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Monday, May 08, 2006

Call Mr. Shallcross. The Anti-Sewerite Los Osos CSD is Borrowing Money From Themselves To Move The Sewer Project Forward! Stop them! Haven’t They Been Listening To Mr. Shallcross and the RWQCB? We Los Ososians are all anti-sewer!

Yep, getting bizarre out there. Judge Piquet has frozen the district’s assets until an audit can be completed. Fair enough. (The various breach of contract lawsuits will probably turn into some version of Charles Dicken’s Bleak House, and the CSD will remain mired in The Courts of Chancery for generations!) The RWQCB claims they’re vitally interested in getting a sewer project built and so has slapped CDOs on the community, a move that does absolutely nothing to get a sewer project built, but instead drains away resources, time, money, community focus. The CDOs are presently on hold while the RWQCB sorts through a raft of “unintended consequences” deriving from their ill-considered, hasty actions. . A group calling themselves Taxpayers Watch claims, among other things, that the CSD is wasting money on too many legal bills, so it sues the district, thereby – yes, you guessed it -- causing them to spend even more money on legal bills. That same group has spearheaded a Dissolve the CSD movement, implying that if the county takes over Los Osos, everyone will be safe from the furies of the RWQCB’s CDO. (False, they won’t be, according to the RWQCB’s own official statements.) And further implying that the county will simply step in and Poof! Tri-W will magically appear in the giant hole in the ground and Los Osos will once again have a sewer plant in the middle of town and all will be well. All this implication going on, yet there’s no indication from the county that it wants its red-haired step child back, trailing all it’s woes and lawsuits and liabilities. And no indication that county engineering would even sign off on a re-started Tri W and no indication that any new State Revolving Fund Loan could be used since the new rules applying to any new loans require that wastewater treatment plants be “sustainable” and Tri W never was, so who knows how that would play out . . . . in court . . . . again, thereby delaying any treatment plant moving ahead for years. Is this all getting too deja vuish for you?

And now, the Tribune headline, “For sewer funds, Osos looks to itself.” WHAAAAATTTT? Why, what a novel idea. You mean Los Osos can get off the pot, so to speak, borrow money from “its water fund and solid-waste fund” to move ahead with the sewer project update, the amended EIR, the siting search, a Prop 218-type vote, and so forth, then vote to form some type of Septic Management District on its own (to start a variety of discharge mitigations, if nothing else), and do it all by either “using revenue generated from an as-yet-undeveloped community-wide septic tank management plan,” or sell revenue bonds, or get federal funding or -- why, here’s an absolutely novel thought – property owners in the prohibition zone could actually vote to tax themselves a modest amount now to move the sewer project forward while various alphabet soup agencies battle on and everyone else stays mired in the ditch, wrestling lawyers, for years.

Oh, wait, I must have fallen asleep and been dreaming to even suggest that last bit there. I mean, prohibition zone folks stepping up to declare that an utter failure of government and government agencies has clearly taken place, so now they’re gonna go move ahead on their own? Look to themselves for a way forward? All those anti-sewer folk out there in Los Osos that Mr. Shallcross wants to sing Kumbaya?

Now I know I was dreaming.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are correct, YOU ARE DREAMING!

Sewertoons said...

Let's just hope those aging water pipes in the ground can hold on a little longer - let's say the next 20 years or so, because if they break, we'll all be ordering Sparkletts to drink - cheers - and swimming in the new pool created by the present CSD! Hey! A park! I thought they didn't like parks...

In any case, we of Los Osos will pay, and pay, and pay.... Sorry, I don't think any MODEST amount could possibly pay for what this current board has done Ann.

Shark Inlet said...

I would like to raise a question again that has never been answered.

In what way was TriW not "sustainable" that the "New! Improved!" out of town plant that has not yet been designed is not? Is this just another way of saying that the energy costs are higher with TriW than the theoretical ideal out of town plant?

Is our justification for giving up cheap money that we wanted sustainability? Is an additional $10/month savings on electricity worth paying $70 or $150 a month to get?

