Cambrians can do better; cast your vote for change
November 3, 2016
OPINION by TINA DICKASON
Cambrians are in desperate need of a change in the governing board of the Cambria Community Services District. We have an opportunity in this election to replace three incumbents, two who are up for re-election, and another board member appointed mid-term to replace a director who resigned.
Cambrians supported an exorbitant loan for an emergency water supply brackish water desalination project, $13.4 million including interest, because they were told by the current board that this facility would be used only in times of drought and only for the needs of current residents. We later learned that the board’s claim was false, because the district subsequently renamed and repurposed this project as a sustainable water facility to support growth.
However, the district continues to bill Cambrians for an emergency water supply and not a sustainable water facility in their bi-monthly water bills since Sept. 1, 2014, despite the fact there has been no need to use this facility, as our wells have maintained an adequate supply of water. In addition, Cambrians have demonstrated through heroic conservation efforts, a reduction in their water use of approximately 45 percent.
We have not run out of water, despite the fear-mongering that sand would come out of our taps. We have also experienced record years of tourism during the last four years, with no events being cancelled due to a lack of water, while in four years of drought. In addition, 134 acre-feet of water was used for the initial emergency water supply tracer test in 2014. (A second tracer test is currently ongoing, using even more of our precious water supply).
The Department of Water Resources approved a Proposition 84 funding grant, totaling more than $4 million dollars, a good portion of which was supposed to pay down the loan. However, not a penny of this grant was used for that purpose. Instead, the district deposited the grant funding into their depleted general fund, which had been spent primarily to pay for costs related to the emergency and sustainable water projects.
The project has no regular Coastal Development Permit (CDP). This is a major public works project, built with no Environmental Impact Review or CEQA, prior to construction!
The SLO County Planning Department granted a 30-day emergency CDP permit, with continued extensions issued for the project’s completion and beyond. Although this project was completed two years ago, the district is only now going through a Draft Subsequent EIR process, and for a different project than what the board had previously approved.
The project, in all of its iterations, has been fraught with issues from the outset. The project was not put out to bid, and has ended up costing millions more than the amount of the loan. The proposed sustainable water facility will cost even more millions in new costs, none of which the district has been able to disclose to its ratepayers.
This project was a rush to judgment, and a failure to address the issues identified by regulatory agencies’ comments in the initial study/mitigated negative declaration.
Clearly, the intent of the project was for growth, at the expense of current residents who are footing the bill.
The district declared a building moratorium in 2001. We remain in a stage III drought emergency condition, declared Jan. 30, 2014. We are allocated 50 gallons of water per day per person, and we are allowed to water one day a week. Yet despite its need for revenue, the district has inexplicably chosen not to impose penalties and surcharges for the overuse of water, which begs the question: How much of an emergency were we ever in?
Spending is out of control (see previous articles on rate increases, published in CalCoastNews.com), and the district’s solution: more rate increases!
The district has ignored aging infrastructure, a new waste water treatment plant, more storage tanks, focusing instead, on its primary goal of finding a solution for growth. Growth, in a town that has two major arteries for traffic: Highway 1 and Main Street, both of which are becoming more and more congested and more dangerous. The sustainable water facility is not the answer. Energy costs, labor costs, chemical costs, servicing costs, brine disposal costs, etc., add up to a project that is not affordable, or sustainable!
The current board has failed the Cambria community. Millions of dollars, both from Cambria ratepayers and California taxpayers, have been unwisely spent on a project that has yet to be approved for a permit.
Recent comments from regulatory agencies on the draft EIR, raise serious issues that will need to be addressed. One example is from a senior environmental analyst at the California Coastal Commission, who concludes his 15 pages of comments to the district, by writing:
“CONCLUSION: In sum, we strongly recommend the CCSD substantially revise the DSEIR as described above to ensure the adverse environmental impacts of the existing and proposed projects are fully analyzed, that project alternatives are adequately evaluated, and that the project’s cumulative effects are assessed. We would be happy to provide further comments or assistance in modifying the document or in considering alternative to the project as currently proposed. Again, thank you for the opportunity to comment.”
How much more can Cambrians tolerate under such misguided and incompetent leadership?
Cambrians need a serious change. We need proactive, dedicated board members who are financially responsible, capable of prioritizing the needs of our community, committed to addressing our aging infrastructure, and willing to hold the district accountable to both regulatory agencies and the needs of our citizens.
The three candidates who, in my opinion, will meet the challenges going forward for our community are Harry Farmer, Tom Kirkey and Dewayne Lee. I hope you will consider casting your vote for them, and for much-needed change in this most important election.
J. Dewayne Lee
Occupation: Retired Business Owner
Education and Qualifications: I graduated from Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance. I was self-employed for 25 years, owning two retail office products stores and a Scuba Training Center. I served on the Board of Directors in Rotary Club and on the West Texas Girl Scout Council and was President of the Chamber of Commerce in Lamesa, Texas. Most recently, my volunteerism has included serving as a docent at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
I’m a relatively new resident of Cambria, having moved here in Dec. 2012. During these past three and one-half years, I have made an effort to attend Cambria Community Services Board meetings, studied press releases, and talked to long-time residents to become an informed citizen regarding local governmental practices. It is my opinion that citizens of Cambria deserve better.
I will bring truth in finance, openness in decision making, and responsiveness to public input. I have the experience, maturity and the ability to work well with other board members and the public to do what is best for Cambria. I ask for your support and trust.
I have been blessed to call Cambria home since Fall 1986. During this time, I have been an active volunteer and board member with Friends of the Ranchland that prevented development the Fiscalini Ranch. For the past seven years, I’ve helped care for the gardens at the Cambria Historical Museum, for which I was recently honored with the Volunteer of the Year award.
Sadly, during this period I have also observed a consistent lack of good judgment, proper decision making, fiscal accountability, as well as an inability to listen to alternative viewpoints at our CCSD in meeting the towns water needs. Our community is now over 13 million dollars in debt for a water source that, initially described as an “emergency water system,” has now become a sustainable water source to encourage growth and build out in Cambria.
Our magical town and it’s natural beauty is meant to be honored and cherished, not exploited for material gain and self interest. When elected to the CCSD Board, I will help to preserve the rural charm of our town that attracts visitors from all over the world, be fiscally accountable, and listen to and address the needs and concerns of all Cambrians.
R. Thomas Kirkey
Occupation: Retired Businessman
Education and Qualifications: I am a 13 year resident of Cambria. I graduated from the University of Akron with a degree in Biology and minor in Chemistry. My post graduate work included advanced accounting and finance courses. My entire career has been primarily in research and technical sales to energy related industries. I have excellent listening and negotiating skills having dealt with people from all over the world, many of whom are still in touch and have visited Cambria. I have extensive experience dealing with budgets and project management, which will transfer to my success as a Cambria Community Services District board member.
Honesty, integrity and transparency are needed in our community. Closed door decisions, without community knowledge, simply add to the mistrust many concerned citizens feel here. Not all of us will agree on every issue but, working together, we can solve our problems in a more accommodating and inclusive way. Rest assured I will always be truthful and ethical in communications to all Cambrians regarding the issues facing Cambria.
Your support is a vote for dedication, leadership and fiscal accountability.