The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury determined that a service charge increase instituted by the Laguna County Sanitation District (LCSD) was justified. The report concluded that the Santa Barbara County Department of Public Works, Laguna County Sanitation District and Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller carefully planned a comprehensive process to fund system upgrades and replacements with the least financial impact on its customers. The Grand Jury found that the Laguna County Sanitation District’s management exercised comprehensive planning and forward-looking leadership on behalf of its customers.
The Grand Jury investigated the reasons for the increase in the yearly residential charges from $551.47 to $963.68 in the past six years. The Jury interviewed Santa Barbara County Public Works Department staff, visited the LCSD treatment facility, and reviewed consulting reports and a presentation on upgrading and expanding the facility. In 2011, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, acting as the District Board of Directors, voted to approve the replacement of existing substandard equipment (Phase I) and an expansion of the entire system (Phase II). Plans to repair and upgrade the facility also included public information meetings with residents who used the facility. After this series of public meetings, LCSD management implemented the 11 percent rate increase. This action helped the district qualify for lower interest rates on bonds that would be used to improve the facility. LCSD staff will present a plan for implementing Phase I to the Board of Supervisors in the fall of 2017 for final approval.
“The Laguna County Sanitation District facility is long overdue for infrastructure improvements,” said Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam. “I’m looking forward to seeing the upgrades and providing better services to the residents in north county.”
The LCSD was created in 1958 to serve the unincorporated areas of Santa Maria not served by another district. Operations began in 1959 and the district serves approximately 11,700 residential and business customers. In order to reduce electricity costs, the district constructed a 1 megawatt solar project in March 2012. This project is designed to supply 60 percent of power, offset 80 percent operational costs, and save $14 million over 30 years. The rate increase this year is proposed at 1.9% or about $1.50 per month.
To read the Grand Jury report, visit www.sbcgj.org/2017/LagunaSanitation170323.pdf.
To learn more about the County of Santa Barbara, go to www.CountyofSB.org.