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2020 President Reports

AUGUST 2020 REPORT FROM CAMBRIA CSD BOARD PRESIDENT HARRY FARMER

First off, I hope everyone is doing as well as possible in these unsettled times, taking good care, staying safe, being kind and considerate of others, and of course appreciating living in this wonderful community of Cambria we are blessed to call home.

At the CCSD Board of Directors meeting on August 13th, one of the issues discussed was revising the procedure for grant applications and pursuing various funding sources, and streamlining the process for doing so.  Much discussion took place among staff, legal counsel and Board members.  The result was approving a new motion that would, when required, expedite the seeking of grant funding regarding the PG&E SST Program, and the projects related to seriously upgrading our Wastewater Plant and Collections system, and Water Storage and Delivery system.  The proposed Agenda item itself was then referred to the Standing Committee on Policy for further review and discussion.

There was also a lively discussion among the Board, District staff, and members of the PROS Commission (Parks, Recreation and Open Space) as to determining which recreational projects need the most attention, and the potential for grant funding in this area as well.  We even had a distant phone call in public comment voicing support for rebuilding the skate park across from the Veteran’s Hall.  Restrooms and other uses on the East Ranch were considered, as well as the future of a skate park.  And while nothing was voted on for approval, the PROS Commission will have further discussion at their next meeting on September 1st regarding the projects they feel are most important and how to move forward, and then get back to the District at our Board meeting on September 10th.

The Board has also recently highly commended the members of our Fire Department for their tireless efforts in volunteering their time in addressing the water damage done to the Fire Station many months ago, and restoring the Station to where it now looks better than ever.  Great job all!!  We also gave two thumbs up to the District’s Finance Department and their efforts, not just in dealing with the recent time consuming Budget Audit while at the same time completing the 2020/21 Budget, but also in working with members of our community who are in need of consideration in paying their water bill due to the unexpected economic challenges being faced by so many in our town.  Dozens of rate payers have either been late or required a payment plan to pay their bill.  Staff has been very attentive toward our residents in need, and these ratepayers have been equally cooperative in meeting their obligations.

Of course the issue on the mind of many Cambrians is the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for the EWS/SWF that was discussed at the CCSD Board of Directors Special meeting on June 25th.  At that meeting, after much public input and Board and staff discussion, the document was passed on to the County Planning Department for review, consideration, and possible approval.  From there it will move on to the Planning Commission for their approval or denial, then to the County Board of Supervisors and the California Coastal Commission.

The County Planning Department has reviewed the application from the Cambria CSD for the CDP for the EWS/SWF (Emergency Water Supply Project/Sustainable Water Facility) and sent a lengthy response.  Among other items of concern, the Planning Department has requested further information from the District regarding various environmental impacts that could result from the operation of the Facility which is located in an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA).  The District has been given 90 days to reply with the required data and documentation.

The CDP was also sent to the Land Use Committee of the NCAC (North Coast Advisory Council) for their consideration.  And while the Committee ultimately recommended approval of the CUP/CDP  (Conditional Use Permit/Coastal Development Permit), this was not without very serious discussion on a variety of issues pertinent to the Permit application and the Plant itself, and an apparently less than unanimous decision.

One thing has become more apparent, both in the past, and as the Permitting process continues to move forward, and that is, various Agencies and Committees reference the likelihood that the EWS/SWF, while available for use in drought emergency conditions to provide an adequate amount of water for current residents/customers, can and could easily also be used for the proposed buildout of Cambria.

Whether one refers to the buildout of Cambria, or the filling out of roughly 660 applicants on the Water Wait List, the future of Cambria, and what our community will look like in the years and decades to come, has of course yet to be determined.  Yet this is an issue of major concern that all residents of our special town should reflect upon as we move forward in the year 2020 and beyond.

