Customers of the Golden Hills Sanitation Company held two meetings on Monday, Feb. 25, to review the status of the wastewater system and project.
There were more than 50 customers who attended the two meetings held at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
In addition, Supervisor Zack Scrivner, County Waste Management Director Doug Landon, Kern County Engineering Director Chuck Lackey, Tehachapi City Utility Manager John Curry and Sanitation Receiver Clifford Bressler were all in attendance to answer questions.
"This meeting has been called by Dave Stegall and me," said Barbara Miller. "We are both customers and have been working very closely with the receiver. We are aware of all of the questions that are out there. People need a chance to ask them and they need to have answers."
She also said that the purpose for the meeting was to focus on what is happening right now.
"Our purpose tonight is specifically to inform you, the users of Golden Hills Sanitation Company in receivership, as to what is happening today," she added. "Currently, we have a company that is being operated by our receiver, we are in an interim period. Down the road we are looking at a long term solution and that's where the county comes in."
Dave Warner, Senior Community Development Specialist of Self Help Enterprises, chaired the meeting.
Warner reviewed the system problems including treatment plant problems, collection system problems, high user costs and what could be done about them.
He also explained that users must be prepared to pay for operating the system, as no state or federal money is available for operations.
However, some funding and grants may be available for new equipment to bring the system up to meet current standards.
Many questions were asked by the audience about adding customers to which Miller responded that they would be welcome.
Meanwhile, Warner noted that the county is taking the lead on applying for state money to pay for an engineering report that will review the project alternatives.
Those alternatives are to continue operating the existing system, or connect to the City of Tehachapi sewer system.
An independent engineering firm will calculate the construction, operating and user costs for each alternative. The users will then have to decide to continue to use the existing system or connect to the city system.
"I've been in discussions for about eight months about connecting with the city," said Scrivner. "There are some pretty big costs involved, including construction of the main line from the current sewer plant to the city. Those costs are not known at this time." He noted users would also have to pay city charges,
Scrivner said he is trying to find a way to offset the costs of construction of the main line and also the connection fees through HUD or Community Block Grant funding.
"We'll be going door-to-door to determine the income threshold to be eligible for federal funding," Scrivner added. "We are looking at every potential option [and] that's one. At the end of the day we're going to analyze what's best for the customers."
Landon also chimed in and said the first thing is to pass a report by the community to make sure everyone agrees on all the options that are on the table.
Finally, Miller expressed gratitude to the county, the Golden Hills Community Services District, the City of Tehachapi, and other agencies for participating in "solutions meetings" with Bressler.
"Even though the county has now taken the lead in applying for planning money, it will still be several months before it is known if that money will be awarded for Golden Hills Sanitation Company," she said."Then it will likely take many more months before the engineering report is done."
She also cautioned that there would be many steps in the process before the final long-term solution for the customers would be accomplished.
"We recognize that even if connecting to the city is determined to be the most cost effective, best option for the customers, we must continue operations of the existing plant for the next three, five, possibly even eight years," Miller said. "We will continue to seek funding for the equipment replacement we need and we do all we can to make GHSC an efficient and successful operation for as long as we are needed without any further rate increases."