Lacking a protest from 5,262 property owners—the necessary majority—San Luis Obispo County supervisors on Dec. 14 approved a rate structure that will cover the operation costs for the $182 million Los Osos sewer project.
At the close of the hearing, the county had received 801 protests, roughly 15 percent of the community and well short of the 50 percent plus one needed to override the rate structure.
Though there weren’t enough formal protests to ward off the proposed rates (approved under Proposition 218), plenty of locals were still adamantly opposed.
Residents argued to county officials for about three hours over the proposed rates, escalating project costs, and confusing mailers informing recipients how much the rates will be and when they’ll go into effect.
Some complained the notice to property owners didn’t include a copy of the ordinance detailing the total cost to the average Los Osos resident for all aspects of the project. Will Clemens, a department administrator who oversees the finance division of Public Works, said more information was available online and was delivered at a Nov. 29 town hall meeting.
“Most in the community know that we have made a tremendous and deep commitment to addressing affordability to the best that we possibly can,” said Supervisor Bruce Gibson.
The county will begin collecting rates and charges if and when the sewer is operational, probably in 2014. Under the now-adopted rates, the average single-family household will pay a minimum of $48.85 a month depending on water usage. Tack on the capital costs for the project, and the total average bill will be $194 a month, six bucks less than the 2007 estimated cost. County officials have yet to ask undeveloped property owners to pay their share of the operations and maintenance costs. If those property owners choose to charge themselves, the average monthly cost for other residents will drop by about $30.