YOUR WATER BILL
by Herb Patterson
The City of Encinitas is planning to move the San Diegito Water District [SDWD] into the new Mossy Public Works Yard. Moreland and Associates prepared the study allocating costs to the various entities [only the SDWD is technically a separate agency – the rest are simply departments of the City]. In the study, Moreland made a number of assumptions I find disturbing.
The first assumption is that the SDWD owed a capital cost donation to this project. Why? The study does not indicate that the SDWD would then own some portion of the property. What equity does the SDWD receive for the expenditure? When the City bought the SDWD property for the new library, it purchased the land and received title for payment – why is that apparently not happening here?
Assuming you believe it is appropriate for the SDWD to donate towards the purchase price of the Mossy property, I would suggest a long look at the methodology used to determine the cost. Moreland estimated that building a similar facility for the SDWD at $300 a square foot and then used the number of SDWD employees [a rounded off 23] as a percentage of the total employees using the yard to arrive at a square foot per SDWD employee of about 364 square feet. That was then multiplied times the $300 figure to arrive at the capital cost. The only problem with this is that about half of the SDWD employees are field workers, not desk bound. A good portion of the SDWD land use would be for parking vehicles and equipment in garages, car ports or parking places. Should the SDWD pay $300 a square foot for a parking place? I don't think so.
Among the other items left off the Moreland report, there is no discussion of the previous locations used by the SDWD. Wouldn't it have been instructive to see a breakdown of the office space and the parking/garage areas? Wouldn't some comment from the SDWD on what their needs were be appropriate? Why is there no discussion of alternative locations and their availability?
I have no problem with the SDWD moving in to the new Public Works area if they pay rent, and pay for whatever alterations necessary for their operation, but having to “up front” the capital expense appears to be a way of transferring the cost to acquire the Mossy location from the City to the SDWD.
This is useful to the City because they can raise your water rates [without a vote] to pay for it. If the City is transferring costs from the City to the SDWD, it is illegal under Prop 218. I have my doubts that the proposed Capital Improvement “donation” from the SDWD meets the Prop 218 definition of Capital Expense and may well be illegal regardless of the intent of the City.
Why does the Moreland report have no alternative scenario for a straight rental of City property to the SDWD? Might that be cheaper for SDWD in the long run ? Nobody knows because the report ASSUMES that the SDWD will buy into the Mossy location.
Since alternatives to the Mossy location were not even looked at, the cost estimate for an SDWD building are imaginary and poorly applied, a review of past locations usage was not done, and the actual needs of the SDWD not even addressed in the Moreland report, I believe it is premature to expect the public to buy into a solution that has the appearance of transferring capital costs from the City to the SDWD. The City Council, sitting both as representatives of the City as a whole and as Directors of the SDWD, have a fiduciary responsibility to both the citizens of Encinitas and the customers of the SDWD. They do not appear to have done that duty in relation to the ratepayers of the SDWD.
Please attend the special Council meeting on 11-29 at 6:00PM in the Council chambers for a discussion of the SDWD water rates – want to guess which way they are going?