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Friday, November 18, 2005

Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200. Instead, click on over to www.sewerwatch.blogspot.com and see what Ron's got up his sleeve now.

As usual, Ron keeps asking questions that nobody wants to answer. But then, that's half the fun, isn't it?

20 comments:

NewsstandGreg said...

Ann, I'm certainly hoping someone in the LOCSD reads what Ron suggests. This is an easily done thing and would call the bluff.

See ya at the Dec 1 meeting.

Anonymous said...

Ann - I just wanted to say that you really deserve the applause you got at the meeting last night. I was watching at home and was thrilled that Chuck brought up your name and website. I so much appreciate having a local perspective to "balance" out the Tribune reports. Please, please keep up the good work. Many of us rely on your keen eyes and ears. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Ann, you are doing a great service for your community. Reporting the truth. We applauded you at home while we watched the meeting on TV last night. Keep up the good word. Don't know if Blogs can win Pulitzers, but if so, yours would be a shoo-in.

Churadogs said...

Dear Anon, Anon & Greg. Gosh, thanks. I'm flattered.

As for Ron's suggestions - heh-heh -- I suspect that even if the CSD did that, the Coastal Commission would shrug and say, "Oh, well, we can't revisit the matter, so what if the Tot Lot's gone missing and with it the supposed reason for keeping the plant in town and hence it now violates the ESHA laws, ah, who cares, too late, too bad."

And, if I understand one of Ron's previous postings, the State Water Board has apparently ruled that, yes, the State Revolving Fund forbids that money to be used for "decorative items," but, you see, heh-heh, wink-nudge, the Wave Wall and dog park and Tot Lot aren't "decorative," they're onsite mitigation to mitigate the need for onsite mitigation, which causes Ron's eyebrows to fly up to his hairline. "Uh, aren't you suppose to mitigate onsite damage, uh, offsite, instead of damaging MORE onsite stuff to mitigate previous onsite damage?" asks Ron, to no answer, which is no surprise.

Oh, my ears and whiskers. But then, like Mr. Katz of the State Water Board, I'm really stupid so clearly people need to 'splain this to be by speaking really reeeeeely slowly.

Shark Inlet said...

Let me get on record one more time that I think Ron's idea, while interesting, is likely to not work at all. If the CSD changes the site for any reason, even if the CCC orders the site changed because the SWRCB refuses to loan us the last $2.3M, the SWRCB will yank the SRF.

Even if they didn't, a careful analysis of the likely impact of moving the plant shows that the only way we would save money by moving the plant out of town is to have no fines, no lawsuits, quick EIR with ideal findings, quick and cheap plant redesign and the same plant. Even then, the savings would be minimal. If any of the above goes poorly we are pretty much paying more. If we spend the time to design a cheaper plant, the inflation will swamp any savings by plant redesign.

Please remember that Lisa came out and admitted that the collection system (about $70M) that was designed by the previous board is about as inexpensive as we can get. In particular, she said that the step-steg idea will be about as expensive (due to the need to replace all septics in the community and increased O&M costs over time).

The bills won't go down. They can only go up. If you spend $20 to save $10 you are actually not saving $10.

Yes, out of town would be nice, but at what cost?

Shark Inlet said...

Ann and others,

One thing that hasn't been discussed at all here is why the SWRCB staff felt the Blakesley deal wasn't acceptable.

First off, in a legal sense, we aren't permitted to know unless they tell us. This is sort of like a closed CSD meeting where they discuss leagal issues. I would love to know what the boardmembers say when only the GM and lawyer are present. I would love to know what they say when they can talk openly rather than the careful soundbites they give us now. (Funny that this "open" and "accountable" board is so unwilling to tell us anything more than what the previous board did.) I don't like it, but I can understand the reasons ... no one wants to get sued and then have the opposing counsel know everything you've ever said when discussing such matters.

Why do I bring this all up? Because it seems that many of the supporters of the current board are saying that there have been some evil doings up in Sacramento between Oct 30 and the time that the SWRCB staff said "thanks for the kind offer but we'll pass." I can see why some would view this as negotiations in bad faith. I don't. Polhemous was trying to come up with a solution that he thought the SWRCB would approve of. They didn't approve of it.

