Monday, June 20, 2005

Not On Our Dime

According to a recent Tribune article, as much as $35 million in federal money could help pay for the proposed Los Osos sewer if an effort by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, is successful.

No, no, no. Not on our dime.

Look, Los Osos, just because your CSD Board majority wants to throw your tax money at a multi-million dollar park that you have already voted that you do not want to pay for, and your Board majority can't answer why there's a park in your sewer project, doesn't mean that we should throw tax money at their mistakes too.

I mean, come on! An amphitheater in a sewer plant? And you want us to help pay for that?

Capps said recently that money for Los Osos' proposed $150 million sewer was authorized by a congressional subcommittee.

I'm going to take a wild guess here and say that the congressional subcommittee wasn't fully informed about the amphitheater, or the public restrooms, parking lot, dog park, community gardens, and everything else needed to accommodate the park, like the wave wall, and buried facilities, and odor scrubbing. $35 million? Sounds like Los Osos is going to need a lot more than that just for the park portion of their sewer project. And they want that to come from American taxpayers? Nice try.

Los Osos, you need a sewer, not a park. If your CSD Board can come up with a plan that includes a viable, bare-bones (translated: no park) treatment facility, then I'll argue that the Feds should pick-up at least half the cost. After all, they're picking up the tab for sewer projects in Iraq (I'm going to take another wild guess here and say that NONE of those systems include an amphitheater). But until then, I argue that the $35 million would be better spent elsewhere, like on the families of the service men and women that have been killed in Iraq.

"It's not a hard and fast guarantee," Capps spokeswoman Shannon Lohrmann said about the Federal funding. "But this is a great first step."

For the sake of American taxpayers, let's hope it's the only step... at least for this flawed project.

'til next time.


  • Ron,

    I really believe you need to re-examing your 'assignment of cost to the park' mantra. The park costs have always been on the order of only $1 million.

    The debate on the decision to locate based soley on the park is somewhat misleading. Other factors such as the collection and disposal system are valid, albeit not overriding, decisions to use Tri-W.

    The assignment of blame for the costs is not so simple. The estimate at the time of the assessment in 2001 was apprx. $13 million for the plant. It is now $48 million.

    How much blame do we assign due to low estimates from the consultants - hard to truly know. How much do we assign to construction inflation -hard to truly know - but it could be as much as $10-$20 million, and industry data suggests it may have been over $10 million last year alone. How much is do to lack of competitive bidding - again truly hard to know - could easily be $5-10 million.

    However, to soley assign the cost increase to the park and the LOCSD board is just plain wrong! Opponents have the perogative to question and litigate the project, which they have exercised. But that perogative comes with a responsibility for their actions. And particularly keep in mind that the voters re-affirmed the LOCSD board and project in 2002, after which opponents ramped up litigation. And the costs that have been incurred by delay are real - and if there is blame - it should be shared by all the parties to the mess - and that includes the opponents substantial contribution. There is no way on earth a public project like this would have taken 4 years to bid had the opponents deferred to the electoral vote of 2002.

    They have, in effect, created their own self-fullfilling prophecy. And the fact is, they have not been legally correct on any issue, with the possible exception of the request for the de novo hearing. And think about that - the one time they were right resulted in perhaps the postponement of bidding that creating the largest cost increase to date! In effect, all they did was get the project they didn't want, and a cost nobody wanted!

    No one can prove it, but imagine that with no lawsuits, the district could have more than likely bid this project 1 year ago, which could have saved $20-$30 million on the cost. Not to mention the $1 million or so in legal fees saved.

    And now the opposition is proposing a project to potentially save $20-30 million, but could also potentially cost the district more in fines, interest, and inflation.

    The project is what it is, but what is unconscionable to me is the total lack of recognition by opponents of this project of their culpability towards the cost.

    And if they won't recognize their responsbility towards that, their credibility is questionable.

    By Anonymous Joe Sparks, at 10:52 AM, June 22, 2005  

  • Ron,

    My real point on the Lois Capps proposal is this.

    Regardless of whether Los Osos has $150 million or $120 million system, why shouldn't the federal taxpayers pick up some of the tab? $35 million represents about 25% of the cost.

    #1) Virtually every community in size greater than or equal to that of Los Osos has benefited from federal/state subsistance to wastewater plant, and in most cases, much greater than 25% of the cost.

    #2) Los Osos supports cities and county retail tax sales revenues in a disproportional amount to what it receives. The prohibition prevents Los Osos from expanding its retail base substantially.

    #3) California, in general, sends out much more in dollars to the Federal Government than it receives. Receiving $35 million for an environment benefit for the state and the nation is not such a bad thing for the state.

    #4) As an example, the Spalding (Eagle Lake), Caifornia will have 25% or more of it's wastewater system implementation picked up by grants. Los Osos is getting a disproportionately lower percentage amount of grant money than many other communities in the US.

    #5) Los Osos has a HUGE spread in income distribution, and there are social concerns that grant money be provided to assist low income homeowners. I wish a program could be implemented that would allow seniors to receive grants in exchange for home equity sharing with the government. It would be a low risk/no cost undertaking for the government.

    #6) Please, pretty please, we need the money!

    By Anonymous Joe Sparks, at 11:37 AM, June 22, 2005  

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