Archive » September 23, 2010
By Matt Loudon
As the Trustee At-Large for ID No. 1, I have read with great interest the commentary by those desiring to replace the three incumbents with a “coalition” of candidates that will form a “New Majority” on the Board. I thought it might be appropriate for another point of view to be presented.
One month prior to my 11th birthday, our family arrived to this Valley in 1964. I went to College School, graduated SYVU High School, and earned my degree in Agricultural Business Management from Cal Poly in 1976. Since returning from school, I felt a responsibility to serve this community and earn the trust of the residents I represented. I have been a Center Chairman and County Director to the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau. I’ve represented this Valley’s interests on the GPACs of three supervisors (Hedlund, Wallace, and Holmdahl) in the late 1970s and into the mid-80s. In 1983, I was elected to the Board of the Los Olivos School District, and served 13 years. In 1999, I was asked to serve as a director of the Valley Foundation, and did so humbly for nine years, and at present, I serve as a seasoned, experienced trustee on the ID No.1 Board.
My record and commitment to the residents of the Santa Ynez Valley and to the customers of ID No.1 is in sharp contrast to the coalition candidates’ misinformation, half-truths, unsupported sound bites, and their own records of service to this community. Mr. Beebe and Mr. Musgrove attended their first meeting of the Board in August. (I imagined I would see Ms. Carroll for the first time at the Sept. 21 meeting.) None of the three have a history of attendance. None of the three have made requests for information, or contacted the Board or management for facts and information. Instead, their “facts” and information might be provided by their “recruiters.” Bob Field and Mike Hadley. Interestingly, Bob Field does not reside within ID No.1’s boundaries and Mike Hadley is not a customer. Many ratepayers would like to know why gentlemen who are not customers of the District are so aggressively seeking to place a “recruited” slate of candidates, a “New Majority,” on the ID No.1 Board that, up to now, has shown no interest in the Board or made any inquiries into the operations of the District for the past 13 years. What I read from commentary provided by the coalition concerning the condition of ID No. 1 and its overall health and operations, their statements do not represent the actual condition of the District, which I know as a sitting trustee. They play fast and loose with the facts. Disinformation abounds. Many of the letters are from folks who have never attended meetings or contacted ID No.1. Their proposed “changes” would be devastating, not only to the rate payers of ID No.1 and the residents of Solvang, but to all of the water users within the Santa Ynez Valley watershed.
It’s time the voters heard the truth about what’s really going on at ID No.1. Below are some of concerns the coalition candidates have identified, and in response, the facts they would prefer the voters not have:
• The fiscal health of this District is incredibly good. Our auditors have just completed their work on the 2010 audit, which will be presented by the Auditor at the October regular meeting. Come and listen. The District reviews actual expenditures against its budget monthly and maintains reserves at a very safe level, something that few public agencies have in these tough economic times.
• The Board adopted in 1996, with full hearings and public input, a 15-year rate schedule to slowly raise and distribute over time the rapid and substantial ramp-up costs incurred in the State Water Project. The Rate Study was comprehensive, analyzing capital demands, future costs, anticipated water use and demand changes, and resulted in a rate schedule that has placed the District on firm financial footing.
• The City of Solvang is wholly within the boundaries of ID No.1. Not a single Solvang resident is a ratepayer of ID No.1. The city is a customer and owns two meters, and pays a facilities charge only on each of those two meters. No Solvang resident pays a meter charge to ID No.1. The city obtains water from ID No. 1 on demand like any other ratepayer.
• The City of Solvang sets its own rates. When rates are compared, a typical monthly water bill of an ID No.1 ratepayer who uses 20 hcf of water, including a meter charge, is about $80. A comparable Solvang bill, using the same amount of water and adding the demand charges for four people, is about $120. The county average is $96 for a comparable bill. The Coalition claims ID No.1 rates are actually higher. If this is the case, then why would the New Majority propose to sell water to the city at a reduced rate, subsidized by ID No.1 ratepayers?
• During the last 15 years, the ID No.1 rates have only risen a little over 100 percent, not 200 percent as asserted by the coalition, which is much less than the increase of rates by other districts and cities, especially those who have the added costs of State Water.
• The cooperative atmosphere between ID No.1 and the City of Solvang is very good. In fact, ID No.1 has been assisting Solvang with its development of river wells to help provide Solvang more water independence.
• ID No.1 has not doubled staff during the last 12 years as the coalition claims. Twelve years ago the District had 12 employees. Today, it has 13. The general manager’s salary is competitive with similar agencies and less than many. His work load is heavier.
• The legal services provided to ID No.1 are reasonable in light of the complex issues facing ID No.1, such as renewal of water permits, environmental issues, multiple arrangements with and memberships in other agencies, and defense of water rights.
• Coalition candidates who have “run” them claim that a small private mutual water company is similar to a public water district like ID No.1. Nothing could be further from the truth. The two are dissimilar in water regulatory requirements, competing inter-agency relationships, multiple sources of water, burdensome environmental mandates, Government Code requirements and public labor laws, just to mention a few.
• There already exists a long-term capital improvement program for prioritizing and constructing system projects, something the coalition denies. Most recently, ID No.1 improved pressures in some areas of the system and increased water delivery efficiencies by completing a system control program.
• ID No.1 has been vigilant in securing and protecting multiple water resources, including water from Lake Cachuma, State Project water, Santa Ynez River water and groundwater, to ensure that its customers have high-quality reliable water, even if one or more of its sources is interrupted.
• ID No.1 has worked closely and cooperatively with the South Coast water agencies to maintain our water supplies in Lake Cachuma in the face of increasing environmental constraints. In our efforts to protect fish, measures have been implemented to hold extra water, build habitat enhancement projects, and provide maintenance flows in the warm months and passage flows during reproductive periods.
• The current year annual budget and prior year audited financial statement are posted on the ID No.1 website.
• Notices of the ID No.1 Board meetings are posted, published and available online in full compliance with the law and copies of ID No.1’s meeting agendas are available on-line and at the ID No.1 office. Participation by our customers and the general public is always encouraged.
The coalition’s continued references for the need to increase inter-agency cooperation in water rights either exposes the coalition’s ignorance with the issues we face in the watershed, or gives us a glimpse of its true intent. Mr. Beebe, when asked about South Coast involvement in Solvang’s licensing of its river well field, said there is plenty of room for discourse and the best vehicle is the EIR process. Bob Field chastised the board for not including South Coast interests in the discussion concerning actions to help Solvang perfect its river right. It’s Solvang’s water! Leaders of the Coalition and its allied groups are co-sponsoring a forum with South Coast environmental and anti-growth organizations. Interests over the hill have never waivered from their intention to challenge any attempt by Solvang to perfect their right. Who is the Coalition representing? Why are they injecting South Coast interests into our water discussions? Every voter and every entity that holds rights to the river, from the San Lucas Ranch to the mouth of the Santa Ynez, must be wondering what exactly is going on. I sure do.
Matt Loudon is a resident of Los Olivos and Trustee At-Large, SYRWCD ID#1