Tuesday, April 29, 2008

S.S. TAC, Taking on Water! Time to Abandoned Ship?

All of a sudden, I've got another bad feeling about the "Technical Advisory Committee" that SLO County officials pieced together to help them figure out the Los Osos sewer situation.

Apparently, some "Advisors" from that "Committee" are not so familiar with their own documents.

For example, in a recent post on Ann Calhoun's excellent blog, TAC member, Maria Kelly, wrote:

"Whatever the county will be able to offer us, in my opinion, isn't comparable to the old mid town site project."

The "the old mid town site project" Kelly refers to, is the failed, "bait and switchy" Tri-W project -- a project that also included a multi-million dollar public park that dictated the sewer plant's central location, and, due to that central location, added over $35 million to the project.

In her post, Kelly adds, "If the old mid town project went to bid now - it would be significantly lower."

Here's where my confidence in the TAC gets rocked.

As I also, of course, first reported, Kelly's own committee released a report last year that officially outlined how the "bait and switchy" Tri-W project was a complete embarrassment.

The report did not have ONE positive thing to say about the project, and a WHOLE LOT of bad things.

The following is a copy-and-paste from my original story. I went into the TAC's Pro/Con Analysis, and boiled down all of the quotes involving Kelly's "incomparable" project -- the "bait and switchy" Tri-W project... a project that the pre-recall LOCSD Board spent over $20 million developing from late 2000 to late 2005, when they were finally recalled... for spending over $20 million... developing the "bait and switchy" Tri-W project.

Here's the Pro/Con Analysis' take on the Tri-W project. This is great:

- - -

- "(Tri-W's) downtown location (near library, church, community center) and the high density residential area require that the most expensive treatment technology, site improvements and odor controls be employed."

and;

- "It has high construction costs..." ($55 million. The next highest treatment facility option is estimated at $19 million.)

and;

- "Very high land value and mitigation requirements"

and;

- Tri-W energy requirements: "Highest"

and;

- "Small acreage and location in downtown center of towns (sic) require most expensive treatment"

and;

- "higher costs overall"

and;

- "Limited flexibility for future expansion, upgrades, or alternative energy"

and;

- "Source of community divisiveness"

and;

- "All sites are tributary to the Morro Bay National Estuary and pose a potential risk in the event of failure. Tri-W poses a higher risk..."

and;

- "NOTE: It was the unanimous opinion of the (National Water Research Institute) that an out of town site is better due to problematic issues with the downtown site."

and;

- "ESHA – sensitive dune habitat"

- - -

All of that is found in the TAC's OWN report, and TAC member, Maria Kelly, just recently wrote, "Whatever the county will be able to offer us, in my opinion, isn't comparable to the old mid town site project..."

The TAC's own document states, "NOTE: It was the unanimous opinion of the (National Water Research Institute) that an out of town site is better due to problematic issues with the downtown site," and Kelly writes, "Whatever the county will be able to offer us, in my opinion, isn't comparable to the old mid town site project..."

Think about that.

Is she saying that she's right, and everyone from the National Water Research Institute, a board that was chaired by George Tchobanoglous, Ph.D., P.E, and one of the most respected waste water experts in the world -- is wrong?

Is Kelly saying that if she had been a part of the National Water Research Institute, they wouldn't have come to an "unanimous opinion?" That, "whatever" the county comes up with, it will never "compare" to the "old mid town site project" -- the same project that her own document shreds to pieces?

Furthermore...

Kelly wrote, "If the old mid town project went to bid now - it would be significantly lower (in cost when compared to other potential projects) "

The TAC report states that the Tri-W project -- the "ol' mid town project" -- has "higher costs overall," and, "It has high construction costs..." ($55 million. The next highest treatment facility option in the report is estimated at $19 million. [NOTE: That $36 million difference is the EXACT figure I discuss, when I first reported, of course, that whatever the cost difference was between an in-town facility, and an out-of-town facility, was the price for the park in the project. And now we have an official answer to my question: $36 million bucks, at least! By the way, Julie Tacker, as a LOCSD Director, read my letter, verbatim, out-loud, video-taped, at a public meeting. All nice and time-stamped-like.)

In conclusion...

How can the people of Los Osos be expected to have any confidence in the judgement of the county's Los Osos Waste Water Technical Advisory Committee, when one of its most visible members publicly writes "opinions" that are the exact opposite of what their own reports show?