Sincerely,

Harry Farmer

JULY 2020 REPORT FROM CAMBRIA CSD BOARD PRESIDENT HARRY FARMER

Needless to say, one of the most important concerns the citizens of Cambria have had for many a year is the availability of water, especially having a dependable source in the summer months and prior to the beginning of our usual rainfall later in the year.

On June 25th the Cambria CSD held a Special Board meeting to discuss the draft Coastal Development Permit for the District’s Water Facility on San Simeon Creek Road known by various names such as the Emergency Water Supply Project (EWS), the Advanced Water Treatment Plant (AWTP), and the more familiar Sustainable Water Facility (SWF). At one point over 40 people were attending the on line Zoom Meeting, certainly the largest turnout for a District Board meeting in many months. Over three dozen public comments were read, either emails submitted to our very capable Deputy District Clerk Haley Dodson, or by members of the community themselves. Most folks expressed support for the Facility, feeling that the plant will provide water security, especially in drought years. Other supporters were also favorable in that growth, meaning that more houses could be built, would finally take place once the Facility would be approved for operation.  Opposition to using the Plant other than in serious drought emergency, which is what the Facility was initially permitted for, was based on environmental concerns, as well as the cost of operating the Plant.  After public comment and limited Board discussion, the CDP has now moved forward to the County Planning Department for their consideration and possible approval. At some point in the near future the CDP application will return to the CCSD Board of Directors for further discussion.

To elaborate a bit more, including clearing up any misunderstandings, it should be understood that the Facility, built in 2014, has yet to provide water of any consequence to our town during the past six years despite ongoing costs of many millions of dollars. Meanwhile, over the years, and at present, various local, State and Federal Agencies continue to express concern over the impact the Plant will have on the natural environment. This is due to the fact that the Plant is in a 92 acre Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA), not to mention the extreme amounts of brine waste produced when the plant operates that will need to be trucked elsewhere, creating further pollution and harm to the environment in the process.  

Also, water produced by the Plant, combining treated wastewater with water from the natural environment, will be extremely expensive, likely up to three times the amount normally incurred by the ratepayers of our community.

Perhaps the most efficient and effective way to address the water needs of our town is through ongoing water conservation, including water collection and storage, and water use and reuse at our homes. Repair and upgrade of the District's Water Infrastructure, including water tanks and the piping in our water delivery system, will hopefully also continue to be how we approach this situation in the future.

We have been fortunate in the past that, when we’ve had serious water challenges, the citizens of our community have always stepped up and cut back on their water usage. Many Cambrian’s continue to cultivate productive habits begun in years gone by. One would hope the more recent arrivals to our town would be equally concerned in the area of water conservation.

Another issue in our town that has recently become more visible are the protests and actions that have taken place in the past couple of weeks at the former location of our community Skate Park.  Many folks of all ages are expressing their disappointment that not only does the Park no longer exist, but that it was apparently torn down with little consideration for the needs of the youth in town. In addition, people are equally upset that it appears no effort is being made to replace and rebuild the Park, either at its former location across from the Veteran’s Hall, or perhaps on the East Ranch off of Rodeo Grounds Road.

While there is more information than can be put in this column that would clarify this issue further, hopefully folks understand that it was because of the deterioration of the Park, and therefore the potential danger to those using it, meaning mainly the youth of our town as well as those visiting from elsewhere, that the Skate Park was removed. Many folks have expressed disappointment that a greater effort wasn’t made to maintain and improve the Park in recent years, a legitimate expression of frustration to be sure. Yet we are now at a point as to how to move forward to meet the needs of the young citizens in our town. 

Parents and other adults have come forward to both generate support and raise funds for a new Skate Park.  For those of you who are in favor of a new park, or perhaps are not, go by the old Skate Park location across from the Veteran’s Hall on Fridays from 1-5 PM to offer your opinions and support, as well as make a donation.  In addition, you can let your voice be heard at the regular Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Commission meeting every first Tuesday of the month.  Meetings begin at 10 AM.  You can also speak out in public comment at regular CCSD Board Meetings every second and third Thursday’s.  Meetings begin at 2 PM.

