Letters: Lompico needs long-term fix
Oct 25, 2012 | 1729 views | 9 9 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print

EDITOR,

I live in Lompico Canyon and I’m a customer of the water district.  I think anyone taking a careful look at our district’s situation will reach the same conclusion I have, that joining SLV water district is the best way to ensure we have a reliable, affordable water supply in our future.  To give us this choice, I urge voters in Lompico to re-elect the three incumbents: Lois Henry, Rick Harrington, and Bill Smallman for the Lompico water board.

Despite best efforts, our water district over time has been unable to get a consistent handle on the money, effective oversight, addressing our limited water supply, or how to keep up with the constant demands of a small water system and increasing state regulations. The end result is our high rates, plus a staggering bill due for lack of maintenance, the cost of bringing our system up to current standards, and paying off retirement funds. This debt took decades to accumulate, and needs a long term solution.

The board is actively improving our water services: buying modern, improved test equipment, ensuring service to tanks, pumps, wells and other components, upgrades to control systems for more efficient operation, and promoting advanced training and certifications. The daily operation of the district has vastly improved, but there is not enough money to solve the big problems.

We calculated our bill with SLV’s rates, and even as low water users, we’ll save about $350 a year, money that can go straight across to cover our share of a bond. It is a simple, painless solution to bring us security and peace of mind, as well as clean, affordable water. 

We need all three incumbents to return to the board to see this through. Please vote for Lois Henry, Rick Harrington and Bill Smallman.

 

Debra Loewen, Lompico

Comments
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Bill Smallman
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October 26, 2012
Sue,

The District could not afford being in CalPers, that is the reason the Board elected to get out of it. The $741,000 is a figure that no amount of "homework" could of determined. It is a highly questionable amount which needs to be addressed legally.

The incumbents saved the District from bankruptcy and have made many improvements. The challengers claim they are driving the District into the ground. Sorry, that already was done from the late 90's to 2009.

The challengers want to continue to pay the highest rates in the County, and arguably need to double with high interest rate loans to maintain "Local Control". Don't be misinformed. The incumbents want to provide accurate information on the Merger for YOUR decision. If the answer is "No" from a majority than Local Control will prevail. But is it worth it? The challengers will insure local control. Are they going to run the District more efficiently than SLVWD? I'd say you cannot afford to NOT re-elect the incumbents.
Duane Davis
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October 26, 2012
Until late last year the incumbents were doing practically nothing to repair the infrastructure. Then they invited the State to inspect the system in the hopes that it would support their propaganda that the district is in such bad shape.

Instead the inspection did not find any MAJOR problems. What it did do is put deadlines for repairing the problems it did find thereby FORCING the incumbents to START making repairs.

Jan Sweigert, our contact with the California Department of Public Health which regulates water districts, has said she is not at all concerned with the Lompico District. It has NEVER failed a state potable water test and there are many other districts in the state in MUCH worse shape.

Don't be misinformed by the incumbents. Our water district is NOT in bad shape. The district IS continuing to providing safe drinking water and is NOT at risk of immediate failure.

A merger now, at the current numbers, will only guarantee we continue to pay the highest water costs (The incumbents say we'll be paying lower RATES but that is not the total COST of our water. The bond COST must also be included) for at least the next 30 years.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that spreading out the repairs/upgrades over time without a bond (and $3.4 MILLION in interest) is going to be cheaper. Borrowing money makes everything cost more. More than double in this case. Many of the upgrades don't have to be completed for another 15-20 years so there's no rush.

STOP THE TAX AND SPEND MENTALITY!

It's easy for them to spend YOUR money. I wont do that. I will treat your money as if it were me paying the bill personally and make sure we are getting maximum value for every dollar. If I don't do what I promise and the district isn't well on it's way to full recovery in 4 years I deserve to be voted out. But I'm not a politician, and I don't make promises lightly. I wouldn't be making these if I wasn't confident I would be able to live up to them.

Will we run it more efficiently than SLVWD? Probably. We are much more aware of costs and will work harder to keep them down. We WILL also have staff HERE in the canyon on a full-time basis. SLVWD has said that the Lompico facilities will NOT HAVE ANY full-time staff.

This district has survived for DECADES and has done a good job. Not to say it couldn't have done better at times, but you don't give away a valuable asset like our water district just because of some poor decisions made in the past. The district IS recovering and we need to continue on the path to recovery.

Sue Worstell
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October 28, 2012
Bill,

What?? In other words, you are telling me that 5 intelligent, dedicated to the betterment of our water district, and responsible to their constituents, board members, failed to see the importance of thoroughly researching the ramifications of cancelling a retirement policy with an agency of the state of California?.........

And you forgot to answer my question: why it took 9 months to inform the customers of Lompico Water. This is not transparency. You were elected by the people of Lompico, we deserve better treatment.

Sue Worstell

Lompico Resident
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October 26, 2012
I think Ms. Loewen meant to say; "Despite best efforts, the only thing the incumbents, Henry, Harrington and Smallman have managed to fix is the pipe in front of her house on Lake Blvd."
Debra Loewen
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October 26, 2012
FEMA funds were applied for in 2006, and project began in 2007, long before the incumbents came on the board. Present directors Abraham and Gott also voted to complete this project in 2011, a unanimous decision. The cost was entirely covered by Federal and State funds.

