Leading with the Chin
What a pleasure to see my name in huge print featured on the Water Security Team flyer that arrived today. I would be delighted to answer the questions that were directed at me, as a candidate for re-election to our Board of Directors.
1) “Who Elected them?”
I applied when there was a vacancy at the District and was chosen to fill the vacancy. I went to the Elections Office and filled out all the paperwork to run for office even after that. Nobody ever chose to run against me. I hope that the two Water Team candidates for the Sanitary District will find out why.
2) “How well have they represented your interests?”
I have been on the board for 12 years. In that time, we have processed your wastewater with nothing but high marks from all regulatory agencies. We have maintained an ongoing infrastructure maintenance program that includes replacing 26 miles of our 75 miles of pipes, and routinely inspecting and cleaning them all. We modernized the plant with a master plan that had been devised in 2004 and implemented a few years later with a $10 million bond. We have nearly completed the master plan with just the Essential Services Building and the recycle plant remaining. In 2017, we renegotiated our bond and reduced the time to repay at lowered interest, thus saving $4 million. We have an AA+ Bond rating. We created the financial model we follow today and make our capital expenditures out of our capital fund instead of borrowing. We follow an administrative model whereby the Board makes policy, the staff implements that policy, and we only use consultants for specific tasks. We limit the amount we spend on consultants.
Shall I go on? Hopefully, you have attended one of our recent tours of our plant. If not, why not schedule a visit?
3) “Did you know that your sanitation services are billed in your property tax bill?”
There is an exposé! This means that your Sanitary District receives its operating funds as a set amount in two installments per year. We must live within that budget. We live within that budget. Individualized services are billed to those who use them, not the entire community. The rate system is subject to more fluctuations in charges to customers than the property tax system.
4) “Feeling the pressure of an election for the first time, the Montecito Sanitary District Board members finally decided to do a very small-scope recycle water project. They’re going to water the District’s property.”
This is the best of all! We are doing a very small scope recycle project to prepare for the management of the recycle plant that the current Water District proposes to build on our property. We are doers, not talkers. We are educating ourselves with hands-on learning that is within our own budget. Key staff members are visiting other agencies to listed and learn. We are not allowed to sell or transport water to the public, but we are allowed to use it on our own property.
5) ”Why is Montecito not on the list?” (of the seven local communities that have recycled water for irrigation)
Now, what do the seven communities have that Montecito doesn’t have? Answer: A willing and able water district which must, by law, build the plant within the specs provided by the Sanitary District. They must pay to transport the recycled water to customers, while the Sanitary District is responsible for managing the plant. Where in the world is the Water District going to get the money to pay for such a project in the midst of extended drought, debris flow disaster, and lawsuits?
The Water Security Campaign (a.k.a. Birnam Group) has two Water District directors on the board since 2016, Floyd Wicks and Tobe Plough. They have not exercised leadership roles yet. Soon, they will have a majority on the Water Board of Directors. At that time, I expect them to openly advocate the “Public/Private Partnership” idea that Wicks and others are promoting. That will bring in investor ownership into our local public utilities for the first time.
In summary, please reverse all the questions aimed at your Sanitary District and turn them toward the Water Security Campaign and see what they have offered you besides empty slogans. They may have to take this one on the chin.