In some ways this following item is old news meant to be in the June President’s Report that was unable to take place. But I feel it’s important to acknowledge that on late Monday afternoon of June 8th, nearly 200 Cambria residents of all ages, incomes and backgrounds, including mothers with their children, came together in a peaceful manner to address the issue of racism in our country, just like what was happening in thousands of cities across our nation. Most everyone brought a homemade sign expressing their individual feelings on this issue. First we had a one-hour gathering at Main St and Cambria Drive, followed by a march to and from Main St and Windsor Blvd. During this time most everyone that drove by either honked their horn or waved to show support for the demonstration and what it stood for. This experience was truly a heartwarming display of togetherness in our community.

Hope everyone is doing as well as possible during this wonderful weather we’re having.  Let’s count our blessings we live in such a special place, and that we can call Cambria home. Finally, during these ongoing challenging and unsettled times, take care, be safe, wear a mask, and be kind and considerate of others.

Sincerely,

Harry Farmer

President

Board of Directors

MAY 2020 REPORT FROM CAMBRIA CSD BOARD PRESIDENT HARRY FARMER

Needless to say. the most discussed issue in Cambria in recent weeks has been the rate increase of the bimonthly water bill scheduled to be implemented in July of this year. The public voiced strong opinions on both sides of this issue by email or phone call to the Directors of the CCSD Board. Of course this always controversial topic was made more problematic by the Covid 19 emergency, with many employees, especially in the service industry, losing their job and income, as well as many businesses having to close down as well, thereby unable to generate revenue.

As recommended by the Finance Standing Committee, the CCSD Board voted 3-2 to approve the rate increase, but to have the increase begin in September instead of July. Director Rice expressed her support for the increase to be initiated in July, stating that the relatively small amount of the increase would have little impact on the rate payers, while the District needs the income to address needed infrastructure improvements and other issues. President Farmer, sympathetic to the circumstances faced by income challenged residents and businesses, and totally supportive of money needed to address infrastructure improvements in the wastewater and water departments, stated he refused, as he did in 2019, to vote for any rate increase that included monies given to the Enterprise Fund for the non operating “Sustainable Water Facility”, a project never approved by the rate payers of the community.

Some skepticism has been expressed by members of our community regarding how the recent/ongoing rate increase has been/is being used to benefit CCSD Water and Wastewater infrastructure. Since the current 3 year rate increase was initiated in 2018, we’ve been able to finally purchase and then install the much needed Influent Screen, which has seriously improved the functioning of the sewer plant. In addition, a new Vactor Truck was recently purchased, replacing our aging and often in need of repair old truck. As a result, tasks and repairs at the sewer plant and in the collection system are done more efficiently, saving staff time and rate payers money. Other parts replacements have also occurred throughout the system. In addition, a new Vactor Truck and other needed equipment has also been purchased for the Water Department, again making for more effective use of staff time, improving the ability to address standard as well as emergency repairs, as well as cutting down on water loss.

An extensive study on Cambria Water Use and Availability was submitted to the Board by an Ad Hoc committee of the Resources and Infrastructure Committee. Members Tom Gray, Karen Dean and Brad Fowles spent several months and hundreds of hours obtaining material and determining trends beginning in the 1980’s. The data and other information from this study can be seen at the District web site, in the Board Agenda packet for May 21st, item 4.D.

Interesting to note in the various statistics is that currently nearly 34% of the housing units in Cambria are considered “vacant”, including active vacation rentals, up from about 25% barely two decades ago. In addition, in 2018 the estimated population of Cambria was 5,725, down from almost 6,100 in the mid 1990’s. Also, as of 2019, residential water use accounted for 64% of total amount used (48 gallons per capita daily use), while commercial and vacation rentals accounted for 33.5% of water used (74 gallons per capita daily use).