The fix was not in front of my house, but does affect circulation and water quality in the entire south end of the canyon where I live, a continuing problem. Is it your position that the water district should not fix broken pipes? Isn't everyone in Lompico entitled to clean water and fire hydrants that work?
Lompico Resident
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November 04, 2012
And they managed to connect the pipe to their road again, against the recommendation of the engineers.

This is all a plot by the Lake Blvd residents to make the district liable and get it to pay to repair the road the next time it washes out. They want us to merge with SLV because SLV has more money.
Sue Worstell
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October 26, 2012
Can we really afford the current board?

The citizens of Lompico need to remember this as we cast our votes.

The following are the facts as reported in the Santa Cruz Sentinel by

Jason Hoppin on 8/8/2012.

Aug. 2011 - LWD board members opted out of CalPers (California Public

Employees Retirement System), a California state agency.

Nov 2011 - LWD received a bill from CalPers totaling $741,000.00. The

amount represents the penalty for the LWD dropping out of CalPers.

Terminating agencies are asked to pay the full cost of future retirement,

plus a kicker of 7% to cover the price that comes with people living

longer.

Aug. 2012 - Lompico residents were informed of this bill as Jason Hoppin

reported in the 8/8/2012 issue of the Santa Cruz Sentinel Titled "For tiny

Lompico Water District, a huge retirement bill". This was 9 months after

the board knew of the penalty.

It would appear that the board forgot to do their homework before

terminating CalPers, and later forgot to promptly notify the LWD customers

of the problem. A board member responded, via E mail, that

something needs to be done about the CalPers (California Retirement

System), like dissolve it, and another board member, says this is a sticky wicket.

I am not confident dissolving a state retirement agency will work, or the

assessment of our CalPers bill will make the $741,000.00 liability go

away. This large amount represents nearly $1,500.00 per Lompico Water

District customer according to the Sentinel. It looks like the citizens of

Lompico are on the hook for this Board Boo Boo.

Did the board forget to do their homework before deciding to terminate

CalPers?

Did they forget to promptly notify the people they are supposed to be

representing?

It is time for a new Lompico Water District Board.

Debra Loewen
|
November 02, 2012
Sue and Duane,

The district's Independent Auditor explained the CalPERS calculation in a public meeting I attended - before the Sentinel article.. It may help you to know that $350k of the $741 is Lompico's side fund amount that accrued from late payments, interest, errors in following the contract as to employees, etc. Merger or no, this is what is owed, with interest. If CalPERS allowed the district to pay that back over 5 years, and you added in another $80k per year which is our current payroll and last employer contribution rate, you come up with just over $750k the district would have paid in to maintain this benefit. Employees are fully vested after five years of employment. Therefore, in five years the district would have added 2-3 more employees to the retirement debt. If the district hired a General Manager at $70k this year, it would add an additional $35k a year due to CalPERS. These additional costs would have to be paid by water rates and ready-to-serve increases. I don't have my calculator with me, but someone could figure this out... maybe $50-$75 added to every customer's bi-monthly bill for at least five years? That's just for CalPERS; there would be an additional $35 or so per billing to pay for the manager.

CalPERS lost a lot of money in 2009 with the economy downturn, at least 25% of their value. They have to fund retirements promised, and little government agencies like us are stuck with increased share just like the big cities. They make termination difficult, because who wants everyone to pull out? However, if you project the costs forward, there is something to say for seeing an end at $741k. The non-termination prospect keeps growing. It seems very unfair that CalPERS thinks they need nearly $400k in a low-interest bearing pool to fund basically one retired employee, but they write the rules. Getting angry with the incumbents seems pointless. The district board had some inkling of a CalPERS problem in 2008, but did nothing.



The other thing to keep in mind is that the $741k is a draft estimate. CalPERS has not given the district a final bill, and the district has to review all the data and calculations, which have not yet been fully provided.

Duane Davis
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October 25, 2012
Last night at the candidate forum one of the incumbents admitted that the more we can fix before a merger the lower the cost to the community in the way of a bond.

A merger/bond now, at the most recently published numbers, will guarantee that Lompico will have the highest water rates in the county for AT LEAST the next 30 YEARS.

A bond will MORE THAN DOUBLE the costs to repair/upgrade the system. I don't know about you but I can think of much better things to spend $3.4 MILLION on than interest.

Either way we're going to have to pay for the repairs & upgrades. If we hold off on a merger and spend the next 10 years focusing on fixing the problems ourselves we can then merge with no bond and our water costs will drop immediately saving each district customer about $8,000.

That doesn't even figure in the value of the district. The water district is OWNED by the Lompico community. The land and infrastructure have value. But the incumbents want to GIVE it to SLVWD and saddle Lompico with MILLIONS of dollars in debt.

SLVWD paid California American Water $13.4 MILLION and assumed $2.9 MILLION in debt to acquire Felton Water.

Shouldn't they be PAYING US for our district?



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