Opportunity to save Los Osos so much money

January 5, 2012

Julie Tacker


It’s funny that Monday’s story about the California Public Records Act graced the pages of the Tribune just as I was writing my response to a December 1 Tribune  article, “Los Osos sewer project may get a little cheaper,” using information obtained in a California Pubic Records request to SLO County Public Works.

Yes, I am one of those pesky citizen activists who have had to learn the law and use it — because government isn’t always as transparent as we hope.

My CPRA request revealed exactly what I suspected, and the reason for my request.

Among all  correspondence over eight months between March 1 and November 30 the County Public Works Department, while negotiating a $70 million loan on behalf of Los Osos citizens, never asked for the lowest possible interest rate for the term of the loan from the State Water Resources Control Board staff.

In hundreds of pages, emails, interest rate scenarios, conference call agenda’s and spreadsheets, nowhere is the documentation that Public Works or our Supervisor, Bruce Gibson, advocated for a 0 percent interest 30 year loan. Not until the last day and last hour to comment on the item, after the county had presented all their material, after the state staff report had been posted and well after state staff had made their recommendation for 2 percent.

For a little background, the State Water Resources Control Board administers the State Revolving Fund, a source of low interest funds for water quality projects throughout the state of California. Our County representatives and a handful of Los Osos citizens (including myself) went to Sacramento on March 1 to make the case that the then proposed 3.0 percent interest rate was too high for the economically disadvantaged community. With unison pleas from the citizens and county reps, the State Board agreed to lower the interest to 2.6 percent and gave the county the ability to return — no later than December 2011 — to make the case for a further interest rate reduction.

What difference would it make?  According to John Waddell, the county’s project manager, reducing the interest rate to 2 percent would result in an overall savings of $5.9 million, and no interest would result in a savings of $22 million, a significant cost savings to an economically disadvantaged community.

The backroom negotiations were never brought to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and public for their input. No invitation to engage with the state board to ask for a lower rate.

Not until November 29 when the State’s December 5 staff report was made available on the web (only a handful of citizens knew to search the web for it) did it become clear the county wasn’t advocating on behalf of Los Osos to the best of their ability. The report revealed the county’s request for lowering the interest rate was presented in 3 scenarios; 2, 1 or 0 percent for 10 years all with a bump to 2.6 after 10 years (assuming the LOCSD would take over the project at that time). As an aside, no one thought to ask the LOCSD if they would want the project back in the future — a wholly different debate for another time.

As the scene unfolded, I was in disbelief. Reading all the material, understanding what was at stake and the missed opportunity.

It is clear to me that for all the drama and sewer saga, all sides and detailed debates, lowering the interest rate was one thing we could all agree. This was the time in which sewer factions could unite and make a difference in the future of the project. But, there was no time to mount a citizen response, even the Tribune sat on their hands, having been notified ahead of time.

Sadly only three Los Osos citizens and President of the Los Osos Community Services District Board Marshall Ochylski commented in time.

But there was one more, in a strange and confusing twist, after all the negotiations and gyrations over the past eight months, Public Works Director Paavo Ogren writes a letter requesting 0 percent interest for 30 the year term of the loan submitted just minutes before the comment period closed.

Fortunately for Los Osos, homeless advocate Richard Margetson, drove the ten hours to Sacramento and back to further make the case. While his testimony was compelling and one board member motioned for 1 percent, the motion died and he was unsuccessful in lowering the rate below the staff recommendation of 2 percent.

After reading over all the negotiations in the CPRA, it’s clear that the public works department and our supervisor are disconnected from the citizens the project effects.  After repeated requests, they have refused to perform an economic impact study, claiming they know Los Osos is “disadvantaged” but continue to use community-wide MHI data, claiming $60,000 household are affected. But, using community wide census data does not get to the detail of those in the Prohibition Zone.

For example, of the 772 school age (K-6) children in Los Osos, 41 percent are eligible for the free lunch program, all the seniors many of whom live in mobile home parks and renter populations are higher in the sewer zone than outside.

While the sewer has been “studied to death” the economics of it has not. The costs associated with abandoning septic systems, hooking up, ongoing operations and maintenance and debt service for 30 to 40 years has not been analyzed against the real people who will forego medicine, heating their homes, and cutting out all discretionary spending to the local “mom and pop” businesses in Los Osos that currently scrape by, not to mention costs for the businesses to become customers of the project.

Furthermore, the economic ripple effect of Los Ososans no longer making the trek to their favorite spot in SLO, Morro Bay or beyond to catch dinner and a movie. As discretionary funds dry up and Los Ososans stay home to flush their new toilets for entertainment hasn’t been quantified as a countywide impact and should.

Making the economic case to the State and grant providers is paramount to receiving low-to-no interest funding for the project. These providers are political bodies and can be swayed to waive application fees, reduce rates and extend terms. But the case has to be good. For the good of the “disadvantaged” the economic study needs to be done, get the county “negotiators” out of the way and let the data make our case.

Julie Tacker is a 40 year Los Osos resident and longtime dedicated “Sewer Nut”

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Why do you even care Julie? You and your radical followers trashed our first attempt at a sewer system that would have been up and running by now and CHEAPER if you hadn’t stopped everything. It’s just too bad all the lawsuits filed on behalf of the contractors left out in the cold couldn’t be applied directly to you. I’m beginning to think that the only reason you even continue to write articles about the sewer is because you like the attention it gets you in the comment section. If you don’t have a job to occupy your time, go get one. We would appreciate it. Do us all a favor and find another town on which you can apply all your interest. I think you’ve done enough here in Los Osos.