Pursuit of submission of the Coastal Development Permit for the District’s EWSP/SWF/AWTP multi named Water Facility continues to move slowly.  The District’s CDP Ad Hoc Committee remains in discussion with staff at the County Planning Commission and the California Coastal Commission, and this item will likely be on the CCSD Board’s Agenda in June.

A presentation was given by Utilities Manager Ray Dienzo at the May 14th Board Meeting regarding the District’s revised Retrofit Program (item 6.C.).  The main purpose of this program is to implement greater water use efficiency, and therefore increase water conservation in our community.  Yet also included in this Agenda item in Chapter 4.20: Water Conservation and Retrofit Program, is the statement;  “It is also the purpose and intent of this chapter to facilitate the policy of the board of directors to issue intent to serve letters on an interim basis while the district continues to pursue a supplemental long term water supply project based upon implementation of the district’s approved water use efficiency plan through water demand offsets.” This description would seem quite problematic, as the County permit issued in January, 2014, was for an “Emergency Water Supply Project”, to only be used in a “Stage 3 Water Emergency”, “for Existing Customers Only”, and ”Not for Growth”.  

Board President Farmer again wishes to acknowledge the ongoing efforts of various service organizations such as the Rotary and Lions Clubs, as well as local restaurants, and the Cambria Community Council, as they continue to try and supply the food needs of the economically challenged citizens of both Cambria and San Simeon. Recently, the Food Bank of San Luis Obispo County provided groceries to the occupants of over 100 vehicles at the Thursday, May 7th giveaway at the Santa Rosa Catholic Church. A number of recipients also expressed difficulty in being able to pay their rent.

In recent week’s I’ve spoken with members of our community with hopes of raising money by donations from local residents, and somehow coordinating our energy to aid individuals who need help in paying their rent or mortgage. And while I’ve had minimal success in this area, I’ve found there are several organizations in SLO County who have joined forces to try and create a Rent and Mortgage Relief Fund. If anyone in our town would want to help create a local branch of this fund, as well as donate money to this worthwhile effort, you can send me an email at: hfarmer@cambriacsd,org.

The SLO County Mobile Unit that does testing for Covid-19 will be at the Cambria Veteran’s Hall on Monday and Tuesday, June 1st and 2nd, from 9AM-4PM. Only 120 tests will be given per day, and one must make an appointment ahead of time.  To do so, call the County at (805)543-2444), or register at:   www.EmergencySLO.org/Testing. You can find a complete update on Covid-19 statistics and other pertinent information at the County web site: www.readyslo.org

Finally, please keep in mind what meteorologists are anticipating for the coming decade, meaning less rain and hotter temperatures, especially in the western part of the United States. Most all of the hottest and driest years on record occurred in the past decade, and this trend will no doubt continue. We of course are truly blessed to be living on the Central Coast of California, and here in beautiful Cambria. Please express gratitude for our good fortune by being as efficient as possible in your use of water, especially in the summer months ahead. If you have a watering system in your yard or garden, please have it checked to be sure it is operating as effectively as possible. And when you can, take time to have reverence for the beauty of nature that surrounds us, enjoy walks in the woods or at the beach, or just on the quiet roads around town.

Blessings, take good care.

Harry Farmer

MARCH 2020 REPORT FROM CAMBRIA CSD BOARD PRESIDENT HARRY FARMER

Due to current circumstances, my monthly Table Talk meeting at the Redwood Cafe will not take place until further notice.  Yet there is much to report to the community, including from this past Monday’s Special CCSD Board meeting on March 23rd, that will provide needed information to Cambria residents.

First, everyone should be assured that basic, essential community needs regarding water and sewer services will function as usual.  Staff continues to do their jobs as needed, both on-site and in the field.  If someone is unfortunately affected by the COPID-19 virus, other staff will fill in, and many are cross-trained in both areas to address whatever issues, such as water leaks, that may come up.  All residents should be feeling safe and secure regarding water and sewer, as well as services provided by the Cambria Fire Department and Emergency First responders you depend on from our Health Care District.  In unanticipated circumstances, we can also rely on other agencies to assist in providing manpower, and we will do the same for them.

