Sewer proponents face uphill battle
By Jesse Phelps
A torrent of debate about whether
or not to add sewer lines for the Arbolada and Foothill Road
has been raging now for quite a while.
Wednesday night that debate took center stage at the Matilija
Auditorium before nearly 100 people, where a meeting called by
John K. Correa, general manager of Ojai Valley Sanitary District,
served as a forum for those potentially on the hook for a share
of the cost.
The meeting also served as a ballot return. Earlier this month
the district distributed a poll to gauge interest, for a second
time in less than a year, from those residents located within
the region targeted for potential sewer lines.
As it stands currently, the entire area relies on septic tanks.
The first poll, circulated in October, showed a distinct lack
of interest in sewers from the respondents. At that time, 92
voted no and 73 voted yes to the hookups, which would cost each
resident tens of thousands of dollars over a 30-year period.
Having failed to connect with the populace, the district went
back to the drawing board and formulated a new plan, which includes
an option to pay a $13,500 initial fee to cover the cost of annexing
and the construction of the public portion of the sewer.
With the new "buy-in" option, residents who maintain
their septic tanks would not be charged a monthly fee until they
decided to connect, said Correa. "This is not an all or
Apparently, several residents felt they were being pressured,
despite Correa's assurances that even if the idea is rejected
once again, individual areas within the larger bloc would be
candidates for smaller sewer projects.
"If only pockets want it," said Correa, "We're
going to try to find ways to service those areas."
Steve Newkirk was perhaps the most vocal opponent, raising questions
of the district's accounting methods - he got Correa to admit
that the eventual total cost could figure in the neighborhood
of $62,000 per household, contradicting a total cost estimate
in the "range from $24,000 to $47,000" on district
information sheets - and goaded Correa on the point of whether
the district will ever stop polling until it gets the result
The voices were many. One resident, with a glance toward the
anti-sewer contingent, said he was embarrassed at the way his
neighbors were behaving.
Many present called for calm, rational conversation. David Feigin
pointed out that whole issue had the potential to turn neighbor
versus neighbor, saying, "To me this is set up so that about
half the people are going to be disappointed."
The figures, however, suggest that will not be the case. Pre-meeting,
the current poll had 95 respondents of a possible 300 and the
votes stood at 73 no, 22 yes.
District customer service representative Moira Barron said 17
votes came in at the meeting, bringing the current totals to
82 no votes to 30 yes votes.
If the poll swings in favor of the sewer lines, engineers will
be hired, according to Correa, and planning will begin immediately.
An official item would be placed on the ballot and if the measure
passes, plans would be prepared from "engineering already
The vote would encompass three questions. Do residents wish to
annex to the sanitary district? Do residents wish to annex to
the city? And do residents wish to be part of the assessment
district? The votes on the last question, according to Correa,
would be weighted proportionately toward those who pay more property
For his part, Correa said that June 30 is the cutoff date for
the current poll and that results will be disseminated by early
The Ojai Valley News
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