SLO County sold water outside the county, residents foot the bill

July 26, 2022

By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo County began selling water purchased by county residents to out of county water purveyors in 2008 and 2013, without returning the funds to local property owners as required by law, according to a recent SLO County Grand Jury report.

In 1963, the county entered into an agreement with the California Department of Water Resources to purchase water from the State Water Project. A tax was then added to all county properties to pay for state water, even though not all county residents benefited from the purchase.

Promoted by then-Public Works Director Paavo Ogren and Supervisor Bruce Gibson, the Board of Supervisors approved the sale of excess county water in 2008 and 2013, to out of county purveyors.

However, instead of returning the $6.3 million from the sale of the water to area taxpayers, Ogren placed the funds in the District Zone General Fund.

Supervisor Debbie Arnold’s former appointee to the Water Resources Advisory Committee, Greg Grewal, discovered the error and asked the SLO County District Attorney’s Office to take action. But after several years, the prosecutor’s office found the issue too complex, Grewal said. He then asked the Grand Jury to review the issue.

The Grand Jury determined that money garnered selling state water must be used to reduce county property owner tax burdens, including the $6.3 million already received.

The SLO County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to return $6,510,000 dollars to the taxpayer fund. The item was listed on the consent agenda.

Grewal, however, wants the county to pay back the more than $10 million in interest taxpayers lost through the county’s diversion of funds.


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kayaknut

The General Fund, where taxpayer money goes to be hidden, wasted and stolen. I know unlikely but having general fund should be stopped. All money should go into the actual account it is intended, it should be easier to track incoming and outgoing transactions then. Anytime a proposition, fee, tax or such that goes into the general you have to know their will be a problem.


commonsenseguy

This proves once again that Bruce Gibson is a (fool)full-on liar. He denied this fact multiple times during his campaign, including his time on the Dave Congalton show when Greg Grewal asked him. He denied it, and of course, Dave came to his buddy’s defense, and attacked Mr. Grewal.

Maybe by the end the year, both of these sarcastic and arrogant men will be looking for a new job.


jimmy_me

Not at all surprising. Recall that Gibson and the BOS signed off on the Los Osos sewer. The contracts were written so poorly that it allowed a contractor to later sue. I believe the county somewhat legally defended itself, but relatively quickly settled for $10 million. The people in Los Osos paying for the sewer get to foot the $10 million bill. Thanks Bruce Gibson. I mention this because it’s highly doubtful that the county is going to pay back any interest payments; I think all that money went to raising the already bloated salaries of county bean counters.


matthwy58

I’ve always hated the fact I was paying this tax but could never have access to state water.

This misappropriated revenue should be used to offset the state water tax for those who don’t have access to a public or private water system per Health Department standards.


Messkit

Thank you Bruce, for hiding more of your poor decisions. Maybe you could borrow some of Heidi’s free Dayspring weed to ease the pain…


SLO Friend

CCN thanks for reporting! Hopefully this will put an end to any agency that thinks about using paavo orgren for any sort of responsible position.


commonsenseguy

I agree. He’s nothing but a corrupt and over paid hireling. The only difference is, Orgren is also the wolf.


kayaknut

Dont worry about Paavo, he was another expert at pension spiking and double and triple dipping, he is doing fine on his likely 300 hundred thousand + dollar pension.


Jorge Estrada

Fortunately for us, Supervisor Arnold found a retired Greg Grewal, someone with 30 years of public service, someone who used water in his trade and had much experience at hosing out the problem. He also understands that there is NO free money and government can’t misappropriate or unilaterally borrow taxpayer’s money. Thankyou team Arnold.


fat chance

Thieves will be thieves…


analyticone

Thank you, Greg and Grand Jury! I what the courts would say about returning the interest to the ratepayers. It would only take one or two such decisions to make taxpayers whole, and our public agencies would soon shape up!


“Follow the water” could be even more critical for SLO County residents than following the money, but if you check their track records, where Ogre (intentional misspelling) and Gibson are concerned, you will discover it’s both.