Water rate hike opposed by watchdog group
by Peter Burke
Sep 19, 2013 | 2599 views | 13 13 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Heavy opposition to a proposed water rate increase has materialized from a group of San Lorenzo Valley Water District customers who are unhappy with the district’s plans to spend much of the money on a new administrative campus.

The group, which is calling itself SLV Watchdogs, said they have attended every public board meeting and committee meeting the district has held for the past year in an effort to understand its plans for a rate increase and how it spends its money.

What they have learned is not to their liking.

“Our objective is to get rate payers aware of the issues,” said Mark Messimer, one of the leads of the group.

The group formed when several district employees were surveying and taking soil samples in a private neighborhood in preparation for an intertie to the Lompico County Water District, which has since been nixed.

“We were told (by district employees) that ‘we have the right to be here, and you can’t stop us,’” Messimer said. “They could have handled relations with us in a more civilized way.”

The experience left a sour taste in their mouths and they decided to form a group to learn about the district’s activities.

Messimer, a public relations and marketing professional, has teamed up with neighbors Stephen, a licensed engineer, and Suellene Petersen, a retired accountant, to form a core group of ten residents who actively oppose SLV Water District’s administrative campus project based on the spending plan of the district.

They have launched a website with their findings and analysis, www.slvwd.co, as well as a Facebook page under the name San Lorenzo Valley Watchdogs.

 

What does the group oppose?

The group says they do not oppose a rate increase, per se, but do oppose the current increase for many reasons.

“We want (an) increase that’s sane and rational and within the best interests of the rate payers,” Suellene Petersen said.

They say the current 5-year increase, which includes compounding increases each year from 2013 to 2018 and will increase the districts annual revenue from about $5 million to $8 million by 2018, is far too much for the district.

“There is no compelling justification for this,” Messimer said.

The district says the rate increase will adequately fund operations, maintenance, capital replacement expenses and debt obligations and pay for the construction of an administrative campus in downtown Boulder Creek.

Stephen Petersen said the group does not oppose an increase to pay for the district’s operational needs, but said a feasibility study and return on investment analysis should be done before the campus, and its additional $6 million price tag are taken on by ratepayers.

The groups ultimate goal?

“SLV Water District should pull back and reproduce a viable, transparent and realistic proposed rate increase,” Messimer said. “Financial shenanigans and pet projects are not a viable option.”

The group also hopes ratepayers will mail written and signed protest letters to the district that include the writer’s address and/or assessor’s parcel number by the rate increase hearing at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24.

Comments
(13)
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The Watchdogs
|
October 08, 2013
SLV Watchdogs Discover an Additional $3.3M Not Disclosed in the Campus Price Tag

That’s right folks, the cost of their Taj Mahal Campus & All-Night Gas Station (next to the San Lorenzo River) has ballooned to $12.8M.

SLV Water has stated that it’s a $6M project. Then the Watchdogs unburied $3.5M in Campus pre-construction expenditures that they kept hidden in the depths of their website. Now we have found an additional $3.3M in loan costs and interest that must have slipped their minds during their press interviews and board meetings.

The Watchdogs have published an in-depth white paper on the financial and regulatory facts regarding the Campus Project. If you thought it was outrageous and unnecessary before this point, this is going to send you through the roof.

http://www.slvwd.co/dp/content/white-paper-administrative-campus
Lars Ranovich
|
September 24, 2013
Question - what good does it do to send a protest in if the Water District, which wants the rate increase, is overseer of the counting of the ballots.

Isn't that akin to the foxes guarding the henhouse?

At the last increase it was clear that more people sent in protests than the district counted. I mean, why would they want the ratepayers to win, right?

So, what's the point?
SLV Watchdogs
|
September 25, 2013
Lars, we absolutely agree.

This is a "fox counting the hens" setup by SLV Water. These guys are doing everything they can to exclude the rate-payers from the protest process.

At our request, Supervisor McPherson contacted SLVWD management to offer oversight into the collection and tabulation process. He was told "Thanks, but no thanks. We have our own attorney approved processes." The last thing SLV Water wants is clarity and oversight in this process.

