The great Goleta sewage swap battle will go down on December 2.
That was the end result of a dry Thursday hearing by the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, which will ultimately determine whether the City of Goleta’s proposal to take over all of the sewer lines and street sweeping services currently run by the Goleta West Sanitary District makes any sense. The relatively new city, which was incorporated in 2002, is vested with the right for such a takeover so long as services and standards remain steady. Aside from Goleta West’s worries that such a shift could drastically affect its existence, also hanging in the wind are thousands of Goleta residents, who are wondering what the takeover, if approved, would mean for sewer rates. Goleta West has argued strongly that those rates would skyrocket, but the city has said that they would stay the same, if not be reduced.
Those arguments will come into play in December when LAFCO hears the merits of the idea. Thursday’s meeting, however, was ostensibly an attempt by Goleta West to thwart the idea from moving forward. The district, via its attorney Steve Amerikaner, argued that the City of Goleta’s application has lapsed, and that its July certification was in error. “Up to this point,” said Amerikaner in listing out how only the district’s efforts have produced much action on the application, “it has been neither timely nor fair.” But Amerikaner also pleaded that, if LAFCO disagreed, then expedite the matter and get a hearing on the merits scheduled as soon as possible.
The City of Goleta was represented by City Manager Dan Singer and City Attorney Tim Giles, both of whom took frustrated issue with Amerikaner’s version of events, in which he painted the city as slow and stupid in pursuing the swap. Singer said Amerikaner was “quite good at spinning” in favor of the district, while Giles argued, “It’s just flat wrong to say that the issues aren’t covered in the application.”
Come decision time, LAFCO’s members agreed with the staff, which said that the application was complete and had not lapsed. Following that, they decided to set a date, finding December 2 to be best. It’s likely that a second hearing might be necessary to fully cover the issue, and it appears that LAFCO will attempt to make that happen in December as well, so that there is no changeover in the commission’s membership in the new year.