If using a method that is lowest in long-term energy costs is what we should be aiming for, why not a gravity system instead of STEP? STEP requires using electricity to pump effluent. Not sustainable.

Essentially sustainability is a word which hasn't been clearly defined in this context. Until we get a definition that we can apply fairly to all aspects of the TriW and alternative projects we should simply avoid using the word altogether.

Same goes for "environmentally preferred". Honestly, there is no uniformly superior answer to the question "paper or plastic?" and there is no uniformly superior site or technology. To suggest that there is is simply an oversimplification that muddies the issue more than it clarifies the picture.

PublicWorks said...

Thanks Shark,

Every single proposed wastewater system requires the use of non-renewable energy.

Living in teepees and controlling population with 0 population growth is sustainable - but we got rid of that sustainability a hundred+ years ago.

Automobiles are not sustainable. Ann, do you drive an automobile?

Maybe if everyone in Los Osos lived an Amish lifestyle, we could sustain about 1000 people. Should we all draw straws to see who stays?

Shark Inlet said...

Probably the "sustainability" item in the SRF loan application is just to requre districts, to prefer the more sustainable design if all other things are equal ... much like we should choose non ESHA and non AG land for sewage treatment plants if given the choice between two options.

All things are part of the balance here. I am sure that there are some aspects of TriW that are environmentally preferable than whatever this board will cook up as their "environmentally preferred and sustainable" WWTF.

So, back to a more pointed version of my question ... in what way is STEP "sustainable" compared to a gravity collection system? If sustainability is so gosh darn important to Lisa, why is she even willing to consider STEP?

Sewertoons said...

Shark, as always, excellent posts!!

I have come around to thinking that this board just tries to manipulate us using catch phrases that sound "environmental." I don't think we will ever see the true definition of "sustainable" for this context on this blog or out of their mouths. If we did, the meaninging would be fogged by their spin anyway, because they can justify whatever they do no matter how damaging or just plain nuts.

I don't believe that they really care about cheap money as they have a "higher mission" –to save the environment (read "must do it THEIR way")!

I shudder to think of all the little pumps - 5,000 of them, chugging away to move effluent. Doesn't sound sustainable to me.

Considering step was shot down twice before, just why IS Lisa considering step? One reason to consider, it is to delay the WWTF even more, which more and more makes me think THAT is the purpose of this whole futile exercise. So many of their supporters just don't believe we need a sewer at all!

Shark Inlet said...

Well, sewertoons, that would explain the most valid reason for supporting the current board ... you like living in Los Osos and want to delay the WWTF as long as possible because the longer it is delayed, the longer you can live there. People on fixed incomes who cannot afford even $200/month will be forced out once the thing is completed no matter what. The problem is now that there a whole new group who are being forced out once the project is completed ... those who could manage $200/month but who will not be able to manage $400/month.

Is it just selfishness ("I don't care if *you* have to pay more because I am making choices to maximize my lifestyle") or just a lack in common sense.

Perhaps the "higher mission" is to simply stall.

Why STEP? Dunno. I do know that Lisa told us in November that STEP wasn't sustainable and that STEP would cost more than gravity (based on the numbers she and Rob and Dan and Darrin penciled out in Sam's office).

To me they seem like they're running around like 7 year old soccer players ... always swarming to the ball which keeps getting kicked around in random places. If there is well though out longterm strategy behind what they've done and said it has been hidden from the rest of us. What they've presented looks like a mess.

Shark Inlet said...

Here's a question or two about the legitimacy of borrowing from one fund for the needs of another.

Didn't the CSD lawyer tell the RWQCB that funds cannot be intermingled ... that the garbage fund could not be used to pay fines should the LOCSD be fined? If that is the case, isn't this the same thing ... robbing Peter to pay Paul?

