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.