Letters, we get letters . . .In the April 19, Bay News story about the court decision overturning Measure B, it was noted that the decision might open “the door to the possibility of restarting construction of a downtown sewer. “’There are letters going off to the CSD and (State Assemblyman Sam) Blakeslee asking them to restart the project,’ said Bob Crizer, a local contractor who is a member of Taxpayers Watch. ‘It (the ruling) just means they can’t hide behind that as a reason not to build the plant.’”
The story continued to note that the CSD has the power to “create their own siting ordinance,” which was to be on the agenda for the April 20th meeting, but has now been postponed until further notice (maybe the CSD is waiting for the May 30 final appeal?)
At any rate, since Taxpayers Watch is sending off letters to (Sam), lobbying him to help put the sewer plant back in the middle of town, here’s a letter, written by a regular member of the community (not some sewer expert or Board Watcher) that is striking to me for it’s brevity and its focus on two absolutely salient points that keep getting lost: (1) The community voted for a $35 million pond system and still have no idea WHY the previous board clung to the original site when it no longer made sense to do so and (2) most people are scared and tired of fighting and feel they “had no ‘real’ choice but to revert to the old site and the old plant and let someone else deal with it.” (And guess who told them (falsely) there were NO other options, that Tri-W was the ONLY one, and repeatedly denied a vote on any choices & etc.? Yep, recalled Board members, some of whom have morphed into Taxpayers Watch, a group now falsely conflating dissolution with protection from the CDOs and now lobbying to get their sewer plant back into the middle of town.)
I have long maintained that The Sewer Wars are both incredibly complex and incredibly simple. Ms. McMahon nails the key narrative – it actually IS simple. I further suspect that her take on how the majority of our community really feels about all of this is very near the mark. The minor redaction was at the request of the author, letter reprinted with permission.
To Whom It May Concern:
Please count my voice in support of NO SEWER PLANT BUILDING on the TRI W site!
Regardless of Measure B, that project was too expensive and there were too many stones left unturned as regards the options for a sewer. As the owner of two business in Los Osos, I believe it's imperative that we allow this CSD Board to do their job and go forward with the best solution available. BUT NOT ON TRI-W!
In all the battles and confusion, everyone seems to have forgotten that the only reason the TRI-W site was originally chosen was because they were going to put in a ponding system. When the ponds were found inadequate - AT THAT SITE - instead of choosing a site out of town where the ponds would work or if needed, a more traditional plant or system could go, for whatever reason, political or otherwise, they chose to keep this site for ANY type of system they would use. It never made any sense and they made the choice to stick to that site long after they knew their original plan was no longer viable. It made no sense to the majority of us then - it makes less sense now.
It may be hard for you to determine but almost the whole community would like to see it elsewhere - but everyone is tired of the fighting and they believe that they have no "real" choice but to revert to the old site and the old plant and let someone else deal with it. People are scared and the fear tactics being used by the OLD CSD BOARD and the taxpayer group are fueling those fears. I work with many, many people here in town, both with [my] company and my [other business]. I assure you, TRI-W is not the choice, nor is dissolving our ability to govern our own community. And I ask you. . . why is any one, or any agency, or any other entity, still dealing and listening to the very people that were voted out and that publicly stated they would scorch this town, bankrupt it, and fine it out of existence? These aren't my words, imagined or otherwise - these words by several of the old CSD Board members are on file, on tape, on video. Why do they still have the ear of these other agencies or governing bodies??
I ask you to please support the current CSD Board and do what you can to ensure their success.
Very kindly yours,
Baywood Park, CA
More Letters: Gail Wilcox, Deputy County Administrative Officer sent a letter to Paul Hood of LAFCO responding to his writing SLO CEO David Edge requesting that Edge be taken out of the loop since he lives in Los Osos and so will not be directly participating in “matters relating to the LOCSD Petition for Dissolution.”
Her letter, dated March 24, notes that, “At a staff level, our first reaction to your letter is that if the LOCSD is dissolved, the consequences for the County taxpayers in general could be very negative in at least two ways: “ LOCSD Liabilities May be Substantial . . .” since the county would be placed in “the very difficult position of prosecuting or defending LOCSD action or decisions that the County had no role in developing. There would be a negative impact on the County General Fund if it were costly to continue to defend or prosecute these lawsuits, especially if the LOCSD’s position turns out to be untenable and former LOCSD revenue streams prove inadequate to address the ramifications of such. Iit is not clear at this point how LAFCO could impose any conditions on dissolution that could fully mitigate the negative impacts that would be associated with requiring the County to take over existing litigation matters.”
And, “Responsibility for Wastewater Solution” . . . “upon dissolution, the County (by default) would become the agency responsible for developing a wastewater solution for LOCSD. The County (before formation of the LOCSD) and the LOCSD have both so far been unable to get the necessary facilities constructed due to determined opposition by some LOCSD residents. There is no assurance that this opposition would disappear if the LOCSD dissolved. Therefore, responsibility for finding a wastewater solution may put the General Fund at risk for (1) some or all of the expense of implementing a solution, and (2) fines and penalties that may result if a solution cannot be implemented in a timely manner.”
And, interestingly, “Additionally, there could be new litigation initiated against LAFCO and/or the County disputing the dissolution process itself and the disposition of District assets. Further, potential challenges to the validity of the District’s assessments for sewer services not delivered could result in demands for repayment of assessments already paid. And, any decision to select a new site for a treatment plan would almost certainly generate legal challenges.”
The letter lists a whole raft of financial information that’s still needed before any decision can be made. And notes, “We believe LAFCO has the tools to obtain this information and that dissolution cannot be approved without first obtaining this information and then developing reasonable conditions to mitigate the impacts on the County. If the information cannot be obtained, and reasonable conditions cannot be developed to protect the County, we believe that LAFCO should deny the petition.”
And then closes by noting that “LAFCO should look at the structural issues. In other words, dissolution of a CSD should only be granted if both (1) there is something bout the structure or legal authority of the CSD that is inadequate to address the needs of the residences, and (2) the County as successor of the CSD would have a structure or legal authority that the CSD lacks that gives it an inherent advantage over the CSD. In the opinion of staff, neither of these conditions exists. The County would have no more legal authority than the CSD and would have to finance any wastewater project in much the same way as the CSD would.”
To all of this I would add that if I’m not mistaken, I believe there is a MOU between the County and the RWQCB that notes that the County has control over siting and permitting septic tanks in consultation with the RWQCB, which may mean that the Cunty may end up being dragged into court to “explain” how and why it kept issuing septic tank permits long after it was safe or prudent to do so, thereby allowing a good number of Los Osos residents unknowingly to go into harm’s way as well and overburdening the rest of the community’s upper aquifer thereby tipping the whole community into the harm’s way of CDOs, ACL fines, etc. That would be an interesting “liability” to snoop into, methinks.
At any rate, from Ms. Wilcox letter, I would have to assume that the County still views Los Osos as its much despised Red Haired Stepchild and will not lift a finger to support dissolution or anything else. Sort of like their refusing to participate in the upcoming April 28th CDO hearings as a designated party, even though they’re gonna get served CDO papers like the rest of us.
Aw, dang. And here Taxpayers’ Watch wanted us to believe that the County loved us and all we’d have to do is sign the dissolution petition and Uncle County Daddy would make the mean old RWQCB boogeymen go away and would immediately start rebuilding our beloved ginormous sewer plant in the middle of town and we could all live happily ever after, Tra-La.