On another topic of much importance at this time.  Many community members, especially those in the service industry, such as restaurant and motel workers, have temporarily, but hopefully not permanently, lost their jobs, and their source of income.  Your Cambria CSD is well aware of the challenges facing low and moderate-income workers, as well as the business owners in our town.  Some may not be able to pay their utility bills for the foreseeable future.  Instead of instituting a community-wide policy in this area, the District will be available to discuss the needs of individuals, families, and businesses, on a case by case basis.  

Many folks will no doubt be calling the District office with their concerns.  In these health challenging times, the office is temporarily closed.  Yet we have an answering service that is fluent in Spanish as well as English who will forward any messages to our staff receptionist and billing coordinator, who is also bilingual, and we will make every effort to accommodate the needs of our community members.  Also, do not leave any cash payments at the drop box at the office.  Please call the office at (805)927-6223 to make arrangements in this area.

Obviously these income stresses will also be felt at the District by lowered revenue.  We will be making spending adjustments in the annual budget as deemed necessary.

Here are some other basic information and comments you may need to know:

PLEASE BE ALERT to what you flush down the toilet!!  With more folks staying at home on a daily basis, more demands will be placed on our sewer collection system and our wastewater plant.  ONLY FLUSH YOUR WASTE AND TOILET PAPER in the toilet!!!  DO NOT FLUSH any disinfectant wipes, paper towels and facial tissue, diapers or baby wipes, medications, cooking grease, kitty litter or other items!!  You should be putting these in the trash!!!  Please use good judgment and common sense in this very important area being provided by your Services District that you depend on all the time.

The two public restrooms in town are presently closed for health precautions.  The District is currently reevaluating this temporary policy, but obviously there are many issues that need to be taken into consideration.  At this time the Vet’s Hall restrooms will continue to be closed during Friday Farmer’s Market.

When doing lengthy hand washing at home or elsewhere, try not to let the water run throughout the process.  Lather up, turn off the water while you sufficiently scrub, then turn the water back on to rinse.  Every little bit means a lot these days.  Also, don’t forget to do the same when you brush your teeth.  Wet your brush, turn off the water, brush your teeth, then turn the water back on to rinse your brush and wash your mouth.

Take every advantage of the many opportunities to go on walks in our town, from surface streets, to the various trails, and at the State Park.  However, some trails at the Fiscalini Ranch are now designated one way due to health concerns, including the much used and enjoyed bluff trail.  Please be considerate of others and obey these temporary rules.  Due to folks disregarding the social distance rule, the recently opened and very popular Pismo Preserve was closed to public access.  We certainly do not want this to happen on the Ranch in these times where we need an even greater opportunity to get much-needed exercise and be out in nature.

Also, it appears that many second homes normally only occasionally occupied are now being lived in full time, as homeowners are leaving their primary residence elsewhere and staying in Cambria on a more full-time basis. This will, of course, put more demands on water and sewer services. When you communicate with our part-time residents, please inform them of the circumstances mentioned above, especially the not to do’s regarding toilet use.

Obviously, no matter what our health and income circumstances, we are all in this together, not just in Cambria and the Central Coast, but all over Planet Earth.  We are so fortunate to be living in this very special place, surrounded by friends and neighbors and the beauty of nature.  Most of us are taking a little more time to be grateful, to connect with others, especially those in need and folks who live alone. More volunteerism and generosity of spirit is occurring to provide for the needs of others, especially individuals and families that are now financially challenged.  And while we may not be able to share hugs and handshakes, a wave and a smile, and expressions of love and kindness, will go a long way these days.

Ultimately we will be a more conscious, caring and compassionate society as a result of this crisis/opportunity being presented to us. 

Blessings, take good care.

Harry Farmer