Commentary: Water rate increase more about pet projects than improvements
by Randall C. Brown
Oct 17, 2013 | 12982 views | 9 9 comments | 509 509 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When elected to the board of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District last November, I was pleased to have the opportunity to work with people I respect. The long-serving majority played a highly positive role in the sale of the Waterman Gap property and the acquisition of the Felton water system. I am, however, disappointed by their support of the proposed five year rate hike.

There is good reason to be concerned about the state of our aging infrastructure. Ours has always been a patchwork system. I would happily support dedicating our time, attention, and funds to repairs and improvements. After careful study and many conversations with concerned citizens, however, I have come to believe that this necessary work has taken second place to two over-priced pet projects — the office campus and the emergency interties.

There is a nightmarish quality to the proposed administrative plan. To begin with, we paid too much for dubious real estate. The problem has been compounded by grand plans, including a meeting hall and a fuel depot. I feel the public would be better served by holding our meetings in the under-utilized community halls in our various towns. The idea of centralizing our operations in Boulder Creek is questionable—it seems to make more sense to distribute our vehicles and personnel, utilizing our existing facilities in Felton and Scotts Valley. While I agree that our office staff deserves a better work environment than our ancient headquarters provides, we could find suitable space in existing buildings. I see nothing wrong with renting office or garage space. The estimated $6 million price tag is excessive and I fear that we will borrow this amount without consulting the public.

The intertie project seemed like a good idea when proposed. The withdrawal of the Santa Cruz Municipal, Soquel, and Lompico Water agencies and the scaling back of the state’s funding commitment means that we have pledged more than $4 million of our reserves to construct pipelines that are only supposed to be used in emergencies. The long-standing plan to link the Boulder Creek and Ben Lomond area with Felton is well-worth undertaking as part of infrastructure improvement without the limitations imposed by the “emergency” funding plan. The cost of hooking up Scotts Valley does not, however, seem proportionate with the benefits.

In many ways, our district has been shaped by second thoughts. The founders of the district envisioned dams at Waterman Gap and a few hundred yards away from the Zayante Fault. In Santa Cruz, the city council has decided to conduct a thorough review of their much-touted desalination project and to encourage public participation in the process. We could profit by their example.

The conditions imposed by Proposition 218 make it quite difficult for public protests to stop the rate hike. The directors are, however, empowered to scale it back. Hopefully, others on the board will rethink some of the assumptions behind the proposal and help craft a more reasonable alternative, but, unless it is significantly reduced, I will vote against it on October 24.

- Randall C. Brown is a member of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District’s Board of Directors.

                 

                 

Comments
(9)
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Brown Fan
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October 22, 2013
Very courageous and ethical letter. Thank you Randall.
The Watchdogs
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October 22, 2013
SLV Water Director Randall Brown Interviewed On KSCO 1080 AM

Director Brown discusses his reasoning for dissenting against the proposed rate increase. Our community should be proud to have him representing his constituents, rather then SLVWD's expensive pet projects.

Thank you, Randall, for your dedication to the SLV community.

Copy/Paste this URL into your web browser to hear the interview.

http://www.slvwd.co/dp/content/10212013-ksco-interview-randall-brown
The Watchdogs
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October 20, 2013
SLV Water Director, Randall Brown, Brings His Voice of Reason to Rosemary Chalmers, Good Morning Monterey Bay Radio Show (KSCO 1080 AM) on Monday Morning at 8:15

From the beginning, Director Brown has shown complete dedication to his SLV constituents and has continually questioned the excessive spending plans of the SLVWD board of directors.

“Hopefully, others on the board will rethink some of the assumptions behind the proposal and help craft a more reasonable alternative, but, unless it is significantly reduced, I will vote against it on October 24.”

Listen in on Monday morning to hear his dissenting position to the 65% rate increase that self-serving and entrenched SLV board members want to ram down onto the community.
Mark Messimer
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October 19, 2013
Rosemary Chalmers to SLVWD Chairman Vierra: “Get a grip. Be an adult. Show up!”

Listen as Rosemary Chalmers, host of Good Morning Monterey Bay, KSCO 1080AM, updates her audience on Thursday night’s SLVWD Board Meeting.

Rosie, a Ben Lomond resident and SLVWD rate-payer has been a visible and out-spoken protester of the 65% rate increase. On Friday morning, she took to the airwaves and let it rip.

Copy / paste this URL into your web browser:

http://www.slvwd.co/dp/sites/default/files/docs/media/KSCO_20131018_GMMB_Hour3_SLVWD.MP3

Beth Hollenbeck
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October 18, 2013
I believe what Randall Brown wrote is fairly consistent with the the views of most rate payers. It's hard to support "more money" if it's going to go down the drain. I personally do not trust that the intertie is for "emergencies only" and believe it will eventually lead to shipping our water out to areas of the county that completely over built with no infrastructure to support the demand. Their water is going to have to come from somewhere...

I feel people would support our water district if we saw fiscal responsibility and good maintenance practices on our existing structures. I believe the proposal needs some fine tuning and funds earmarked for more appropriate uses than an intertie and mulit-million dollar real estate ventures.
Sandy Smith
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October 18, 2013
Curious. "The long-standing plan to link the Boulder Creek and Ben Lomond area with Felton" ....

Doesn't Felton have an agreement that their water will not be shipped out of town. But once Boulder Creek and Ben Lomond tie in, then it's no longer Felton's water, right?

Anybody have more info on that?
John L Nagel
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October 18, 2013
My first thought was that this must have taken great courage to write given the disrespect that the other 4 board members – Margaret Bruce, Jim Rapoza, Terry Vierra, Larry Prather – have publicly displayed to Randall Brown and citizens of the San Lorenzo Valley.

But, on second thought, having spoken with Mr. Brown on several occasions, I realized that it didn’t take courage as much as conviction. Brown is clearly an advocate for both the ratepayers of the district and the water delivery mechanisms of the San Lorenzo Valley. He is able to put ill-advised peer pressure in its place and not allow it to sway his voting. Bravo, Mr. Brown!

I find it imperative now to find 3 citizens equal to Brown’s intelligence and sense of responsibility to run for water board in 2014 to displace those board members who have shown incompetence and disdain for the people of the San Lorenzo Valley.

Mark Messimer
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October 17, 2013
As a Felton resident I am very grateful for,and extremely proud of, Director Browns dedication to the community.

His continued voice of reason, even when his fellow board members publicly disrespected his positions and opinions, has set the bar of political ethics extremely high. I wish all my elected officials could raise to his standards.

Thank you, Randall. You are a true example of honor and integrity.
Daniel Apelo
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October 17, 2013
Wow. Dude totally rocks!


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