Letter: SLV Water District rate increase essential to maintaining services
Oct 03, 2013 | 3977 views | 17 17 comments | 82 82 recommendations | email to a friend | print
EDITOR,

Let’s support the San Lorenzo Valley Water District’s proposed rate increase now, because we can’t afford to wait.

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District reviewed its operational and financial health. After careful study over many years, the need for a rate increase is clear. Funds from the rate increase are the only viable solution to upgrade the aging and disconnected facilities, maintain services across our wide valley, prepare for inevitable emergencies, and support proper management of the watershed and fishery.

Now is the time to pay for our children’s water system. We can’t wait to repair what is already worn out and leaking, or those repairs will be even more expensive. We can’t wait any longer to prepare for that catastrophic wildfire, drought, or earthquake that could dismantle or shut-down the system throughout its many neighborhoods across the valley. Much of the current equipment has exceeded its useful life, and the current buildings are too old to support the personnel, vehicles, storage, and business required by our modern community. Costs will increase even more if we require the district staff to continue dealing with more unnecessary water main breaks, failed wells, failed water tanks, and failed pumps. The district is already far behind on these improvements, and deficits are looming. We have known these rate increases were coming, so let’s get on with it.

If we fail to pay for the required improvements now, and fail to meet our need to provide safe and reliable water, will there be another viable option? No. Has planning been thorough and professional? Yes. Is there a better option to prepare now? No.

Our community has to look after itself, whether on a nice summer day, stormy night, after an earthquake, or as a wildfire bears down. The people who work for the district can only do so with the tools we provide to them. The people who we elected and serve us as volunteers on the board of directors and various committees have reviewed the strategic plans, costs studies, building plans, budgets, and audits, and the majority voted to approve the rate increase. We should be involved and aware, and participate in meetings. And after doing so, we should support the district’s employees, elected directors, and volunteer committee members by recognizing their dedicated work, and supporting their judgment.

John Fasolas, Felton

Comments
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The Watchdogs
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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
Donna Maurillo
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October 06, 2013
After reading this letter, my first reaction was, "What an embarrassing piece of PR fluff!!" And I've been a PR professional all my life. This is the kind of verbal trickery that gives the rest of us a bad name.

Nearly all the focus was on the failing infrastructure. Who can deny that we need to ensure proper maintenance and safe service? That's reasonable and expected. But notice how the issue of an unnecessary and overpriced "campus" was glossed over. It's been estimated that the cost of this facility will be $500 per square foot. What are they using? Carrera marble and gold leaf?

How can anyone describe this board as transparent? Their refusal to answer questions and their lack of knowledge about District operations is mind-boggling.

But the most insulting part is that the District will be counting the votes themselves -- with no neutral oversight! Trust us, they say. Would we lie to you? Frankly, we don't know. But to refuse a neutral party to monitor the vote count leads us to believe that shenanigans may occur.

Really. The protest letters go to the District office, and the District officials do the counting in private. And we're supposed to be confident in the outcome.
Lora Renly
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October 07, 2013
The Nancy Macy Valley Womens Club commentary was unsubstantial PR fluff as well. Likewise SLV Water District's Betsy Herberts lobbyist commentaries that the Sentinel allows her to print.

Seriously, people are smarter than this. They embarrass themselves when they write in this manner. Their right to write, absolutely! But at the very least please be authentic.
Leticia Fernandez
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October 05, 2013
Nobody, anymore, believes FLOW or the Valley Womens Club. SLVWD is obviously not up to the task of managing a water district.

New crew please.
SV Lola
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October 12, 2013
I'm with you Leticia! Next election I'm gonna have one rule for voting for SLVWD director... Anybody but these incumbents. Right now the only water board member that is acting in the behalf of the rate payers is Randall Brown. He has been a hero. I gave Margaret Bruce the benefit of the doubt. But in vote after vote she's just been a rubber stamp and gone along with the votes of the three long time incumbents.

I fully expect our attempt to protest this insanity to fail. The barrier is just too high. But there is an actual vote next November and Rapoza, Vierra and Prather need to go. Anybody but this crew.
Lompico Larry
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October 04, 2013
I hope the people of Lompico are reading these posts and comments and finally starting to realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Sounds like SLVWD is NOT in such great shape....raising rates, infrastructure deficits, maintenance issues.....hmm we've heard that a million times in Lompico. So when does the extravagance end and when will these boards learn to build a budget and stick to it. Protest San Lorenzo, Protest!
Kate Tully
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October 04, 2013
Anybody notice an interesting pattern here. The 3 commentaries in support of the 65-68% rate increase and 17,500sf building are Betsy Herbert with the SLVWD, Nancy Macy with the Valley Womens Club, and John Fasolas Felton FLOW organizer.

Foxes. Hen houses.
Mark Messimer
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October 04, 2013
Looks like they're running out of ancient allies.

One thing's for sure, as the hounds of fact and reason close in, the fox is getting nervous.