Doesn't this seem like a VERY VERY risky move? After all, when CSDs (or similar) take these sorts of actions it is typically only when they have a way of repaying the borrowed money. In the case of the LOCSD, the last time one fund borrowed money from another, there had already been a 218 vote to authorize a bond to pay the 1st fund back. In this case, should the LOCSD board not somehow be able to raise money to cover the $600k, our garbage rates will go up and we won't have a fund to pay for emergency water needs (like breaking water mains).

If they can't figure out a way to charge folks in the as of yet unformed Septic Management District for both managing septics *and* for repayment of Garbage and water for the Ripley study, they're left with the option of a 218 vote. If the Ripley study shows that the monthly costs will be considerably more than TriW (and, if Ripley is honest and is asked to address inflation and financing questions, not just the "suppose you had to build it today, how much do you estimate the construction costs would be?" question, it will show the costs will go up), a 218 vote will not pass. This board will be done for ... dissolution or voted out.

By the end of the year, the question will be whether we can go back to the TriW plan or whether the actions of the current board will have so messed things up that we can't even go back to the best option available so far.

Anonymous said...

shark inlet said: "Doesn't this seem like a VERY VERY risky move? After all, when CSDs (or similar) take these sorts of actions it is typically only when they have a way of repaying the borrowed money. In the case of the LOCSD, the last time one fund borrowed money from another, there had already been a 218 vote to authorize a bond to pay the 1st fund back."

YOU ARE ONCE AGAIN WRONG!!!!

The old CSD did not borrow money after the bond vote. At the insistance of Buel, they made the very risky move of borrowing money from the FIRE DEPARTMENT before the vote... let me repeat that... BEFORE THE VOTE!!!

Where were you then?? Where was your concern then??

And consider... Buel was not fighting for survival... he was just rushing his flawed project forward. He needed money to pa$$ the bond... to run his own behavior based marketing strategy.

And to borrow money from the fire department... which shortly after started whining about revenue shortages... seems way more reckless than borrowing from water and trash.

Imagine what would have happened if Buel wouldnt have passed the bond and could not pay back the fire department. What kind of fire tax would we have needed to bail them out then??

Those are the facts maam... but I guess we all know your arguments are short on facts.

Shark Inlet said...

My mistake. I should have written that differently. Could you let us know the dates of the borrowing and the 218 vote so we can verify?

Oh ... if you're going to tell us that Bruce's borrowing was "very risky", how would you describe the current borrowing scheme ... "safe and sane"?

You write: Imagine what would have happened if Buel wouldnt have passed the bond and could not pay back the fire department. What kind of fire tax would we have needed to bail them out then??

This makes me wonder, yet again, how the LOCSD is going to pay back the money they've borrowed. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

I agree that borrowing is risky... but lets keep it in perspective and not act like it is unprecedented.

I love it when people freak out about what the current board does when the old board did much worse... and then would have a parade of people get up to the podium and talk about how wonderful they are... Seargent, Frederick, Peterson, Ms. Gustafson, DiLeo, etc.

Now they get on here and go off when the new board is FORCED to do something thats similar but to a much smaller scale than what they used to praise the old board for.

Borrowing from the water dept and trash accounts is nothing like borrowing from the fire department. Do I really need to explain the difference?

Here's the hard part to swallow... the current CSD's actions really have no different consequences from inaction... other than time.

Let me clarify... if they dont borrow from the other funds, then they willl run out of money, won't be able to move the sewer project forward and will have NO OPTIONS to create revenue.

If they borrow now, they can buy themselves time and if they dont succeed in their plans, they will be no worse off than in the first scenario.

If they do succeed, they will be able to repay the borrowed money.

As I see it, the only scenario that gives them options... is to borrow the money now.

And dont forget how many tax dollars are being spend defending Taxpayers Watch lawsuits... I think that's an appropriate name... watching taxpayers pay taxes.

Its hard not to think how much easier this would be if everyone supported the new CSD instead of fighting them.

Spectator said...

Hey unknown anonymous 9:44 5/8/06

Ubetcha, you got the LOCSD stratagy down cold. You are totally correct. Borrow money with slim chance to pay it back.

