2020 President Reports
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.