Viewpoint from LOCSD Board Member, Joe Sparks
The following Viewpoint was sent by LOCSD Board Member, Joe Sparks. It represents his opinions and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the Board.
4 August 2007
Open Letter to the Los Osos Community:
Over one year ago, the LOCSD approved AB2701 authored by Sam Blakeslee, and unanimously approved by the California Legislation.
The County Public Works Department has since conducted a deliberate and open public process culminating in a Fine Screening Report which identifies feasible options for the Los Osos wastewater project.
The viable project options from Fine Screening Report provide opportunities for alternate treatment, site selection, and effluent and solids disposal methods that can yield long-term on-going cost savings as well as potential environmental and aesthetic improvements. The uncertainty in the details of design for those options means there is less certainty for the final cost. These options must be considered until completion of the next EIR.
Community input has been diverse with alternative technologies (particularly STEP collection) being scrutinized in exhaustive detail so that the cost estimates are conservative as opposed to the past history of LOCSD pre-election ‘low-balling’ that culminated in the LOCSD losing credibility to both homeowners and agencies.
Within the report, the Tri-W project has been evaluated further and provides a viable option and a practical comparison to the other project options. Because of the prior completed design and permits for Tri-W, there is less uncertainty as to the estimated final design & construction costs for that project option. It provides an existing feasible option for the community to construct a wastewater system. It must be considered until completion of the next EIR.
It is important to understand what the purpose is and will be for the 218 assessment. It was never intended to provide a single specific project and certain final cost. Nor could any assesment provide a certain final cost of a specific project. Detailed design, permitting, and construction costs can only be precisely determined when construction bids are obtained.
Our community can have reasonable certainty for the following:
Approval of the 218 assessment will provide certainty to allow the community to pursue grants, secure competitive financing, and pursue affordability goals with both State and Federal administrators and legislators.
Approval of the 218 assessment will allow the County to obtain competitive design bids and build bids for a wastewater project.
Approval of the 218 assessment will provide the means for homeowners to come into compliance with the State mandate imposed upon the Prohibition Zone. An approval of a 218 would prevent any material cessation of the progress being made towards improving the quality of the waters of the State of California. I cannot emphasize enough to the community that the groundwater of the Los Osos basin belongs to the State of California, not Los Osos.
Approval of the 218 assessment will provide for the community to address saltwater intrusion and the degradation that impacts the water supply.
Approval of the 218 assessment will allow our local government to guide beneficial disposal and water use practices for the water supply we utilize.
Approval of the 218 assessment will provide a means for resolution of the Chapter 9 bankruptcy that the District must emerge from to continue as an on-going entity.
Approval of the 218 assessment would provide the mechanism to eliminate future violations of the Basin Plan that the RWQCB might impose upon the LOCSD due to operation by the LOCSD of three wastewater systems (Fire department, Vista de Oro, & Bayridge Estates).
In short, approval of the 218 assessment continues a commitment and a PLAN for Los Osos future.
History has shown the LOCSD to be incapable of completing a solution for our wastewater infrastructure. The District is not financially stable enough to administer a project.
The District has no wastewater reserves at present.
Any attempt to manage and design a project will require borrowing funds and place the already low amount of water and fire reserves in jeopardy.
The District has no full-time or permanent General Manager, even though the LOCSD Board had the opportunity three months ago to hire from multiple qualified candidates.
The District has yet to re-pay approximately $400,000 borrowed from the Water Quality Trust Fund to fund the 2006 Ripley report, and Ripley remains a major creditor in the District’s Bankruptcy proceedings.
The District has yet to re-pay approximately $700,000 that was borrowed from the Bond Reserve Fund to make a Bond Redemption payment because the District had insufficient funds to make the payment on September 1, 2006. From the period of October 2005 until April 2006, approximately $1,100,000 in assessment revenue (District General Ledger 4061) was deposited in District accounts for the purpose of making the September 1, 2006 Bond Redemption payment, yet those funds were not available to make the payment.
The District is subject to further enforcement of $10,000 per day from the date of issuance of the last Administrative Civil Liability of October 6, 2005 (disputed by the District) until present.
Failure of the 218 assessment will result in more financial and legal chaos for the District.
I did not support the creation of the LOCSD nor Measure B nor the recall because of the failure of advocates to clearly identify a defined project and financial PLAN. The County of San Luis Obispo, both prior to the formation of the LOCSD and with AB2701, had and has a clearly identified project and financial PLAN. I am committed to having the County of San Luis Obispo complete a wastewater project for those reasons.
No one wants to spend one more dime than necessary on the Los Osos Wastewater Project. The County is not asking for anything, let alone a blank check. It is offering solutions, trust, and cost constraints for a completed project. I look forward to the successful completion of a 218 assessment and the successful implementation of a wastewater project for the homeowners & community of Los Osos.
Director, Los Osos Community Services District