On the other hand, what the SWRCB did approve on Wednesday was nearly exactly what the CSD agreed to do on Oct 30 with two exceptions. One should be no big deal, the pumping out of polluting septics. The other is a statement by the CSD that they intend to continue construction at TriW ... hell, this is something they agreed to do Oct 30 if they couldn't get an out of town site, workable technology, an EIR, County and CCC approval within 2 years. The chance that the CSD could get all this done in two years is very low ... I would say less than 5% ... I've heard "experts" in dealing with such bodies as the CCC and County saying less than 1%.

In essence, the SWRCB is offering us something nearly exactly what the LOCSD has already agreed to. Why did they insist on TriW? I would suggest that if there is only a 10% chance or less of getting the out of town "solution" done within a 2 year timeframe, there is a 90% chance that the state would be allowing two additional years of pollution of the groundwater with no progress on the treatment plant being built. I would suggest they figured that rather than waste two years of time for no likely change (again, the CSD has already agreed to build at TriW if they can't accomplish a miracle in the next two years) they would rather spend that $135M on another project that can use the money now where real progress will take place immediately.

I think the SWRCB meant what they said ... make progress on our agreed TriW site now or we'll give the money to someone who really wants it who will really do something.

You've got to give credit to the previous CSD board for getting the 2.3% SRF loan ... they got the largest SRF loan ever and cut our total costs by at least $70M compared to what the current board is suggesting we do.

This issue perhaps comes down to a question ... do you want to buy the expensive $205/month plant in town or an even more expensive plant out of town? At an additional $70/month I would rather have a nicely hidden TriW plant than an ugly stinky plant out of town in an area that has pristine beauty. Because I commute allong LOVR from the West side of Los Osos to SLO every weekday, I pass both spots every day and think that to put a stinky sewage treatment plant as the "welcome to Los Osos" will do more to our image than would a hidden plant in town.

In any case, the choice should be ours. Measure B says that the people should have the option to vote on the location. This state offer, if accepted, would give us the opportunity to vote on what we want. If the CSD turns down the offer they are telling us that they really don't believe in idea behind Measure B ... that they don't want people to have the right to determine what they want for our town. [Note: I voted against Measure B, but only for two reasons ... I liked the "we all get to vote" part, but I didn't like that the measure strictly forbid pretty much any in town plant, something that also goes against the "we get to choose" idea. The other reason I voted no on B is that I think that the "no plant" choice is not an appropriate choice to give us ... "none of the above" is okay, but not "no plant".]

My summary ... the CSD needs to say "yes" to the offer, mostly because that would allow us to choose. There is nothing to lose ... if either vote is "no", we don't get the SRF money. If both votes are "yes", the property owners and citizens would be saying that we do want TriW. What does the CSD have to lose?

Ron said...

Would my "SewerWatch Strategy" move the facility out of town, and retain the SRF loan? Probably not.. But that's not the point. The point is it would put the ball back in the state's court and FINALLY force them to do two things:

1) They would FINALLY have to admit, in a very public forum, that, YES, they are funding an elaborate, multi-million dollar park in a sewer plant in Los Osos with state and federal taxpayer's money, a park that the community never wanted in the first place, while communities like Mariposa County don't get a penny for their park-less, reality-based wastewater treatment facilities. (It would also very be interesting to see how the Trib would handle that story. To date, they have yet to report on the park and its dramatic impact on this entire controversy. All of a sudden, they would have to start covering that angle of the story. That would be very embarrassing for the Trib. This great story has been sitting on the table for the past five years (five years!), and the Trib has not touched it. Unbelievable. In five years, the Trib never once asked this obvious and crucial question: "Why is there a multi-million dollar park in your sewer plant?" Nice job, guys.

