A handful of Golden Hills residents gathered at a public meeting held on Dec. 2 at the Golden Hills Community Services District office to discuss what is to come next in finding a solution for the Golden Hills wastewater treatment plant, which is currently being operated by Clifford Bressler, as a Receiver appointed by Kern County Superior Court.
Director of Kern County Waste Management Doug Landon headed the meeting. Landon is working with others comprising a "solutions group" to explore options for continuing cost-effective and functioning sewer services for those Golden Hills residents served by the plant owned by the insolvent firm, Golden Hills Sanitation.
Supervisor Zack Scrivner and Golden Hills Community Services District Board Member, Ed Kennedy, were also in attendance.
Landon presented the report titled "Analysis of Continued Sewer Services Options for Golden Hills Wastewater Treatment Plant Customers," which was put together by members of the Waster Management Department and the Engineering, Surveying, and Permit Services Department of Kern County.
Of the multiple options that were explored in the study, some include replacing the current plant with a smaller plant, utilizing tankers to transport wastewater from Golden Hills to the Tehachapi wastewater treatment plant, installing individual or community septic systems or letting the receiver continue operations.
Landon made it clear that while some of the potential solutions are obviously more cost-effective and feasible than others, county officials wanted to explore all options.
However, the two options that the county considered to be the most plausible include tying into the City of Tehachapi's sewer system by constructing a pump station and 3-inch diameter force main, or continuing operations at the current Golden Hills plant.
A third-party consulting firm will further examine those two options, along with the others explored in the county's report.
The hiring of the consulting firm will be funded by a $500,000 grant, which was recently awarded by the State Water Board.
"While the county, with public input, has prepared a preliminary feasibility study, which considered a number of possible solutions for the area, we expect the selected consultant to independently verify and evaluate the previous work and use their knowledge, along with public input, to develop a short list of recommended best alternatives to provide for the long-term sewer needs of the Golden Hills Sanitation Company's customers," Supervisor Zack Scrivner wrote in an email.
On Tuesday, Dec. 10, the Kern County Board of Supervisors will vote to approve the request from county officials to issue a Request for Proposal, in order to select a consulting firm, Scrivner said.
Scrivner added that proposals are due Jan. 24, and it will take the county about a month after that to hire the consultant. He expects a preliminary feasibility study to be finished by the summer of 2014.
Officials predict the entire RFP process will last until early 2015.
Along with a feasibility study, the consulting firm will be expected to provide an engineer's report and environmental documents.
The study will also examine what is to happen with Tom Sawyer Lake, which is currently used to store treated effluent discharged from the plant, and has been a topic of debate because it sits on private property not owned by Golden Hills Sanitation.
"I believe that the most prevalent concern for customers is to have an affordable, long-term solution for the operation of a sewer system that will enhance the community and encourage the development of the remaining lots within the area," Scrivner said.
Barbara Miller, the executive administrative assistant to the receiver, said all of the agencies involved have been working hard for the past year and a half to settle this issue.
"The county has spent untold hours, helpless hours in helping us try to find a solution. The CSD has also given countless hours to seeking the solution and the city has also been involved with it," she said. [See related commentary by Miller on page 12].
In the bidding process, "they [the county] will be looking for someone who will have strong background in funding identification, because that is what is driving this entire project; we are looking for the most cost effective option for the customers," she said.
Receiver Clifford Bressler took over the wastewater treatment plant in 2012, after the Golden Hills Sanitation Company said it could no longer operate the plant.
The treatment plant currently serves more than 160 households.
City Manager Greg Garrett, who was not present at the meeting, weighed in on the issue.
"It is important for the entire Tehachapi community to be healthy," he said. "And a private wastewater treatment plant is a terrible idea. But we're at the table for discussion and we will figure it out together."