Oceano needs to put residents first
January 6, 2013
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.