Sanitation discussion came to the forefront at the Golden Hills Community Services District board meeting on July 17.
Board President Ed Kennedy opened the floor to the public, where the topic focused primarily on a study conducted by AECOM, the consultant hired by Kern County to conduct a feasibility study of options for Golden Hills Sanitation Company.
The private company, which serves a small segment of Golden Hills that is sewered, remains in receivership following its declaration of bankruptcy in 2012. AECOM has been conducting a feasibility study to determine how the sewer system can become economically sustainable.
The feasibility study is funded by a planning grant secured by Kern County for up to $500,000.
Two options were identified: Continue operation of the small wastewater treatment facility or start sending wastewater to the City of Tehachapi for treatment by way of a four-inch forced sewer main.
All five CSD board members had concerns about figures that AECOM has presented at past public workshops, which show the Tehachapi option as the more viable one.
Chief among those who had concerns was the Receiver for Golden Hills Sanitation, Clifford Bressler of Clovis.
“My biggest objection to the report that is being prepared is not being called,” Bressler told the Golden Hills CSD board. “All this time they had been gathering data as to what the operation of the plant costs, and they have never once called me or my office to get our actual costs and this offends me greatly.”
Bressler said AECOM had received most of its information regarding costs from the City of Tehachapi. AECOM is a regular consultant utilized by the city (and was the lowest bidder when the county awarded the contract over Provost and Pritchard for the consulting project.)
He acknowledged that he is not happy with the increased rates Golden Hills sewer customers are paying; the rates which was set by the CPUC based on the number of connections.
However, Bressler said even with the increased rates, the plant has yet to break even to fully cover costs like county fees or water assessments. The only thing that is fully covered are operations costs.
The sanitation plant, he said, could go another 25 to 30 years with the proper maintenance, and was running only at 25 percent of its potential capacity to serve.
In addition, it is in the process of receiving a sand filter that would allow the plant to churn out tertiary disinfected water — quality water that he said could be pumped into Tom Sawyer Lake and used for irrigation.
Bressler said the county has helped with that in the form of a $51,700 grant.
Bressler noted that the sanitation company is still a private company. Any decisions made had to go through him first and have the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission.
“Nothing will be done until it is with the best interests of all the small people involved,” Bressler said. He said if the feasibility study comes back and shows the city of Tehachapi as the best option, he would oppose it.
“I will fight it tooth and nail,” Bressler said. “Every time I turn around, they (AECOM) change the parameters of what they want to do.”
He added if he disagrees with the findings of the feasilibity study, he will request a second one to be conducted. He also intends to speak with Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner, whose district includes Golden Hills and the City of Tehachapi about the matter.
He reitierated that he had not a chance to speak to AECOM but if the study continues the way it appears to be heading, it will not be looked at by him.
The Golden Hills directors had their own concerns and questions of AECOM. In a separate action, they approved 5-0 a letter to AECOM (subject to review by Kennedy and district legal counsel).
The letter included the requests of the directors.
Questions and requests for information: including all data regarding breakdown of costs for all options along with the data's sources, explore all options, and to further review costs as well as examine what the receiver is paying.
“This is a request,” Wyatt cautioned. “They (AECOM) can say anything they want, but we are going out with this request with them.”
An agenda item to have the district consider requesting to take over operation of the plant was removed from the agenda.