Taxpayers Watch law suits? How about state and contractors law suits? Fines also accumulating at $10,000 a day. Three lawyers hired by the LOCSD at the water board meetings for 12 hours each? Pro Bono?

Big difference between this time last year and now.

You are in denial. Continue to drink. The LOCSD is almost bankrupt. The money mil that they will receive from tax revenue in July will not help. The LOCSD is upside down.

Support these fiscally irresponsible bunch of fools? Fat chance!

Dissolution is the only solution.

Anonymous said...

Last anon:
"Its hard not to think how much easier this would be if everyone supported the new CSD instead of fighting them."

The same could be said if the everyone had supported the old board. What's different?

Shark Inlet said...

What's different is that if Julie, Al and Bud had supported the old board we would have a sewer by now and it would run us about $100/month.

Anonymous said...

Hey if anyone wants to talk to Shallcross directly they better do it before his term on the RWQCB expires in September 2006.

Anonymous said...

Spectator, if you are right then the CSD will be out of money soon and will have to fold camp.

Then why the dissolution effort??

Why saddle the communtiy with the aggravation and EXPENSE of an election when it will all be over soon.

Or are you afraid they might succeed? Better to squash them before they can... that way they can never proove they were right all along.

Anon you are right about supporting the old board... if every one had done that there would be a sewer under construction now... an expensive, above ground, ugly, smelly, middle of town sewer that doesnt solve our water problems... soon to be followed by State Water, Injection wells to stop saltwater intrusion and probably ag exchange as well.

And Shark... that was never gonna cost $100 a month. The sooner you get past that notion, the better you will be able to understand how ridiculous your financial ramblings are.

Shark Inlet said...

To our anonymous friend who writes "And Shark... that was never gonna cost $100 a month. The sooner you get past that notion, the better you will be able to understand how ridiculous your financial ramblings are."

I'm game. Suppose I never wrote that. Would you be so kind as to explain exactly the way my "financial ramblings" are ridiculous? Admittedly I am not an accountant but I would note that those who have reason to argue against my "financial ramblings" haven't put forward any counter arguments at all.

As to the question of whether the TriW plant would have solved all of our water problems ... it would not have. Would it have been better than doing nothing? Yes. Is the new Ripley plan going to solve all of our water problems? I doubt it.


On another matter, I flipped past the CSD meeting (last Thursday's meeting) last night and saw Julie making the argument that the PZ is where the poor people live and that there is an inequity because of that. Admittedly the richer folks tend to live outside the PZ but it has been determined that it is those inside the PZ who are polluting and that those outside the PZ are not required to make any changes to their effluent disposal methods.

Julie's argument (besides being entirely off topic to the CDO question) essentially is that the people who aren't polluting should help pay for the cost of the pollution by the polluters. If I lived outside the PZ I would ask myself why I should pay for other people to clean up their mess ... after all, I am in compliance with state laws.

PublicWorks said...

'an expensive, above ground, ugly, smelly, middle of town sewer that doesnt solve our water problems...'

'expensive' - yes

'above ground' - above and below

'ugly' - debatable

'smelly' - no, according to recognized experts

'doesn't solve our water problems' -
It solved the discharge prohibition
It discharged cleaner water
It reduced salt water intrusion
It didn't delay another 5-10 years which makes salt water intrusion worse.
It provided water usable for irrigation and ag exchange (we now have nothing to exchange with farmers - farmers will NOT sign a contract until AFTER a treatment plant is up, proven, and running, and even then they may hesitate for all sorts of other water rights reasons - but the Ag Exchange slogan sure was catchy now wasn't it!)

So, on the most important point about solving water problems - the poster flunks out of class.

Borrowing? Borrowing is really an 'assesment' because it WILL be paid out. Old board, new board, future board, borrowing is always risky.

Speaking of risk, selling bonds with a CCC rating will be costly. Bonds WILL be sold to pay for this borrowing in one way or another.

Bonds WILL be sold to pay for the contractor costs in one way or another.

