Commentary: In support of SLV Water District rate increase
by Nancy Macy
Sep 26, 2013 | 12295 views | 12 12 comments | 563 563 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The rate increase proposed for SLV Water District customers is not only justified; it is necessary. Concern for low-income residents is shared not only by those opposed to the increase, but also by every SLV Water District Board Member, and every employee. They have been diligent and careful in their evaluation of the district’s needs for long-term efficiency, centralizing district operations, dealing with the threat of long-term drought years and possible emergencies, and maintaining a quality supply of water in sufficient quantity to meet our current and future needs.

Contrary to opponents’ statements, the district is not spend-thrift. District staff is knowledgeable and their skills state-of-the-art; they understand the strengths and weaknesses in the system, the requirements imposed by various County, State and Federal agencies, and what improvements are needed, where.

Our board members are remarkable in their dedication and depth of understanding of district operations. Three of them have served on the board for 15 years or more and all have reputations for intelligent decision-making. This decision was not lightly made.

Why centralize administration and operations onto one site? This need was recognized almost twenty years ago. Both buildings in downtown Boulder Creek are very old, difficult to heat and maintain, and one is seismically unsound and not ADA compliant. In addition, the equipment storage area at Quail Hollow and Zayante roads is being taken back by the county to enable major bridge improvements; trucks and equipment are spread in different areas, vulnerable to vandalism, making operations less efficient and emergency response slower. When the Prosser property on Highway 9 came on the market in 2005, it provided an excellent opportunity to consolidate operations. Inevitably, some issues and costs for the site were unforeseen, but with extensive preliminary work in place, it can quickly become a Leed-certified, earthquake safe facility with secure storage, improved equipment maintenance, and an excellent public meeting space. Maintenance costs and energy use will be significantly reduced from the many current sites.

Why invest in capital improvements? The carefully researched 2010 Strategic Plan demonstrated that hundreds of leaks are wasting water resources continuously, and it is taking too long to repair and replace them. Seventy year-old pipes and aging tanks need replacing and other upgrades are overdue. Upgrades will improve water quality, reducing on-going treatment costs.

Why include matching funds to receive State funds for the emergency intertie system? Those funds are required in one lump sum, and will thus come from Reserves – the increase allows the district to restore those reserve funds more rapidly. The intertie will upgrade important systems, enabling neighboring districts to provide water to us if an emergency (earthquake, flood, extreme freeze) prevents our district from doing so, and vice versa.

Why will the schools benefit in spite of the increase? They will benefit from the flat rate system of the new tier structure; this flat rate, while an increase, provides long-term stability for financial planning, a real boon.

How do our rates compare to neighboring water districts? Now at the bottom, our rates will be still be in the middle range compared to neighboring districts.

Why doesn’t the district provide rate alternatives for lower income residents? Turns out it is against state law! The only way to establish water rates is based on providing water, so the district cannot make allowances based on income as PG&E can do.

It is significant that the proposed rate increase will make key necessary improvements to administrative and operating functions, improve water supply quantity and quality, and help insure that supply during extreme emergencies. The funds are for specific, well-defined needs.

On the district website, there is now a great fact sheet that explains where our water comes from and how it gets to us — and why the increase is necessary and not optional or reckless. There are many more details on the website, so you too will feel better about budgeting to afford the rate increase.

Let the district know you support their dedication to provide quality water, and support the rate increase.

- Nancy B. Macy is a Boulder Creek resident

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Shae King
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.
Stan Barney
October 07, 2013
Nancy Macy thinks we're stupid. She's wrong.
Benita Lomond
October 02, 2013
Reminder the SLV Watchdogs ratepayer meeting is tonight 7pm at Park Hall in Ben Lomond, across the street from the Ben Lomond Park.

This is not a SLVWD propaganda meeting, it is a meeting for ratepayers to protest the rate increase.

Learn about the rate increase and file a protest at the meeting. Tell your neighbors!
Benita Lomond
October 02, 2013
Felton parent
October 01, 2013
I really appreciate the thoughtful comments posted here. Although I am not as informed as some of you about this issue, my first reaction to Nancy Macy's comments is that they didn't pass the smell test.

I completely agree with Bruce Holloway regarding the administrative campus. With all the unoccupied space in the Valley, in what parallel universe is it necessary???
Bruce Holloway
September 28, 2013
I don't know anyone who doesn't agree that SLVWD needs to continue capital spending to upgrade and maintain infrastructure. That isn't news. And I don't know anyone who doesn't agree that periodic rate increases are needed to keep up with cost inflation.

But the campus project sticks out like a sore thumb among all the other projects to replace pipes and tanks. There's unoccupied office space for rent in our Valley. There are meeting rooms for over a hundred people all over the Valley, whenever that's necessary.