###

11 Comments:

  • Well ron, I see you do not understand bidding processes and economics. When there is too much work to be done, contractors can pick and choose. Prices for work remain high. (Research the job market in 2004-5). When death threats/equipment sabotage come into play, the price goes up even higher.

    Have you noticed the economic downturn in SLO? In California? Do you think that with the County in charge (I think they would take a very dim view on threats) and contractors are hungry for work, that the bids just might be a little lower?

    Don't forget - everything Tri-W has been litigated. We might get to see that process begin for out of town sites. There will be a cost for that, too.

    Julie (Chipping Day) Tacker read your letter - well, now THAT's a REAL endorsement! Kudo's ron! You have arrived!

    By Blogger Sewertoons, at 10:21 PM, April 29, 2008  

  • I read all of Maria's post and I do have to take note that your article is inaccurate, She also stated that the out of town options ( as reported in the TAC reports) offered many good options not available with the TriW site.
    Another thing that puzzles me is why diss. the whole report because ONE person on that committee has a contrary view to yours? and yet you will gladly quote that same report questioning the value of the TAC?
    You make almost no arguments about the contents of the report itself except to agree that the conclusions of the reports vis a vis TriW were correct.
    A report that Maria was a part of.
    I'm confused as usual.

    By Blogger Mike Green, at 7:05 PM, April 30, 2008  

  • Goooooollllly. Gotta go with MG on this one. Seems Ron is reaching a bit to make a headline. I read Maria's comment differently. And I think if Ron hadn't severely edited her sentence - lopping off some key points - her comment wouldn't be quite so alarming as he wants to make it. You decide:

    Ron said Maria wrote > "Whatever the county will be able to offer us, in my opinion, isn't comparable to the old mid town site project."

    And this is what Maria actually wrote: > O.k, to clarify: Whatever the county will be able to offer us, in my opinion, isn't comparable to the old mid town site project because it was not just a sewer project. It was a waste water/water project. The discharge and injection wells and the subsequent water management plan that also addressed sea water intrusion, was all encompassing. Getting the plant sited and built was part of phase one.
    >
    > What the county will provide us with is a waste water project. AB2701 did not give them water authority, only waste water. The county can walk us through an adjudication on the water supply issues but they do not have the authority to address them.
    >
    > If the county project comes in cheaper, I won't be surprised but it will be the first step and then what?


    Gee. That reads differently doesn't it? Seems to me her most significant point is the differing scope of the projects. One addresses water recharge & a water management plan in addition to sewer treatment. The other addresses only the sewer. And water recharge & water management will need to be addressed separately. By a different governmental/administrative entity. Big difference!

    Also, please give Maria credit for actually posting an on-topic comment. In a following comment she had to clarify that she was speaking as a community member and not as a member of the TAC. That's treading on thin ice. And opens whatever she might say to extraordinary analysis and critique. Hence Ron's article. I appreciate she's willing to continue to engage and comment as a citizen. Most would not. And we wouldn't be any the wiser.

    Ron might be on to something though. I haven't been following TAC activities recently. Mostly because I presumed there was no need nor any great purpose for doing so. While the selection of the committee was interesting (read: moderately controversial) it seemed once the committee was seated and proceeding on its task it would do what it was mandated to do. Fair enough. Still, why no news, until Ron's warning? Am I just snoozing and missing the release of pertinent information? Or have things been maybe a little too quiet? What exactly have they been doing? Has the TAC monitored or advised on any significant issues? Just curious.

    By Blogger *PG-13, at 11:39 PM, April 30, 2008  

  • Ron,

    Please tell us that you put far less thought into this last blog entry than in developing your other opinions on these matters ... because if you put as much careful thought into this one as the others, it sort of makes all of what you've written appear less credible.

    It is sometimes said that calling Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a communist doesn't make King look bad but makes communists look good.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 9:59 AM, May 01, 2008  

  • Mike wrote:

    "Another thing that puzzles me is why diss. the whole report because ONE person on that committee has a contrary view to yours?"

    Mike, you may have misread. I'm not "diss"ing the report, in fact I think it's nails accurate, all I'm doing with my story is pointing out the stark contrast between Maria's quotes and the Pro/Con Report.

    The only "view" I have on the report is that it says a helluva lot of bad things about the "mid town site project," and nothing good.

    I just can't see how someone could read that report and then say that nothing will ever compare to the ol' "mid town site project..."

    Let's hope not!