and

2) It would FINALLY force the state to answer this question: What is the rationale for siting the facility at Tri-W? Why there? And I don't want to hear, "It's been 30 years... blah, blah, blah." I want an answer. Why there? Of course, we'll never get an answer, because, as we all know now, there is no rationale to site the facility at Tri-W without the park in the plan -- the park that the community of Los Osos never wanted in the first place, but the initial CSD Board insisted on including in the project. So, the state would have to FINALLY admit they are telling Los Osos to build a sewer plant in the middle of their beautiful coastal town, on ESHA, for no rationale whatsoever. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Finally, yes Ann, my "eyebrows to fly up to my hairline" (hilarious, by the way) when I read that "decorative items" are not eligible for SRF money, and that the state is mitigating mitigation by funding that $2.3 million pork... errrrrrr, park. But what makes my eyebrows shoot deep into my thick, lustrous, auburn hair is that, according to SRF Policy, mitigation must be "mandated" by a "State and/or Federal agency." That very "decorative" park was never mandated by anyone other than the initial CSD Board, and their obsession for a "centrally located" "drop dead gorgeous" sewer plant (although, they'll tell you otherwise, like they told the state). And all of that makes me wonder: What's the point of having an SRF Policy if the Water Board is just going to ignore its extremely wise content?

As I wrote, if the previous CSD Board doesn't play "bait-and-switchy" with the park to the California Coastal Commission, it never would have ended up as "mitigation," and it never would have been funded by state and federal taxpayers. "Bait-and-switchy" paid off big time for the CSD's obsession for a "centrally located" "drop dead gorgeous" sewer plant. "Bait-and-switchy," apparently, is a smart funding strategy. Other communities might want to keep that in mind.

(P.S. I want to add my applause for your great blog.)

(P.P.S: Shark just wrote: "My summary ... the CSD needs to say "yes"..." I agree, with one simple, rational project change.)

Shark Inlet said...

Ron,

I like your plan... but what if it results in the CCC requiring us to move the plant? I rather doubt it will happen, but it is a possiblity that could cost us some $70/month each. As someone from outside Los Osos you won't be the one who gets to pay more.

Please also remember that the CCC was about to approve the TriW plan without the park until Julie complained. This is what both CCC staff and the LOCSD suggested.

Your big issue is the park. My big issue is the cost. Others seem to care more about the location.

Your issue, while important, seems to be on the sidelines now. The larger questions of cost and location need to be addressed first. Your strategy of getting the park out of the project might work but at a huge cost to us (either in terms of the money or the location).

Publicworks said...

Shark,

You're comments on Measure B leave out even more. Measure B might not even necessarily be applicable to the current Tri-W project - that's lost on a lot of people. It implies CSD control over siting out of it's jurisdiction that a speaker brought up at the last meeting. It was questionable before, when, and after the new board got it.

Instead of waiting to act until it got clarified by the courts, they acted as if it would be upheld - another reason the state probably used it as a potential breach.

Shark Inlet said...

Oh, I completely agree that Measure B has many many many problems...

But the idea of letting the citizens know the options and their costs (or estimated costs) then letting the citizens vote is a good thing. In many cases the issues are complex, but now the State is mandating a vote if we are to take the SRF money so it really is a matter for the people. If the CSD says "no thank you" they are simply as bad as the previous board from the point of view of allowing a vote and worse than the previous board on a "financial saavy"-o-meter.

If they don't accept the state offer and let us vote, they will have betrayed the principals they claimed to stand for when they ran ... they will have proven themselves politicians in the very worst sense of the word. All for what? To move a sewer?

Would they really force old ladies on fixed incomes to move out of town just because they want to force their way on the people of this community? I hope not.

Please, CSD board, prove to me that you are wiser than that!

Publicworks said...

I would disagree about letting the citizens vote - it sounds great - but it's also a problem.

It means there can literally be a stalemate between property owners who HAVE to pay, and citizens who are not obligated to pay.

It's one of, if not the, major flaw in it.

I'm sorry, but I see no right of someone in Cabrillo to tell me where I have to put a plant, when I am under a mandate by the state to put in a sewer, nor do I see any right of someone I might rent to, to do the same. Particularly, when the site issue and impacts are tied to planning & regulations from the County and State.

