Oceano needs to put residents first

January 6, 2013

OPINION By Lin HILL

As a property owner in the Oceano Community Services District water and sewer service area, it has come to my attention that the OCSD office was closed from close of business Friday, December 21, 2012 through January 1, 2013. The only way one would have known that these holiday closures hours were in place was to have phoned the district, getting the answering service or to physically walk up and look at a note posted on the office door.

The districts Late Notice for water and sewer service went out on that last day the office was open. Late notices are sent with penalties attached, a $5.00 fee for the notice and threats of termination of service with $30.00 – $90.00 reconnect fees if not paid promptly. The notice itself didn’t mention any holiday closures; in fact it states “Hours of Operation – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.” The district’s website showed no closures or holiday hours and says the office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (which is it?).

With the district office closed for 10 days it was impossible for many to make their payments. When questioned, I learned that “some” late fees were being waived — as they should be.

Fault lies squarely on the district. To have the office closed during the period in which payment is demanded made it impossible to comply with the notice. Any late fees, shutoffs and reconnection fees triggered by the poorly noticed closure should be waived for all customers affected.

To my knowledge the district has never closed for such an extended period of time. How was the staff able to take all the same days off? Did they coordinate their vacation time? If so, they would have had ample time to adequately notify the public of the week-long closure.

In the past, the district posted their payroll with their warrants in each agenda packet. The public was able to track salaries and benefits, including vacation time. That practice has apparently changed with new management. I would suggest that this is the public’s money; we have the right to know where every dime is going.

I also learned the Board of Directors met last week in a record setting short meeting that lasted all of four minutes. In perusing the agenda; the only action items included approving one Will Serve Letter and $58,000 in warrants.

To convene the board for just four minutes cost the district taxpayer with five Board members compensated $100 each and any staff that attended of course will be paid their wage. Did AGP Video spend an hour setting up and another hour tearing down? Why couldn’t this little bit of business wait until the board’s January 9 regular meeting? That agenda was posted to the website this past Friday, it too is short. I’m beginning to think the OCSD could go down to one meeting per month and a part-time general manager, like other CSD’s have.

District representatives claim financial health has improved over that of a few years ago. If in fact the district is recovering, it is due in part to the water and sewer rate increase implemented in 2011 and as I understand it, a windfall of FEMA reimbursements for work done on the community’s infrastructure damaged by the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake. Having extensive institutional memory of repairs done to the district’s water and sewer systems after the earthquake, it occurs to me that the district had received many reimbursements over several years and I am left to wonder how over half a million dollars was overlooked for so long?

The reimbursements came in this past July, I couldn’t find where or when the board made any budget adjustments to allocate the funds to their respective accounts. All monies are required to be returned, dollar for dollar, to the source funds that were depleted. On April 1, ratepayers will see the third round of water and sewer increases. Now that the water and sewer funds have been replenished, the board should be reconsidering the five-year progressive water and sewer rate increase.

The board has a fiduciary responsibility to analyze the financial health of the district and represent the ratepayer. Put the “service” back in Oceano Community Services District and advocate for the public.

Lin Hill as an Oceano property owner and the wife of former board member Jim Hill.

 


9 Comments

  1. MaryMalone says:

    OCSD is sounding more and more like Cambria CSD under Tammy Ruddock every day.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  2. Myself says:

    Good lord an article about Oceano CSD, where or where is MS Tacker to help punish and bad mouth the CSD, opps, wait a minute this wouldn’t be about her and Jeffy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

    • MaryMalone says:

      OCSD entraps customers into paying extra fees, and closes for ten days without prior notification of the customers, and your focus is a person who isn’t even mentioned in the op-ed?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  3. Jorge Estrada says:

    When bugets get tight and we customers are all punctual and law abiding, it is very difficult to levee the needed penalty fees. Timing then becomes everything and most will just pay the fine. Apathy 101.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  4. StatusQuoJoe says:

    I for one, miss the Hill’s. They were always watching the books at OCSD and called it the way they saw it. I appreciated that. Nowadays the squishy directors don’t ask any questions about our money. They don’t want to rock any boats. Rock-a-way! Where are the audits? Wasn’t Geaslen supposed to have those done by now? Barbara called him their “White Knight”. My a$$. They’ve been duped by another overpriced blowhard.

    What’s up with closing the office for a week? How are people supposed to access their government?

    A FOUR MINUTE MEETING? What the hell? Those director’s better not charge us for that. I say waive the compensation!

    Thanks Lin for the heads up. We will be watching a lot closer in 2013. Happy New Year Oceano.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 17

    • MaryMalone says:

      Yeah, that four-minute-meeting BS sounds like what the City of Bell pulled, and for which the six city council members and assistant will go to trial starting no January 24. They were paid for committee meeting which lasted a minute or two, or, worse, sometimes they were paid for the meetings even when they didn’t meet at all.

      It was thanks to the State of California, who investigated Bell, that these criminal city council members were caught.

      I think it is about time the State stepped in and investigated several agencies, utilities, CSDs, and cities in SLOCo.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

      • Bored Watcher says:

        Just read the minutes of the OCSD Dec. 28 meeting…it actually only lasted three (3 ) minutes. The warrants for Dec., passed Jan. 9, show at least 2 directors (Guerrero and White) took the $100 compensation for that lickety-split meeting.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

        • MaryMalone says:

          Any board official who takes $100 for a 3-minute meeting qualifies as a taxpayer vampire.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

    • The Watcher says:

      Too bad they sunk the ship. Nice work Jim on putting your boy Raffi as the district manager and then quiting. Gotta love those quitters ( Hill’s). Sorry, but it is true. Good point though on the current state of OCSD. Thanks Lin.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

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