    PG-13* wrote:

    Ron said Maria wrote: "Whatever the county will be able to offer us, in my opinion, isn't comparable to the old mid town site project."

    And this is what Maria actually wrote: O.k, to clarify: Whatever the county will be able to offer us, in my opinion, isn't comparable to the old mid town site project because it was not just a sewer project. It was a waste water/water project.

    "Gee. That reads differently doesn't it?


    Yea, it's worse. I have no idea what this means: "It was a waste water/water project." And, I'm pretty sure Dr. T doesn't either.

    Looking back, I guess I could have added a "..." after "project" to show that the sentence continued, but, again, the rest of her sentence is irrelevant, because my point is the beautiful contrast:

    Yin:

    "Whatever the county will be able to offer us, in my opinion, isn't comparable to the old mid town site project..."

    Yang:

    "NOTE: It was the unanimous opinion of the (National Water Research Institute) that an out of town site is better due to problematic issues with the downtown site."

    If I were a TAC member, and I had read the Pro/Con Report, I wouldn't be able to publicly distance myself from the "old mid town" embarrassment fast enough, just like the county did when they let Tri-W's Development Permit die on the vine... when all they had to do was fill out a little paperwork to keep it going. (That was also the meeting where Ogren had this excellent quote: "Look, we (the SLO County Public Works Department) didn't develop the (Tri-W) project." As if to say, "Look, there's no way we're putting OUR professional reputations on the line for an embarrassment that the LOCSD developed.")

    We didn't hear Harry Ovitt, at that meeting, say something like, "Whatever the county will be able to offer Los Osos, in my opinion, isn't comparable to the old mid town site project..."

    Ovitt's smart.

    By the way PG-13*, I saw on Ann's blog that you recently posted "half way around the world." Just curious, where in the world is PG-13*?

    Anon wrote:

    "...if you put as much careful thought into this one..."

    These are not my "thoughts:"

    - "(Tri-W's) downtown location (near library, church, community center) and the high density residential area require that the most expensive treatment technology, site improvements and odor controls be employed."

    and;

    - "It has high construction costs..." ($55 million. The next highest treatment facility option is estimated at $19 million.)

    and;

    - "Very high land value and mitigation requirements"

    and;

    - Tri-W energy requirements: "Highest"

    and;

    - "Small acreage and location in downtown center of towns (sic) require most expensive treatment"

    and;

    - "higher costs overall"

    and;

    - "Limited flexibility for future expansion, upgrades, or alternative energy"

    and;

    - "Source of community divisiveness"

    and;

    - "All sites are tributary to the Morro Bay National Estuary and pose a potential risk in the event of failure. Tri-W poses a higher risk..."

    and;

    - "NOTE: It was the unanimous opinion of the (National Water Research Institute) that an out of town site is better due to problematic issues with the downtown site."

    and;

    - "ESHA – sensitive dune habitat"

    Those are the "thoughts" of the Pro/Con Report.

    Again, people, focus.

    Yin:

    "If the old mid town project went to bid now - it would be significantly lower (in cost when compared to other potential projects)..."

    Yang:

    - "It has high construction costs..." ($55 million. The next highest treatment facility option is estimated at $19 million.)

    The only "thought" I have is that the contrast is awesome.

    Finally, 'toons, you missed my point as usual. My point wasn't "endorsement," my point was "time-stamped," and the fact that I wrote, before the recall, that whatever the cost difference is between in-town and out-of-town is the price of the park, and now we have an official number: $36 million!

    That $35 million that Capps was trying to get from the Feds would have almost paid for the "project objective for centrally located community amenities."

    By Blogger Ron, at 10:52 AM, May 01, 2008  

  • Yin:
    S.S. TAC, Taking on Water! Time to Abandoned Ship?
    Yang:
    Mike, you may have misread. I'm not "diss"ing the report, in fact I think it's nails accurate...
    Uh.. O.K. (maybe your just not a nauticalist)
    You may be interested in the newest TAC report (I gotta learn that linkage stuff) Its about adding a REGIONAL septic treatment facility to the Whatever WWTF.
    You may get to take a dump in Los Osos once every five years (whether you want to or not), of course we get to keep your water, and probably charge you a few duckets for the privilege. ( my hope its a treasure chest full, we need it )
    Los Osos may get the last laugh after-all, That's if anything seems funny after those assessment bills arrive

    By Blogger Mike Green, at 2:32 PM, May 01, 2008  

  • Mike wrote:

    "Yin:
    S.S. TAC, Taking on Water! Time to Abandoned Ship?"