Keep howling, Doggies!
Mark Messimer
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October 04, 2013
John, you really need to cut back on your consumption of SLVWD Cool-Aid. Your FLOW neighbors have already completed their 12-step recovery program, and now clearly see the absurdity of a 65% rate increase. And they fully understand that SLV Water’s Taj Mahal Campus and All-Night Gas Station will threaten the region’s watershed and family budgets for decades to come.

Let’s take a thoughtful and educated look at your letter and expose the facts behind the fluff.

You state, “The people who we elected and serve us as volunteers on the board of directors and various committees have reviewed the strategic plans, costs studies, building plans, budgets, and audits, and the majority voted to approve the rate increase. “

John, there’s a big difference between “reviewing” documents, and “implementing” the commitments which they approve with a self-serving rubber stamp.

They (with the exception of Director Brown) approved the Strategic Plan which contains a clearly stated Public Affairs objective. It states “Our objective is to show solid planning, long-range outlook and overall value to our customers. We will do this by being completely transparent and open in our business and decisions. We will constantly seek and employ effective ways to receive input, educate and inform the public”

Those that attended last night’s board meeting saw and heard prime examples of what the board considers transparent and effective ways. Once again, they refused to engage in open dialog, and then were forced to reveal that in fact, no member of the board will be attending the Oct 10th Open House meeting with the public. Instead they will be sending non-decision making staff members. Not seeing the transparency, John.

Let’s move onto Cost Studies. Notice how the one thing missing from SLVWD’s Rate Increase webpage is a Feasibility Study and Return-on-Investment Analysis for the proposed Campus? That’s because even after spending over $3M on planning, permits and property for a $9M project, THEY NEVER DID ONE! They spout statements like “significant savings” and “greater efficiency”, yet they never implemented the universal best-practice of proving it with an impartial analysis of the facts. In the real world, they would be jettisoned out the corporate back door and into Unemployment Alley.

Budgets and audits? Take a look at the SLV Water website, John. Try and find a current and updated budget. In fact, try and find a finalized budget for the last fiscal year. Pack a lunch, John, you’re going to be there for a while, because neither exist. They’re running financially blind with the rate-payers monies. Short of Little Suzy’s Lemonade Stand, any business that cannot show fundamental financial planning and auditing practices is doomed to failure.

It’s become glaringly obvious that the only thing transparent with the actions of the SLV Water Board of Directors is a thorough lack of transparency. So the question is, what is it they don’t want us to see?

Wake up, John. Smell the reality.

Bruce Holloway
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October 04, 2013
You're right, they never made a budget for the current fiscal year. They plan to raise rates, but have no budgetary discipline. Why not have a budget and work within it?

Also, the last page of SLVWD's audited financial statements for both 2011 and 2012 says,

"The District's investment policy and related investments are not in alignment with California Government Code for mix of investments.

The District is responsible for investing funds in accordance with California Government Code.

The District's investment policy was not consistently reviewed against the California Government Code."

That's public money. SLVWD and its broker don't follow state law. They continued making investments which exceeded limits in state law during fiscal 2013.

This year SLVWD hired a new auditor who wrote, "we will inform the appropriate level of management of any material errors that come to our attention... We will also inform the appropriate level of management of any violations of laws or governmental regulations that come to our attention, unless clearly inconsequential." It's yet to be seen whether the new auditor will attach another finding of noncompliance or merely inform management what they very well know.

SV Sharon
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October 04, 2013
John, you were an integral part of FLOW so I understand why you would want to justify your actions. But it doesn't make sense. The rate increases you were fighting against under CalAm are now happening under SLV Water District, PLUS all Felton residents have an additional assessment to pay on top of this increase (I'm assuming Olympia is getting the same sticker shock since they just got acquired by SLV Water District, too.) PUC was the oversight agency for CalAm. There is no oversight agency for the SLV Water District! The fox is in the hen house!

Thank you, San Lorenzo Valley Watch Dogs, for all of your efforts to educate the public (since the water district won't) about the real issues that are taking place. Check out their website www.slvwd.co for the facts.
Felton Fiona
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October 04, 2013
@Sharon - absolutely right. Just a correction though, FLOW advertised that the SLVWD would raise rates only 2.5% per year and that Cal Am would raise rates 5% per year and for that terrifying reason we should pay $30 million to give the Felton water system to the San Lorenzo Valley Water District.

Now we have SLVWD raising rates 65-68%, building themselves a Taj Mahal, constructing interties to haul our water out of the valley for profit, and disregarding locals.

SLVWD is making Cal Am look like the good guys. Which, compared to FLOW and the SLVWD, they are!
The Watchdogs
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October 04, 2013
Thank you, SV Sharon. We greatly appreciate your observations and participation in educating SLV Water rate payers as to the facts of this massive and unjustified rate increase.

We're hearing at an alarming rate that many property owners never got their SLVWD public notice. So once again, where SLVWD has not insured complete public disclosure, the Watchdogs have stepped in and inserted a Protest Letter into every copy of this week's Press Banner.

