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Troubled waters

Anti-sewer group wins a temporary stay with construction bids set to expire on June 24

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Move-the-sewer proponents in Los Osos won a small victory last week when a second appellate court judge ruled that the community services district may in fact require a four-fifths majority to authorize spending state loan money on the town's notoriously contentious sewer system.

"It's a mini-victory," board director Julie Tacker said, "but there's still a long road to hoe."

Tacker likened the case to the sewer itself, saying that the key was to move it out of town.

In the latest round of political ping-pong, the Ventura court temporarily overturned the ruling of a San Luis Obispo County judge, who said the four-fifths majority requirement would not apply in this situation.

Because the CSD board is split 3-2 in favor of moving forward with the sewer, a four-fifths requirement would effectively stall any approval. But this precarious balance of power might shift dramatically come Sept. 27, when the people of Los Osos go to the polls and vote on the recall of the three pro-sewer board members.

The CSD is not letting the temporary stay slow it down, however, and is already slated to begin preconstruction archaeological excavations this month with Far Western. Excavation of the property, which remains particularly important to the present-day Chumash community, is required before construction can begin, as a way of mitigating impacts to cultural resources.

As of now, CSD General Manager Bruce Buel is hoping to see the temporary stay lifted before June 24, at which time the construction bids will expire. The board has asked the court to address this matter on the basis of urgency.

"If the stay is lifted, then everything will go as planned," Buel said. "If not, we'll have to regroup."

A follow-up meeting to determine the CSD's future course of action is set for July 7. Buel had earlier recommended that construction break ground on July 5.

Director Tacker recommended that the board wait until after the recall election to enter any contracts, but she's convinced that the CSD is trying to railroad the project forward, trying to commit itself to as many sewer agreements as possible before September, in case the recall is successful.

After long and careful deliberation, longtime Los Osos resident Steve Senet announced his candidacy for CSD at the Family Fest community event held Sunday in Baywood Park. Senet will be campaigning together with Chuck Cesena. Both candidates share an almost identical platform, which focuses on moving the sewer out of downtown and finding a more affordable alternative.

Senet graduated from Cal Poly with a B.S. in civil engineering and has lived in Los Osos on and off since 1978. A father of three, he now works for Caltrans, along with Cesena and CSD Director Lisa Schicker.

Al Barrow, president of the anti-sewer activist group Citizens for Safeand Affordable Environment (CASE), announced last month that he would also be running for CSD. Senet declined to comment on Barrow's candidacy, and Director Tacker has also expressed her concerns over the CASE president. A fourth candidate is expected to come forward soon.

Pro-sewer activists, represented by Pandora Nash-Karner's Save the Dream group, have yet to offer any alternative candidates.

Many of Senet's friends and colleagues told him he was crazy for seeking a position in the CSD hot seat.

"It has its challenges no matter what faction you represent," the civil engineer said. "But it's one of those things where you've gotta just hold your nose and jump in." ³

 

Staff Writer Jeff Hornaday has an eye on your sewage. Send your coprophageal remedies to jhornaday@newtimesslo.com.

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