Commentary: SLV Water spins the PR spin
by Mark Messimer
Sep 19, 2013 | 8164 views | 15 15 comments | 450 450 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The excessive rate increase proposed by SLV Water District has taken on a whole new spin within the recently sent public notifications. Hiring a new and expensive PR firm will do that. The $6 million administrative campus, after 8 years in planning and $3 million already spent outside of rate-payer oversight, has suddenly become a facilities consolidation project. But they didn’t tell you the price tag has jumped to $9 million, did they?

The Capital Improvement Program is designed to guide the priorities for infrastructure repair and maintenance. But, it has not been updated since 2010, and they haven’t supplied rate-payers with a current and defined list of projects, and their individual projected costs to justify the proposed rate increase. SLVWD is asking rate-payers to blindly give them the money and trust in their financial planning abilities. That being the case, let’s look at the last time they pushed a rate increase through.

In 2011 SLV Water relied on voter apathy to ram a 15 percent increase upon the rate-payers. They justified it by stating they had incurred a two-year, $600,000 shortfall due to raising energy costs and reduced revenues from rate-payer conservation. The problem is, in that very same time period, they spent $600,000 of the rate-payer’s fees for Admin Campus pre-construction planning and facilities remodeling. While their SLV neighbors were cutting back and trying to stay afloat, SLV Water was spending freely; not practicing sound business tactics.

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 educate themselves with the facts, not PR fluff. (Visit www.slvwd.co).

If the current rate increase passes, the average rate-payer will pay an additional $250 per year, for the next five years. Those on fixed incomes, families trying to make each paycheck last, and parents trying to keep their kids involved in extracurricular programs are going to be hit the hardest. Rate-payers also need to attend and participate in the Thursday, Oct. 10, or Thursday, Oct. 24 (both from 7 to 9 p.m.) Open House Meetings at the Highlands Park Senior Center in Ben Lomond. Most importantly, if you agree that this is a reckless rate-increase, you need to mail in a Letter of Protest by Thursday, October 24, or submit one in person at one of the Open House meetings. It’s the only way rate-payers can put the brakes on this unjustified money-grab.

- Mark Messimer of Felton is one of the founders of the San Lorenzo Valley Watchdogs which has begun to actively oppose SLV Water District’s proposed rate increase.

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
SLV Watchdogs
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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

Auntie FLOW
|
September 23, 2013
Well now wait a minute. FLOW said that SLVWD would raise rates only 2.5% every year, and that they wouldn't ship our water out of the valley, and that we'd have local control of our water.

Now, as I understand it, SLVWD is raising our rates 65 - 80%, making arrangements to ship our water to neighboring water districts which have not conserved water, and ignoring local concerns.

What happened!?!?!?!

Bruce Holloway
|
September 23, 2013
Judging from the punctuation marks at the end of your posting, I share your incredulity/outrage at the proposed 65% rate increase over the next 3 years and 9 months. But I want to make the following clarifications.

Figure ES.2 of SLVWD's 2007 rate study, performed by the same guy who did this year's, shows 3.5% rate increases until 2035 followed by 3% rate increases until 2055:

http://www.slvwd.com/finance/Long Term Financial Plan 2007.pdf

Trying to project utility rates almost thirty or fifty years into the future seems crazy to me! But maybe FLOW based what they said on those numbers bought and paid for by SLVWD.

The neighboring water districts I think you mean are Scotts Valley and Lompico. Scotts Valley Water District is unique in the county in reclaiming water. And Lompico households use less water than either SLV or Scotts Valley. It's just not accurate to claim that those districts haven't conserved water.

The planned interties are authorized for emergency purposes only. They might provide SLVWD with more operational flexibility in the future, but not without further environmental review. In particular, existing water rights do not allow use of Felton water outside Felton.
Lee Burns
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September 23, 2013
Bruce, good info. However better to clarify the planned interties are SUPPOSED to be for emergency use. Not really the case here.
Auntie FLOW
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September 24, 2013
Bruce - failure to conserve water. Think Soquel and Watsonville/Pajaro.