Bonds WILL be sold to pay for design and construction in one way or another. Approx. $20 million was already issued in bonds.

Some present or future property owners WILL pay for the repayment of ALL bonds issued, regardless of the issuing agency.

Some present or future property owners WILL pay for the fines, CDO mitigation via out-of-pocket, fees, or bonds. The bill could eventually be up to $40 million.

Some present or future property owners WILL pay for the lawyers once all this is settled. The bill could eventually be up to $3-5 million.

As Ann has said, Be Very Afraid.

The town has made it's choices over and over, and has no one to blame but itself. Ignorance, denial, and misleading campaign tactics are no excuse for repayment of costs and non-compliance.


As Ann has said, Be Very Afraid.

Churadogs said...

Inlet said:"Essentially sustainability is a word which hasn't been clearly defined in this context. Until we get a definition that we can apply fairly to all aspects of the TriW and alternative projects we should simply avoid using the word altogether"

Good idea. Wonder if the State Revolving Fund has a definition?

Public works said:(of the Tri W plant) "It reduced salt water intrusion" According to Mr. Harris of Cleath & Assoc, Tri W would not cure salt water intrusion.

And also said,"The town has made it's choices over and over, and has no one to blame but itself. Ignorance, denial, and misleading campaign tactics are no excuse for repayment of costs and non-compliance."

I would insist that you add: been deliberately misled, as has the Coastal Commission, among others. It's hard for voters or "regulators" alike to make good decisions when basic informaiton is being witheld or fudged or hidden or spun or phonied up. Very hard.

Churadogs said...

Inlet said:"Essentially sustainability is a word which hasn't been clearly defined in this context. Until we get a definition that we can apply fairly to all aspects of the TriW and alternative projects we should simply avoid using the word altogether"

Good idea. Wonder if the State Revolving Fund has a definition?

Public works said:(of the Tri W plant) "It reduced salt water intrusion" According to Mr. Harris of Cleath & Assoc, Tri W would not cure salt water intrusion.

And also said,"The town has made it's choices over and over, and has no one to blame but itself. Ignorance, denial, and misleading campaign tactics are no excuse for repayment of costs and non-compliance."

I would insist that you add: been deliberately misled, as has the Coastal Commission, among others. It's hard for voters or "regulators" alike to make good decisions when basic informaiton is being witheld or fudged or hidden or spun or phonied up. Very hard.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann writes: "It's hard for voters ... to make good decisions when basic informaiton is being witheld or fudged or hidden or spun or phonied up."

Exactly! This is why I get so angry with those (like the recall candidates) saying that TriW is too expensive and implying (or outright saying) that an "out of town" WWTF will be less expensive. Face it ... those who wanted to get votes for the recall ... those who wanted to "move the sewer no matter how much it costs" ... were willing to fudge the facts to convince the electorate (read "sheep") that costs would actually go down if Stan and the gang were recalled.

Mike Green said...

The sad, but true political fact is that most voters make their decisions based on what is printed in the voter's pamplet.


It's a real problem for sure

PublicWorks said...

Churadogs said:
"I would insist that you add: been deliberately misled, as has the Coastal Commission, among others. It's hard for voters or "regulators" alike to make good decisions when basic informaiton is being witheld or fudged or hidden or spun or phonied up. Very hard."

Well, if you insist, I guess I don't have a choice then.

Hey, let's take an example from Churadogs herself.

"Public works said:(of the Tri W plant) "It reduced salt water intrusion" According to Mr. Harris of Cleath & Assoc, Tri W would not cure salt water intrusion."

So ask yourself, which of the following is more misleading?

'It reduced salt water intrusion.' This is actually incorrect, it would have been better phrased as 'Tri-W would have reduced salt water intrusion'. In any case, it doesn't imply that it would have cured it. It implied a benefit.

'Tri-W would not cure salt water intrusion'. This is also a correct statement, but is notable in what information it does not convey. It did not imply any benefit.

So, are either of the two misleading? And were either statements 'deliberately misleading'?