Arroyo Grande’s mayor elect wants lawsuit abandoned
November 20, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
Amid mounting legal costs, incoming Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill asked the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District Board to immediately cease and desist legal action against the state.
Two weeks ago, the sanitation district board voted unanimously to file a lawsuit against the state over a $1.1 million fine in a fight that has already cost ratepayers over $750,000. The sanitation district serves the residents of the Oceano Community Service District, Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach and is governed by a three person board consisting of one representative from each community.
More than a dozen people attended Wednesday night’s meeting in which a letter from Hill was read by outgoing Grover Beach Mayor Debbie Peterson. Eight people spoke during public comment, either questioning a lack of transparency regarding the lawsuit or asking for an end to litigation.
Peterson then attempted to place the lawsuit on a special meeting agenda.
However, district legal counsel Mike Seitz said the item did not qualify as an emergency, but it could be place on the Dec. 3 agenda. Both Peterson and Oceano Community Services District President Matt Guerrero voted to place it on the next agenda.
In 2010, issues at the sanitation district resulted in 384,000 gallons of raw sewage flowing into Oceano homes and the ocean. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board then determined the spill was the result of mismanagement and offered a $300,000 settlement to the sanitation district.
The district board declined the $300,000 settlement offer at plant administrator John Wallace’s suggestion. The district then paid about $750,000 to Wallace’s engineering firm the Wallace Group and a team of lawyers to argue against the allegations of mismanagement and the proposed fine.
At the hearing, the state water board determined that the 2010 sewage spill was due to careless and improper maintenance of the district and levied a fine of $1.1 million.
The district board then attempted to lodge an appeal, but their request was denied prompting the Nov. 5 district board decision to mount further litigation.