A dedicated sewer nut, shamelessly steeped in moral turpitude.

Sometimes “obstructing” lunacy is not all that bad an idea because now the skunk-plant will probably be downwind of our business section, out of town. One hell of a lot more intelligent location for a sewer plant, unless of course one has not changed a diaper, or think s**t doesn’t stink.

Presently, there are serious mistrust problems with our County Government handling of the WWP in Los Osos which was supposed to be addressed with AB2701 guidelines, like “due diligence review, reasonable technology and location”. So far it seems that the only thing the County got right is the ” location”part.

What the hell is “reasonable” in using collection system technology that will, beyond a shadow of doubt”‘ destroy our precious critical groundwater in a few seconds during a liquefaction event in our “Red Zone” which will happen according to every scientist on the planet today?

What is “reasonable” about using the collection system technology that requires the most water to function & flow properly with the use of low flush toilets and we end up like San Francisco with pungent odors emitting from every manhole and pump station?

What is “reasonable” about using technology that requires pumping and treating millions of gallons of groundwater and guessing we can pump it back and prevent seawater intrusion with pumps running 24/7, for three weeks ors so?

What is “reasonable” about choosing technology that causes the most community disruption and discuctive to install with eighteen foot wide ditches, thirty to forty foot deep in places?

What is “reasonable” about endangering our critical water supply for political reasons by ignoring science.

“When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny”, Thomas Jefferson (I think).

“destroy our precious critical groundwater in a few seconds during a liquefaction event in our “Red Zone”” Really? The only liquefication will occur right next to the bay if there is any fill from bay mud. I seriously doubt that liquefication will distroy ground water. Los Osos is not built on a sand dune that goes several hundred feet deep. After the first 20-30 feet you hit soil that won’t liquefy anything. If this was going to be a problem don’t you think it would have already occured? Not as though we haven’t had some fairly strong earthquakes. If you’re talking about the “big one”, probably there would be little standing anyway, so a glass of water would be the least of my worries. No sewer is a good sewer just won’t cut it anymore.

I almost bought a fancy home in Los Osos, almost signed the dotted line on a $100,000.00 loan for which I would have ended up paying $170,000.00 at the end of 30 years. But the “Big Unknown” (how much the sewer will cost,) is what changed my mind.

You can love or hate the writer, but it is clear the article has elicited some valuable information. Just one sentence from Tacker’s article, made it worthwhile reading for me:

“…the State Water Resources Control Board administers the State Revolving Fund, a source of low interest funds for water quality projects throughout the state of California.”

So, something got paid off here. As for you Mr. Cyberspace,

Talk science to me, baby! I feel the Earth move!

But is that lust I’m feeling, or “liquifaction?” I figured if you drilled down 20-30 feet on a Dune in Montana de Oro, you’d it salt water. If compact soil is down there “that won’t liquefy anything,” then how come we’ve got giant sink holes in Pismo Beach, and broken up sidewalks down by the State Park in Oceano?

Whisper sweet Geology to me, Baby! But where the heck are you getting these facts from?! I’m ready to learn!

“…the State Water Resources Control Board administers the State Revolving Fund, a source of low interest funds for water quality projects throughout the state of California.”

Yes, we will have paid off that loan, for roughly half of the sewer project, in 30 years.

‘Giant sink holes in Pismo’???

Here we go again. The sewer is, and always was, a green weenie scam. It hasn’t, and will never happen.

That sewer should have been built 30 years ago, but people like you kept getting in the way, and then to top it off when you got elected to the csd and stopped the start up of construction you cost the citizens of Los Osos another ton of money. You and Jeff need to go away.

Thank you for continuing to publicly remove all doubt, if there ever was any, and clearly illustrate why the county stepped in and took matters away from the locals such as yourself who have for over thirty years delayed, evaded, polluted and kicked the can down the road for your children and grand children to clean up and pay for.

More facts to highlight the incompetent and corrupt county government. Calls of “obstructionism” simply does not hide the fact that the economics of the sewer is going to force many people out of their homes. Let’s face it, the PZ does not include the more affluent parts of Los Osos; larger properties in the PZ are “sewer-exempt”. Who made up these rules? It’s a great time to be rich in Los Osos.

JT, don’t you have any sense of shame? You have cost the residents of LO so much money with your obstructionism. It’s so sad what you’ve done, people might lose their homes and a good part of that is because of you.

Isn’t the project as it stands now slated to run about 155/mo? Do you remember what the TriW plant was slated to cost? Seems to me that was over 200/mo

Plus now it’s out of town.

No, if you want to throw stones at the original obstructionist then I’d suggest the Solution Group that stopped the original county plan with their “Cheaper, Better, Faster” bald assed lie.


Sorry Julie, you don’t get any sympathy from me. If it wasn’t for you and all the “activists”, the darn thing would have been built many years ago. Your delays have cost you folks who have forced them. I am just tired of all you guys continually urinating in Morro Bay. Be happy with a 2% loan. Otherwise explain why the state should lose money to loan it to you guys as it will be worth 1/2 that amount in 30 years.

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