The campus was conceived before the Felton water system was added and before Lompico asked to be consolidated. Ben Lomond would be a more central location for a new headquarters.

According to the water rate study, over $6 million needs to be borrowed for the campus in fiscal year 2015. Including interest, it's over $1000 per household. If this project is so compelling, why not use a democratic process and put it to a vote? We could have a bond issue on the ballot in June, 2014.
Larry Fogelquist
September 28, 2013
I completely agree with Mr. Holloway. This SLV WD Campus project proposal should be decided through a bond issue on the ballot and not through the proposition 218 process. Let us voters decide.
Stephen Petersen
September 27, 2013
Your polemic convinces only those who are already convinced. A genuine argument is supported by actual fact, not forcefully stated opinions.

You say that "contrary to opponents' statements, the district is not spend-thrift." Your argument rests on a claim of competence that allegedly results in appropriate spending. Examples please? The opponents you cite asked the same question, but reserved judgment only until after they had thoroughly conducted their own investigation into spending patterns contained in the districts publically available disbursement records for the period from 2005 to 2013. For example, there were no public statements about how woefully inadequate the present administrative buildings were until very recently, but during the period between 2009-2010 over $450,000 were being paid to renovate them. This is odd; apparently the code and safety violations weren't considered high enough priority to address at the time. Or maybe they weren't even known. And simultaneously, money was being poured into the expensive design of the administrative campus, which from the same analysis is upwards of $3.6 million dollars. Spend-thrift?

The arguments supporting the administrative campus must be weighed prudently against the costs and there is no such cost analysis available anywhere. I only hear shallow emotional opinions offered as specious reasoning in opinion pieces like yours. There is no objective convincing content. The 2010 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), placed the campus project in the highest and most urgent "A" category as project A6 without any documented quantitatively compelling reason. The CIP itself was supposed to be subject to review every two years, but this never took place. Why? It was only after a community member requested a list of "completed projects from the CIP" several board meetings ago that something moved. This event sparked an interesting ad hoc dialog between the Board President and the General Manager. At that meeting, the two fumbled with the fourteen category projects trying to agree on which had been done and which hadn't; there was no consensus. At the next board meeting, expecting a list, the board instead passed a resolution to conduct what amounts to the tardy two year review. How encouraging. The ship of state is being led by wise, informed and competent leadership, and who are we to question them?

The 2010 Strategic Plan includes five of the CIP's category A projects, but without any discussion explaining why they were specifically chosen and others were excluded, especially why we must accept the campus to be more urgent, with its absurd price tag, over other category A infrastructure improvements that could be done instead. Uh, you know, the 100 year old leaking pipes, tanks and such?

The "carefully researched 2010 Strategic Plan" is a three year old document that sat on the General Manager's desk for over a year before it was hastily put on the agenda at the first board meeting in September. There, Director Brown requested that adoption be delayed to give him time to study it, since four days from the time of its posting was insufficient to enable a responsible vote. The reaction by the majority was hostile and disrespectful. He was overridden and it was rubber-stamped without further discussion.

You are asking us to accept the decisions made by a hostile oligarchy that claims transparency but belies this in their actions; that claims to want "completely open and honest input" from the community but rejects it at every turn. How do I know this? Because we attend board meetings and subcommittee meetings and we take notes, and we have been doing so for well over a year. And I'm not the only one.

Stephen Petersen,

Member, San Lorenzo Valley Watchdogs

Felton Frank
September 27, 2013
OUCH! That had to hurt.

Time to go back to the SLVWD PR firm for another attempt at glossing over the facts, Mary.

Well said, Stephen. Thank you to the Watchdogs for keeping the rate payers informed and educated.

I'm going to save my protest form and walk it in at the upcoming public meeting. Mailing it into the office seems like putting the fox in charge of guarding the chickens.
Fran Feinhorn
September 27, 2013
Is she serious? support the water districts rate increase?

Valley Womens Club has jumped the shark.
Don Simpson
September 26, 2013
Interesting. Every single paragraph contains a lie.

Every. Single. Paragraph.
Suzie Plyor
September 26, 2013
Oh, poor thing.

Nancy (whose organization benefits from "grants" from the water district) says:

"Why centralize administration and operations onto one site? This need was recognized almost twenty years ago. Both buildings in downtown Boulder Creek are very old, difficult to heat and maintain, and one is seismically unsound and not ADA compliant."

Then why, Nancy, did the water district spend $1 million in ratepayer money to remodel district office in Boulder Creek to resolve the issues you just mentioned?

The days where people hear a Valley Womens Club claim and nod their heads in compliance are long past.

We get it. You get money from the water district. You have to pander to their stuff. But, please Nancy, spare us. We are all much smarter than you think.

We encourage your online comments in this public forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a forum for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Readers may report such inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at