These 9,000 Protest Letters, with a pre-labeled return envelope provided by another concerned rate payer, will be hitting mailboxes this weekend. Please talk with your friends and neighbors to make sure they take less then 5 minutes to fill it out.

Although they can mail their Protest Letter into the district office, we recommend that they hand-deliver it to the Oct. 24 Public Hearing. Let's not allow the fox to be in charge of guarding the hens.

Protest Letters can also be downloaded from our website and Facebook page.

Website: http://www.slvwd.co/dp/

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

Leslie Leonard
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October 03, 2013
Ooooh, somebody doesn't want to admit that the FLOW effort was a sham.

Seriously, who wrote this?
Jack Baker
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October 04, 2013
"SLV Water needs to step back and regroup. Then come back and present a revised, transparent and detailed rate increase proposal to the rate-payers. Rate-payers need to educate themselves with the facts, not PR fluff. (Visit www.slvwd.co)."

Did any Felton Flow members think 7 years ago, at the time when the SlVWD board of directors authorized spending lots of acquisition attorneys' fees to initiate the CalAm eminent domain legal fight to help force CalAm/RWE to sell their ownership of Felton's water system to the public, --ThAT they would feel such an urgent need to write this kind of sadly co-opted, defeatist PR fluff spin opinion letter. Did anyone in FlOW anticipate having to urgently try hard to convince ratepayers how wonderful the SLVWD management has been? (While admitting how far behind their capital imorovements project plan completion is?). Did many hard fighting Felton Flow members anticipate that in the near future they would need to consider how SLVWD has been safeguarding their water, their homes, and their watershed and environment. I wanted to believe SLVWD had a transparent, good sound management plan as well, but unfortunately, I can't. "Recognizing their dedicated work, and supporting their judgement?" Really, John??? If you had run your good, honest, hard working, private electrical contracting business in the same fashion as the SLVWD has been run for the last two dozen years, you would surely have had to have declared bankruptcy 30 years ago, John. And, you would have had to have paid dearly to attorneys to defend you in litigation. How many good, caring Felton FLOW members were aware of the wasteful, "good judgement" of the director's 2 million dollar, 1.7 acre Prosser prooerty purchase, located behind Fosters Freeze in. B,C. completed on August 17, 2004. For starters this way over-valued site is much too near the river!, And it's much too near the river to build a gas station on! How many 68% rate hike supporters are familiar with the riparian nature of this campus property site? I would hope Nancy Macy is aware of this? I would hope she, of all people, is not being environmentally hypocritical! Well over nine years ago, this was the planned site of the 9 million $ white elephant, boondoggle Campus plan. -The arrogant 9 yr. old, $9 million dollar pipe dream of the SLVWD, when it was at least about 30% smaller in the number of rate payers and territory area of the expanding water empire. Why was even more adjacent Hwy 9 Boulder Creek commercial property bought by the district, and thus taken off of the tax base?? Why wasn't this very questionable property acquisition money spent on Capital Improvement Projects, instead ?? Meanwhile the district's infrastructure grows ever weaker and weaker and weaker, year by year, as the rate payer population grows bigger and bigger. The number of gullible new Felton ratepayers is not very large at all, (I believe you are in a small minority, John), but the addition of Felton's water system was a wonderful revenue prize for SLVWD, to help them build the new 9 million dollar white elephant showpiece. This wasteful, unwarranted Campus plan morphed from an administration center to a "facilities consolidation". The SLVWD directors and general manager say the Campus plan is not intended to save the district money, but rather intended to improve efficiency ! If efficiency imorovements do not save money, they are not actually efficient !!! Everyone knows this !! Anyone who drives a car and figures out their mpg knows this. Third Graders realize this. They kniw that consolidation should save money because it should be more efficient. OMG !!! John, do you not see the pathetic, understated irony and ignorance in this statement?, - Especially in light of the district's proven refusal to manage our public water supply properly, for years and years, to get the absolute most out of our water bill rate payments?? I've been watching our district do some questionable management for going on 50 years now, -50 years, next year! When we moved to SLV in 1964, Citizen's Utility was getting ready to sell our neighborhood district area to the southward expanding SLVWD. We actually had much better directors then, and nothing like a Jim Mueller overpaid general manager position! Today, We still have our original 1940's water pipes that SLVWD acquired. How about your old Citizens Utility infrastructure? How is it doing? But don't worry about that, too much, first, let's intertie with Lompico, and save them while we can, just like we did for good old Felton, ......As long as poor Lompico agrees to pay for most of their SLVWD "intertie" manifest destiny acquisition fees, studies, and costs ....as well.
Sam Farly
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October 04, 2013
Jack. You've said what many Felton residents have been saying for years and what many of us tried to warn about during the SLVWD takeover of our water.

SV Lola
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October 12, 2013
Couldn't be this John guy. We've heard him pontificate at board meetings... However the above message actually had multiple words in a row forming more or less complete sentences. So this couldn't be from the same guy.


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