Do you think the interties are for emergency use only? Look again.

2.5% rate increase. This was FLOW's claim.

I wonder, can SLVWD alter Felton's existing water rights? If so, how?
Bruce Holloway
|
September 24, 2013
The Prop 50 intertie proposal originally included connections to Lompico, Santa Cruz, and Soquel Creek, but in the end those were dropped. The remaining interties are to Mount Hermon, Scotts Valley, and two within SLVWD (which is actually comprised of three separate systems: Ben Lomond/Boulder Creek, Felton, and the part of Scotts Valley by the Juvenile Probation Facility).

These interties haven't even been built yet. The environmental study was for emergency use only and anything beyond that would require additional environmental study with public review. It makes sense at least to hook up all of SLVWD within itself. I'm not worried if SLVWD eventually moves water around within its existing boundary.

Soquel Creek Water District has a much bigger problem than SLVWD. Their groundwater doesn't even flow to the ocean anymore -- it flows toward Pajaro Valley. Yet their board of directors this year only imposed a three-year 9% annual rate increase to begin to solve that. SLVWD's board needs to scale back the money grab like Mark Messimer said.

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

Read more: Press-Banner - Water rate hike opposed by watchdog group

Fred McConnell
|
September 22, 2013
3 SLV Water District board member terms expire soon. Get your 3 candidates lined up.

Larry Prather, Director

Term Expires December 2014

James Rapoza, Vice-president

Term Expires December 2014

Terry Vierra, President

Term Expires December 2014
Rachel Wooster
|
September 22, 2013
I really would like to inform myself more about this. The website you give has some great info, thank you. This Facebook page also has some great info as well https://www.facebook.com/slvwd.co

I am out of town for the October 10th meeting, do you know if it is going to be televised or recorded at all?

Thanks for keeping us informed.
anonymous
|
September 22, 2013
Hi Rachel...Just yesterday the Watchdogs met with other concerned rate payers to expand the delivery of our collective outrage over this proposed rate increase. One of the attendees has made Park Hall in Ben Lomond available to hold a Town Hall Meeting to assist rate payers in learning more about the issues and how to stop the increase.

Town Hall Meeting, Wednesday, Oct 3 starting at 7pm.

We'll get event flyers posted on the Watchdog's Facebook page, and website over the next 24 hours. Please pass these flyers along to your neighbors and friends
Anonamous
|
September 23, 2013
Ummm... Next Wednesday is October 2.
Mark Stovall
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September 20, 2013
Mark nice article, but we must be aware of what SLV Water is requiring of us as far as protest. The hoops they are making us jump through are not in the Prop 218 Law. The burden of opposition is not taxpayer initiated, SLV Water is supposed to provide US with the ballot, which we return. You can read the law yourself, it states:

Local governments must mail information regarding assessments to all property owners. Each assessment notice must contain a mail-in ballot for the property owner to indicate his or her approval or disapproval of the assessment.

After mailing the notices, the local government must hold a public hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, the local government must tabulate the ballots, weighing them in proportion to the amount of the assessment each property owner would pay.

Source: http://www.lao.ca.gov/1996/120196_prop_218/understanding_prop218_1296.html#chapter5

See you at the meetings !!

Bruce Holloway
|
September 20, 2013
These aren't assessments, they're fees. Read a little further down in that Chapter 5, under the heading "Requirements for New Fees". SLVWD could have made the process better and easier, but they seem to be complying with Prop 218.

Go ahead and fill out your protest, but we should focus on the substance of the rate increase rather than the process. Mark Messimer is right, SLVWD needs to step back and regroup. Maybe the board will decide to moderate the increases to something more in line with inflation, like Scotts Valley did.
Splitting Hairs
|
September 20, 2013
Assessments, fees. It's just terminology to get around the proper procedure.

Pajaro Valley Water District was sued for exactly this type of situation. The ratepayers won!

SLVWD is wrong and they should be called to the carpet.


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