Now, letting the prop. owners of the options and the costs, and letting them decide is another matter.

Citizens can comment on the site to the county and state as part of the process, and challenge if they feel inclined, and that should be it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, a person called "publicworks" says voting is a problem! Ouch!!!!
sorry sorry sorry
just trying to fight off depression.
But it's a valid point,Mike Green

Publicworks said...

I really do not understand why that makes you so depressed.

We didn't have a vote on putting in Monarch Grove school.

We didn't have vote to let Ralph's go in.

Prattle on all, about that constitutional right to vote on a sewer location, even if a voter doesn't have to pay for it.

There have been votes, votes to form a CSD and reject a County sewer. Elections in 1998,2000,2002,2004,2005. Nobody's voting rights have been infringed.

Anonymous said...

I meant you have a point, Im sorry I worded it that way, Why wouldn't a person be depressed seeing the results of what voting has caused to date? What I was trying is humor, sometimes it works sometimes not. Mike Green

Shark Inlet said...

publicworks,

I agree completely. However, now the state is requiring a 218 vote before we can keep the low interest loan. I figure that the low interest loan is worth one more vote. The alternative plan (plan? they have a plan?) is so frightening that one more vote won't kill us. Certainly if we don't take the vote, those who value location over money (i.e. the super rich) will have won.

PUblicworks said...

A 218 vote on a project in the future is appropriate - just not district-wide votes.

I see Green's point, I should've seen the humor.

Of course, if the district proceeds with the permitted project it has, there would be no need for a 218 vote on the project, but that's an option that will shortly go away.

Anonymous said...

Thank you ! It's all I can contribute sometimes, please call me Mikey, Everyone else does.Mike Green

Shark Inlet said...

Here is why a vote of the citizens would not be bad.

The citizens gave us Measure B. If, for some reason, the courts don't rule the "away from parks, libraries and schools" portion of the measure illegal and if the measure was written such that that portion would remain law even if other portions were overturned ... the citizens who voted for Measure B could vote us out of the hole they voted us into.

Simply put, I don't think that many who voted for B realized it would cost them at least $70/month extra because of B. Now that they know this, a few votes will swing the other way ... I would imagine enough to verify that the majority of this community as well as a majority of the property owners prefer TriW to the out of town hopes of a few.

Even more simply put, if we have two votes and both result in a victory for the previous board's plan, it would hopefully shut up those who are now shouting so loudly about democracy and how wonderful this new board is.

Publicworks said...

Until and unless the new board ACTS to get Measure B out of the way, the SRF loan will be gone, unless it can be recovered through litigation.

The state has been giving the new board hints for a month now - act to get rid or re-visit interpretation of B, or forget the loan. It's not a threat, it's simply that the state cannot have any assurance the way the district is currently interpreting it.

Shark Inlet said...

publicworks,

You suggest that litigation could allow us to keep the SRF loan even if Measure B isn't eliminated.

First off, I don't see it as likely that B will be upheld as legal.

Second, a lawsuit seems a very risky action. It would seem that such a suit, if not successful, would pretty much guarantee we'll never even be considered for a SRF in the future if we want to procede with moving the sewer. It would also likely condemn us to an 8-9% interest rate loan instead of the going 6-6.5%. I don't know of many lenders who will be lining up to loan us a hundred million dollars if we've just sued our last lender.

This is what makes me most troubled about the new board and their GM and their legal counsel. The board seems to be itchen for a fight becuase they felt they were treated rudely in Sacramento recently and the paid help doesn't seem to be interested in calming them down to get the wisest action.

If they both get paid by the hour and if their future careers will be as "stars" if they can pull off a miracle, they may be tempted to recommend actions that will help them individually, actions they would not suggest to their own community.

I can't say for sure that they are in it just for a buck, but if both the GM and the lawyer lived in Los Osos I would feel a bit more comfortable becasuse they would benefit or be harmed by the board's actions. Now they would seem to be able to suggest the very stupidest course of action and they would not be harmed in any way if harm befell us.