    Taking on water via its members. Not its reports. If a TAC member publicly states the exact opposite of what their own reports show, that's drip, drip, trickle, gush! time.

    The reason that what she wrote bothers me so much, is because it's so dangerous, BECAUSE she's a TAC member. If the creepy people behind Shark Inlet Inc. were to have written it, it wouldn't have bothered me at all, because they're anonymous commentors. So, who cares what they say? However, that's not the case with Maria.

    Picture Joe Los Ososan coming home from a hard day's work, and saying, "I think I'll read the comments section of Ann's excellent blog."

    And then Joe logs on to read a TAC member write that the Tri-W project, today, would be "significantly lower" in cost, and that NOTHING will ever compare to it.

    See how dangerous that is?

    Because, now, it would be perfectly reasonable for Joe Los Ososan to say to himself, "Huh, well look at this. A member of the Technical Advisory Committee, whom, I'm sure, is familiar with all of the TAC reports, is now of the opinion that the Tri-W project is "significantly lower" in cost, and that NOTHING will ever compare to it. So why did we stop it! If it's the cheapest and the best, what was the recall all about. Boy, after reading Maria's learned opinions, I can't wait for the community survey, just so I can vote for that excellent option."

    Yea, well, the problem for Joe is this: "significantly lower" in cost, and that NOTHING will ever compare to it, is the exact opposite of what their own report shows.

    NOT COOL!

    I'll give that report a look. Thanks for the heads up.

    By Blogger Ron, at 9:36 AM, May 02, 2008  

  • Ha Ha Ha Boy do you put too much emphasis on the brainpower of the average Ososian.
    Here is what will get the most votes I doubly down garanteee it:

    Cheaper! (better and faster are no longer in vogue), According to whatever they get in the survey instructions.
    The big question is, will that survey be full of REAL information or some type of sewer jihadist campaign material?
    Thats why I like the TAC reports so much.
    I just hope the survey can accomplish the same level of honesty..... wish us luck!

    By Blogger Mike Green, at 10:43 AM, May 02, 2008  

  • Mike wrote:

    "The big question is, will that survey be full of REAL information or some type of sewer jihadist campaign material?"

    That's hilarious.

    You know, the guilty pleasure side of me, really hopes the good ol' "mid town site project" ends up on the survey JUST so I can see the slogans PNK comes up with this time around, in light of the Pro/Con Report.

    "Vote Tri-W: It's 'Problematic!' "

    or, perhaps;

    "Baitier, Switchyier, 'Costlier' "

    or, maybe;

    Vote Tri-W! It's (and then in really small letters) built on (and then in really BIG letters) ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE (and then in really small letters) habitat area."

    You know what I think I'll do? Hold a contest to see who can come with the best PNK-style slogan for "incomparable" Tri-W project.

    The problem is, that only projects that pass the environmental review process will end up on the survey, and I just don't see how the Tri-W project will pass environmental muster this time around. It's a mess, as TAC reports show. And that SUCKS for my guilty pleasure side.

    "... I doubly down garanteee it..."

    Funny.

    "wish us luck!"

    Good luck!

    By Blogger Ron, at 11:08 AM, May 02, 2008  

  • The water purveyors (3) are separately going to have to make up the difference in their end of any new project (the County is only sewage treatment) to get the use of the finished water - those costs were tied in to the cost of the old project. The water, using MBR, was in-town and ready for reuse. At buildout there would have been more costs possibly for injection wells. This time, if the plant is put out of town with a different sort of treatment, spray fields (read water loss to the basin and therefore the purveyors) will be a part of it and the remaining water will need further cleanup (read more money spent) and for conveyance back to town for recharge/re-use. It may be years before farmers pay for the treated water, if they ever want to, and then the water is lost to the basin for good. There just aren't that many farms on top of the basin. The purveyors must participate to get us to level 3 on our seawater mitigation.

    By Blogger Sewertoons, at 1:59 PM, May 02, 2008  

  • Ron asked > By the way PG-13*, I saw on Ann's blog that you recently posted "half way around the world." Just curious, where in the world is PG-13*?

    Kyoto. One of my most favorite cities in all the world.

    By Blogger *PG-13, at 9:46 AM, May 06, 2008  

Post a Comment

<< Home