings from moving the plant out of town was to be from the $40M collection system ... a full $30M cheaper than the system that had been going in before the current CSD stopped construction.)

2. While there was to be some savings on the plant (about $10M from the fact that we don't need to build the "Pandor and Julie" park), the key selling point for moving the plant out of town was to change the plant design. Doing so would save $600k on O&M. On a per-household basis, this would be about $10/month savings.

3. They factored in inflation in construction costs for 2 years because the proposed agreement said that if the CSD couldn't get everything wrapped up within 2 years, they would have agreed to build at TriW. An honest appraisal of the costs would have included a 5 year timeline before construction starts, perhaps an even longer. (One key side note on this item is that the chance of starting construction somewhere out of town within 2 years is so close to zero, it was never going to happen anyways ... so why pass up the recent state offer? To remain pure?)

4. The numbers did not include the costs of designing a new plant. If we would have to spend some $10M on a new plant design we lost all the financial benefit of the new plant aside from the lower O&M. Should we have been able to keep the 2.3% SRF loan and should they have been able to start construction within two years (haha), we could end up saving $10/month. If it had taken 5 years until construction and we been able to keep the 2.3% SRF, we would be paying more, not less.

5. They did not talk about fines. The proposed $11M fines in Dec will wipe out any gain from moving the plant.

6. They did not talk about interest rate at all. Without the 2.3% loan which this CSD refused, the costs skyrocket. Furthermore, without the funds to design a new system, buy the property, study the site, etc., it would seem that the new location won't happen. They only way that this group's plan to "move the sewer no matter how much it costs" can be successful is if they intentionally bankrupt the CSD and have to sell of the TriW site to developers to pay back debts and if the buyer can somehow prevent the resale to the county for a plant.


So, Ann, you've offered a false set of three options. The fourth (and correct) option is ... with a site-specific 2.3% interest loan (that is based on a site-specific application that includes an approved project), it would be more expensive ... bleedingly so ... to put the plant out of town. You seem to keep forgetting that this whole thing was decided back in 2001.

I am not quite as antagonistic toward the Democrats as our friend Spectator is. I do have to say back when we were first told we had to put in a sewer, it was not really an unfunded mandate. There were federal and state grants that we could have taken adavantage of and the costs would have been pretty reasonable at $40/month (or likely less). Since that point in time, the phrase "we delay, we pay" seems to be the only fair way of summarizing the situation.

Mike, if you wanted the CSD to take the deal you didn't communicate your wishes clearly enough to your board. They are still thinking they have some sort of "mandate". The funny thing here is that their mandate evaporated the moment their plans were known to cost us more money. Their mandate was based on the lies during the campaign that we would not be fined and that we could keep the SRF.

When is Ann going to start writing about the lies in the campaign for Measure B and the recall? Certainly those lies are what caused this group to win. Certainly the current CSD's misinterpretation of the contracts are why they stopped construction. Certainly the costs are now at least some $70M higher because of their actions.

Or, does Ann only care about dishonesty that ends up costing Los Osos taxpayers when the dishonesty is by people named "Pandora" and "Stan" and not when it is dishonesty by people named "Lisa" and "Julie"?

Shark Inlet said...

ps ... mike, Ann thinks I'm a boy.

Anonymous said...

Well comming from you and knowing your opinions about what Ann thinks, I guess that she has a 50% chance of being right Mike Green

Churadogs said...

Dear All,

Baw-hahahah. Pretty funny. Well, from the paper today, Measure B is now "law" so hold onto your hats. It will be a bumpy ride.

What so sad about all of this is that this is not rocket science. All of this was solvable but nothing can get solved or fixed or built until everyone gets honest -- and that didn't happen here, not even from the first day of the formation of the CSD.

Once you get rid of hidden agendas, bruised egos, under-the-table deals, little tet-a-tet emails, fudged numbers, spin and lies, it's amazing how various solutions and paths could have suddenly become clear.

Alas, now, because of what the CSD3 did before being recalled may cripple various options and cost us all way more than necessary. If that's fine with everyone, then so be it. Get out your wallets, but remember with every monthly check, none of this had to happen.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

Are you arguing that the recent board decision to do something sneaky in the dead of night is okay because the other guys also did things that were less than fully ethical?

Really?

Somehow I have trouble with the idea. I had hoped that you did as well.

Churadogs said...