The SLV Watchdogs highly recommend that you hand-deliver your Letter of Protest to the Thursday, Oct 24th, Public Hearing to be held at the Highlands Park Senior Center in Ben Lomond. This meeting starts at 7pm and we recommend that your protest be submitted before the end of the Public Testimony portion of the meeting to insure that they are included in the count.

The Watchdogs were on Good Morning Monterey Bay on KSCO 1080 AM this last Monday. Here's the link for more insight on these issues.

http://slvwd.co/dp/sites/default/files/docs/media/KSCO_20130923_GMMB_Hour3_SLVWD.MP3

Also remember that there is a rate-payer Town Hall Meeting on Wed. Oct 2, starting at 7pm at Park Hall in Ben Lomond. Here's a link to the event flyer.

http://www.slvwd.co/dp/sites/default/files/townhallmeeting10.02.13_0.png
Theryl
|
September 24, 2013
I sent in my protest letter. Thanks for the heads up watchdawgs!
SLV Watchdogs
|
September 24, 2013
The Watchdogs, in partnership with other concerned individuals and community groups are announcing a...

Town Hall Meeting for SLV Water Rate-Payers

Wednesday, Oct 2, starting at 7pm

Park Hall Community Center

9400 Mill St., in Ben Lomond

Come and Learn...

Why SLV Water wants your $$$

How it will affect your finances

Protest counting controversies

How to Protest the rate increase

How to get the message out

Printable event flyers are available at:

http://www.slvwd.co/dp/sites/default/files/townhallmeeting10.02.13_0.png

Or visit the Watchdogs Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/slvwd.co

SLV Watchdogs
|
September 22, 2013
The SLV Watchdogs have posted a Letter of Protest form on their website...

http://slvwd.co/dp/sites/default/files/docs/PROTEST Form Template v6.pdf

and Facebook page...

https://www.facebook.com/slvwd.co

Remember, if YOU DO NOTHING, that's a YES vote for a 65% RATE INCREASE.

Differnt Ways to Use This Form to Defeat the Rate Increase:

* Print out a stack and see if a local retailer will let you leave them on the counter

* Send a copy or link to all your SLV neighbors in your email address book

* Take some to the next school meeting, coffee date with friends, or any other social event

* Print and post them on local bulletin boards
Elisabeth Collins
|
September 22, 2013
What a wonderful thing. A grassroots group organizing in opposition to a less-than-honest public agency.

Love it!
Felton Customer
|
September 21, 2013
WOOF!
Andrew Smith
|
September 19, 2013
Perhaps time to revisit the FLOW propaganda as it relates to SLV Water District's transparency, low rates, and local control.

What a joke.
Felton parent
|
September 24, 2013
Although I definitely plan to submit a protest to this rate hike, let's not forget the bad old days of Cal Am ownership. Under Cal Am, our water bills were more than double what they are now. In addition, every time I walk down my street, I am reminding of their shoddy repair work.

We do have local control, and that is why we locals must step up and protest this hike.

(And no, I am not a FLOW member.)
Pat Brown
|
September 24, 2013
@FeltonParent, our rates are actually currently more than what we ever paid with Cal Am and will not be more than double thank to the 65% rate increase which some are saying is really 80%.

Shoddy repair work? Who's in charge now. If you are reminded of shoddy repair work every time you walk down the street, then you must be truly disgusted with the San Lorenzo Valley Water District as it is their shoddy system you are looking at.

But yeah, Cal Am's gone and just wish they had been replaced with something better than SLVWD.
Jenna T
|
September 19, 2013
https://www.facebook.com/slvwd.co

and

http://www.slvwd.co/
Felton Resident
|
October 03, 2013
Thank you Watchdogs! I am pleased that there are still some people with common sense in this county. We've already been hit with rate increases from San Lorenzo Valley Water District since the purchase from CalAm by Felton residents. In fact, review your property tax statement. Felton residents have already been duped into paying over $500/yr for the bond measure alone. This makes SLVWD one of the most expensive water districts in the county!


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