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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 7th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 49 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 49

Semi-official election results in favor of Los Olivos Community Services District

By KASEY BUBNASH

The semi-official election night results are in, and it appears Los Olivos will be using locally elected officials to oversee the handling of its notorious wastewater issues.

Los Olivos residents cast their votes on Jan. 30 largely in favor of Measure P2018, which, if certified by the Santa Barbara County Elections Office, would form the area's first community services district and board of directors to manage its wastewater. If passed, the measure would also impose an annual property tax of no more than $200,000 to fund the new agency.

Of the 313 residents who participated in the election, 228 voted to form the Los Olivos Community Services District and its board of directors, according to semi-official election results provided by the Elections Office. Because the ballot measure included a tax, it needed a supermajority of two-thirds, or 209 votes, to pass.

"I feel optimistic and encouraged," Lisa Palmer, a longtime Los Olivos resident and candidate for district board of directors, said in a phone interview with the Sun. Palmer said she was also glad to see voters show support for local control, and with nearly 65 percent of the 484 registered voters showing up for election day, Palmer said she was thrilled at the turnout.

"I don't know many communities that have that kind of engagement anymore," she said.

But the pending district formation is only one of the first steps toward solving a decades-long struggle with wastewater in Los Olivos, Palmer said. County officials designated the town a "special problems area" in the 1970s after discovering that overflowing septic tanks, which almost all residents use, could leak oxygen-starving nitrates into the shallow groundwater table below, resulting in contamination.

In 2012, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a Local Agency Management Plan (LAMP), putting into effect stricter regulations for onsite sewage systems. LAMP's implementation left Los Olivos residents with a choice—they could work together to implement a wastewater system in compliance with state water quality standards or allow the county to do it for them.

The Los Olivos Community Services District, which was already adopted by the county's Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) in April 2017, would encompass 441 acres and a population of roughly 1,100, including most of Los Olivos but excluding land zoned inner rural and agricultural. The district and its five elected board members, according to the voter information packet, would be responsible for collecting, treating, and disposing of sewage, wastewater, stormwater, and recycled water in ways that comply with LAMP.

The district's formation would be effective 60 days after the election's certification.

The election results should be certified sometime next week, according to Elections Office officials, although the absolute deadline for certification is Feb. 27. Officials said the office was waiting on five unsigned ballots, which needed to be signed by Feb. 7.

If certified, Palmer said she and the other four board members up for election—Michael Arme, a general engineering contractor; Brian O'Neill, an engineer; and Julie Kennedy, a bookkeeper; and Tom Fayram, director of the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department—will get right to work.

"Once the election results are certified this week, we will then move to the real work of determining the best, most cost-effective wastewater solution for Los Olivos," Palmer said in an email to the Sun. "We have a talented and, more importantly, already functional leadership team in the five likely candidates-elect. We are ready to get to work on behalf of all our residents."




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