Dear Inlet, regarding your recent posting on Rob's spread sheet, you left out a couple of important items that could offer real savings in an out of town site: Sludge treatment costs, alternative energy sources to run the plant (plus the lower costs overall to run a NON-MBR plant)and the pipe needed to run dewatering and ag/exchange & etc. All those OM&R costs would be less and all those now "deferred" costs are something few in this community were/are aware of, all of them will eat folk's budgets alive, and all would be cheaper in an out-of-town site.

As for "neaky behind closed door" doings by the present CSD. Which ones are those?

As for Inlet being a man, just a 50/50 guess. Anonymous people posting anonymously always invite speculation and, alas, are always stuck with little credibility simply by dint of being "anonymous." After all, when discussing anything, you always have to "consider the source." For example, my name goes on my column and this blogsite. I own my comments, folks can "consider the source," and make their own judgements. So far, only Mike Green has posted anything and stood by his opinion by putting his name on his comments. For the rest? It's all 50/50, ah, ya never know . . .

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

Maybe I was unclear. The estimated total savings on O&M (including all the things you mention here) would be $600k/year. Again, this translates into $10/month per house ... from a cost point of view, it would not be worth spending and extra $70/month just to save $10/month. Part of the whole lifecycle costing idea is that one should choose the system that is cheapest in terms of net present value. Your out of town plant is more expensive than the TriW plant, mostly due to the lack of SRF money and the additional costs to design the new plant and possible fines. It is also worth repeating that Rob's numbers are based on estimated inflation in construction costs across two years only. If it takes seven years to design a plant and get it approved and overcome all lawsuits, an inflation rate of 6% means that one would need to cut the total costs by a full third to overcome the effects of inflation. That is, your plant and collection system would need to cost less than $90M total (today, including desgin costs and the costs of EIR, lawsuits and permitting) for the total bill to be lower than the $135M TriW site. And that is if we are lucky enough to get another SRF loan at 2.3% interest. If not, your plan would need to save even more to make it cheaper.

Frankly, no one with any finacial accumen who has looked at this situation agrees that there is any hope of saving money by pursuing an out of town plant.

So the question comes up yet again. How much extra are we willing to pay to move the plant out of town? It seems that some are willing to pay quite a bit extra because they support this board's actions which will end up costing us quite a bit. That is your choice and it is a valid choice. What I resent is that many people are not being honest about the fact that there is a trade off between money and location.

Sneaky doings? Settling with CASE about Measure B at the same time they were talking with the State about fighting Measure B. Pretending that they were open to considering the state's offer when they had already rejected it by their CASE/B decision. Telling us that they could not accept the offer for many reasons but not telling us they had dropped the appeal on Measure B.

Don't you consider it sneaky for the board to make a decision and take action then pretend that they had not made these choices? Don't you consider it sneaky that they withdrew their opposition to Measure B on the 17th but we had to find out in the newspaper because they didn't tell us?

I stand my my opinions, just like Mike does. May the good name of "Shark Inlet" be muddied with e-coli if I am wrong. On the internet it is not necessary to give one's name. There is great freedom in being able to be somewhat hidden. Do you think that Pandora's neighbors or Steve Senet's friends want to be very open about their opinions if their opinions differ? I've been involved in a few uncomfortable conversations with friends who have different viewpoints and don't appear to be able to separate the friendship from the opinion on these matters. I would rather not give up my anonymity and lose friendships because some of my friends aren't as mature as you and me.

Churadogs said...

Dear Inlet, your last comment is really sad, isn't it? I think there's something in the water that has made everyone crazy. I've said it once, will say it again: None of this is rocket science but ALL of it depends on honesty. And when that goes missing, nothing good can come of it.

Also, on your figures, on the tri W site, did you forgot to add in the cost of pipe to run dewatering/ag exchange east of town, and cost of importing Sate Water, the 7 yr repleacement of the MBR filters, cost of shipping heavier sludge (because they got rid of the pressers), increasing energy costs, & etc, etc.So far as I know, none of those "deferred" costs have even been pencilled out yet.

Shark Inlet said...

I believe that it is nitrates in the water that are making us all crazy.

On those "numbers", I was working from what Lisa presented in the meeting. If she claimed there would be a $600k/year savings on O&M by going with the out of town plant, I trusted her. I figured she would want to give the fairest comparrison possible.

Anonymous said...

Um,,,, this is an old blog, so I doubt anyone will read it. I don't want to be held as some kind of benchmark for acountability,(sp?) The real reson I sign my name is because I'm too damn lazy to click the other button and create a name, I tried a stupid bit "Jester" It's not me, I yam what I yam! An old car mechanic ( and rocket scientist, I can prove it!)Mike Green