Oceano board president facing property liens
May 29, 2016
Oceano Community Services District Board President Mary Lucey has two homes in Oceano which are facing liens because she has failed to pay her sewer bills. Lucey also serves as the Oceano representative on the South County Sanitation District Board.
On Wednesday, the sanitation district board is scheduled to vote on a staff recommendation to lien the properties of those who are delinquent in their bills, according to the agenda. Both of Lucey’s Oceano properties are listed as delinquent, which could prohibit Lucey from discussing or voting on the item.
Because Lucey has a financial interest in the decision to lien or not to lien her property, she may have a conflict of interest. Lucey said she plans to ask the district’s legal counsel if she can participate in the discussion and vote.
“It is a question for legal counsel,” Lucey said. “I won’t be doing anything that will be ethically incorrect.”
Last year, Oceano officials demanded substantially more money for each sewer charge included on its water bills than Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach charge the sanitation district. After a year-long dispute, the sanitation district board, which is comprised of a representative each from Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano, voted to have the sanitation district mail bills to Oceano residents until it gets approval to place Oceano’s sewer bills on the county tax roll.
In the first week of March, the sanitation district mailed the first biannually sewer bill to Oceano residents, said John Clemons, the district superintendent.
While Oceano provided the district with billing addresses, about 300 were incorrect. Those rate payers, which does not include Lucey, received late bills and may be listed in the delinquent list.
Rate payers will have until mid-July to pay their sewer bills before liens are implemented.
Originally, Lucey supported moving the billing to the tax roll, but has since waffled suggesting the sanitation district has been unfair to Oceano and is punishing its ratepayers.
“This could have been avoided,” Lucey said.
In addition, Lucey claims the sanitation district did not mail bills out in March.
“I haven’t received a bill,” Lucey said. “The people of Oceano do not know what is going on. The district failed to explain and keep order.”
However, Lucey said she reads her twice monthly sanitation board packets which has included reports on the March billing.
“The district currently bills Oceano CSD directly,” a May 4 staff report says. “To date, the district has received $182,000 for four billing cycles.”
Clemons said that in addition to mailing sewer bills to Oceano residents, the bills are posted publicly.
“The idea that we never sent bills is incorrect,” Clemons said. “Mary Lucey is on the board and she knows we sent bills.”
On June 1, the board will hold a hearing to hear any public protests, but since the matter is administrative in nature, simply changing the way funds are collected and not changing rates, the protests will not likely change the outcome. The district has cited Health and Safety Code 5471 (a) in its staff report as the legal ability to revise the method of collection of its service charges.
Lucey and others can avoid the lien by simply paying the past due charges.