Of Waste And Water
Things have been relatively quiet in the two special districts that serve Costa Mesa - the Costa Mesa Sanitary District and the Mesa Water District. So, on the last day of the municipal fiscal year, I thought I'd comment on some very recent news from each - just to get your hearts pounding.
CMSD 2-YEAR BUDGET ANNOUNCED
First, last week the Costa Mesa Sanitary District passed a two year budget and fired off a press release announcing it. I'd like to be able to refer you to the press release on their web site, HERE, but it's not posted yet. Check back for all the details.
HEADING FOR $11 MILLION
In a nutshell, their approved two year budget includes spending of $10,741,860 for FY 2013-2014 and $10,913,940 for FY 2014-2015, and includes funding for manhole maintenance, new laptops for field staff and digital imaging of District records. They also plan to spend $850,000 to rehabilitate their force main sewer pipes, $328,500 to install emergency generators at critical facilities and $340,500 for rehabilitating brick manholes.
RATES TO BE LOWERED
We were also told that the District, for the second consecutive year, authorized the lowering to residential solid waste rates. The Board approved a 10% reduction, dropping the rate from $19.95 per month to $18.00, using undesignated solid waste water reserves. Multi-family customers and commercial/industrial customers will see significant reductions in their liquid waste rates, too.
MESA WATER VS. THE REGISTER
The most fun news, however is the case of dueling articles in the local "real" media. On Saturday Mike Reicher published an interesting piece in the Orange County Register, HERE, titled, "Water officials'meals, travel top $170,000. Since this article is hidden behind the Register's paywall, I'm not going to attempt to give you all the information. I'll give you some of the highlights, however, and let you subscribe to the online version for more.
Reicher tells us of several instances of what appears to be significant unjustified expenses for meals and other expenses racked up by Mesa Water District officials over the past couple years - like a dinner for two in Palm Springs for $144.00.
Reicher says that the five directors and eight District staffers spent more than $170,000 in expenses in 2011 and 2012. Yikes!
OPEN MEETING LAW VIOLATIONS?
He tells us that "sometimes a majority of the five board members attended restaurant meals, which is allowed by the state's open meeting laws when the event is a strictly social gathering. He tells us, though, that the district credit cards are only for official business". He chronicled at least two instances when a quorum of board members met a restaurant for pre-meeting meals and charged them to district credit cards. And on and on and on.
HERE. In it he tells us about our low water rates - ignoring the fact that Mesa Water has raised rates for the past couple years to jack up its bond rating.
100% local water", not imported from distant venues. He also talks about the exceptionally high quality of the water. These are all good things, worthy of mention.
HEADING OFF CRITICISM
However, when I cornered Fisler at the 60th Anniversary Celebration Saturday and asked him about it, he acknowledged that he anticipated a "hit piece" from Reicher, and his letter in the Daily Pilot was intended to blunt the impact of Reicher's piece. I'm not so sure it did, particularly when an increasing number of folks don't read both papers.
RE-BRANDING AND OTHER EXPENSES
I didn't ask Fisler about the major gaffe recently exposed by Reicher - that their expensive "re-branding" campaign for an organization that has a captive audience that cost north of $250,000 (the exact number varies, depending on who you ask) and resulted in a logo that cannot be protected by copyright, HERE. That, plus the long list of curious expenses racked up by Mesa Water, probably should make the ratepayers of the District more than a little uneasy. The directors of Mesa Water attempt to portray the District as being "efficient, financially sound and transparent", but the information discovered in Reicher's two recent articles paints a slightly different picture.