The 30-plus-year-old game show was over. Time for the losers to pack up and leave. On March 15, the Ides of March, the SLO Board of Supervisors voted to take the sewer project, which means bids will be going out, assessments will likely show up on the tax rolls in Dec. and the financial wrath that is about to set down on the town will commence.
Or, at least a part of it will. The latest cost guestimates are now $163 unless the undeveloped lot owners vote to assess themselves for years in the hope of developing some day. If that happens, the guestimated cost could fall to $134 (plus the cost of hook ups and the cost of water used in the “rates and charge,” which will vary, depending on how much water a household uses.) All of which is an awful irony: This community will likely end up with a “better” and “cheaper” project with the sewer plant “out of town.” Which begs the Eternal Question: Why did it take a recall and a Hideous Sewer War to accomplish that? The community’s wish for a cheaper project with the plant out of town seemed at the time (and still seems) a perfectly reasonable request.
The Usual Suspects were at the meeting, reminding the Board that there were/are cheaper solutions that could/should have been possible if the Board had allowed the promised design build process to play out. That claim ignores the fact that the “promised” design build process -- wherein the best technology and solutions would be allowed to come to the top and the whole project be competitively awarded to the smartest guys on the block with the best solution and the best price, -- was all PR hokum, a wickedly smart Paavo Ogren lie that was accidentally exposed by Noel King blurting out that Los Osos would get a gravity system even before the TAC was selected and started work.
But, no matter, that little “Chinatown” bean-spilling was quickly forgotten and the original lie constantly burnished and dangled before the public until it was no longer useful and was permanently buried by another lie when Supervisor Gibson hilariously claimed he had to kill off design/build to get federal stimulus money for a shovel ready project & etc. Which sounded swell, except for the fact that there was no “shovel ready project.” Not even close. But the ploy worked beautifully in permanently taking design/build off the table, thereby eliminating forever any possibility that a STEP system design would be in the running. Can’t have too much design/build “best technology” running around and maybe showing up with low bids in hand. So, done deal, redux, while the rest of the Supervisors watched with blank faces.
Which they also did when citizens would come to the microphones at various project updates and earnestly ask, “What am I to do? Where am I to go? I will have to leave my home because I can’t afford this project.” No answers there. Not their problem. Not anybody’s problem, really. Not the County’s, not the State’s, not the Feds. So, move along now.
Or get berated from the dais for being whiners and “anti-sewer obstructionists,” or armed and dangerous crazies requiring that a Sheriff be in the back of the room. All for being annoying Los Osos people who endlessly parade before the Board to remind it of its promises, remind it of the problems still unsolved, warn them of pending crises and constantly ask questions that have no answers. (Well, they do have answers, but none that want to see the light of day.)
Questions like, What percentage of Los Osos residents will be forced to move? Who pays the assessment bills for homeowners who default, especially if a whole lot of them do and in a depressed market in the middle of a recession, they can’t sell their homes? What happens to local businesses when $200 a month of previously “discretionary money” is removed from the economy? What happens to the sales tax dollars paid by those businesses when there is no business? And what’s up with the water?
No answers there on the economic side, since nobody bothered to do any kind of affordability studies in the first place. Best not to know. Just build it and they will leave and then try to figure out what to do next, I suppose. Not our problem. Kick the can down the road for some other Board of Supervisors to deal with. Then move along.
And the salt water intrusion issue? Pray that enough recycled wastewater and heavy duty conservation by the community solves the problem, I guess. And people all over town start xerescaping like crazy.
Some public comments and Misc. notes:
-- John Waddell noted that while there was only one bid received from the short-listed three firms qualified to bid on the design, he felt that the bid was “competitive” since the company didn’t know the other two companies had dropped out of the running. One company that did drop out? Montgomery Watson Harza. They cited “Los Osos controversy” as their reason to depart the field. Ingrates! I mean, Supervisor Gibson moved heaven and earth and risked a high degree of ridicule for the “shovel ready” short-listing maneuver that made sure they had a place at the table and then they leave town without so much as a bid? Ah, how sharp the serpent’s tooth. . .
-- The CSD Prez noted that the Board’s taking this project and repaying the $$ owed to the RWQCB helps the CSD’s bankruptcy case to move along. He expressed a concern for the affordability and noted that the cost is comparable to TriW, even five years later and is an improved project what with returning/reusing all the water and adding an ag element as well.
-- Supervisor Meacham (sporting a nifty beard and looking so unlike himself that I hardly recognized him and at first thought he was that actor that plays “the most interesting man in the world” flogging Dos XX beer in the TV commercial) again expressed dismay over the inherent unfairness of having a small group bearing the full cost for a general benefit that will be enjoyed by a larger group, thanks to the RWQCB’s poorly-drawn PZ. Paavo then briefly discussed the possibility of floating a special tax for general benefit for the community, a special tax that would mean people outside the PZ would be assessed for that benefit, (clean water) thereby lowering the costs to the small PZ group (who are actually paying to clean up the water.) Before that discussion could develop, Supervisor Gibson, in usual form, jumped in and in a blizzard of words, buried the whole topic then immediately moved to make a motion to adopt the resolution. It was seconded and passed 5- 0 .
The County now “has” this project. Pray for them. Pray for us. Pray that more grant money can be found. Pray that Supervisor Meacham will again be allowed to bring up the general benefit assessment tax idea without being buried by Gibson. Why Supervisor Meacham (whose district Los Osos is NOT) is the one who keeps bringing this up while Gibson, (whose district this IS) is the one who buries such a notion, remains a mystery. But bless Meacham’s interest in persuing equity.
Oh, the County will be sending out pre-payment information in a few weeks for those of you who have $25,000.00 sitting in your pockets.