By Raiza Giorgi
In a vote-by-mail ballot, residents in Los Olivos will decide by the end of January if they will form their own community service district to start a wastewater treatment facility as well as pick five of their neighbors to run it. There will be a ‘meet the candidates’ forum from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 4 at the Los Olivos School gym, 2540 Alamo Pintado Road.
The proposed Los Olivos Community Services District (LOCSD) would be governed by a board of directors elected by Los Olivos residents to manage the planning, construction and operation of a community wastewater system.
The candidates seeking election are Lisa Palmer, Tom Fayram, Mike Arme, Julie Kennedy and Brian O’Neill.
“The reason I am running is local control over our wastewater solutions and fiscal control which are paramount for me. Knowing that it will be five residents who set the rates and have to pay those along with our neighbors means that we will be the most vested in what happens,” said Palmer who is also on the Los Olivos Water Reclamation Committee.
The issue of wastewater and septic systems have been a decades long issue in the small town that has been designated a “special problems area”, due to the high water table.
Because of the high water table, it prevents separation between groundwater and the effluent in septic leach fields, according to a report done by MNS Engineers in 2010, so that wastewater can come into direct contact with the groundwater.
Recently enacted state and county regulations will force changes in the use of septic systems or onsite wastewater treatment systems in Los Olivos. A septic system that fails, especially if it is not up to current standards, can cost thousands of dollars to upgrade, according to David Brummond, supervisor with the county’s Division of Environmental Health Services.
Palmer said the election ballot will be made up of two components that all have to pass in order for the CSD to be formed. Voters will have to approve the CSD and elect five members to the board.
“The candidates bring a level of knowledge and expertise that meets or exceeds what is required. This is starting a district from the ground up literally, and I feel we have five excellent people,” said Jay Richolson, of the Los Olivos Steering Committee.
Richolson has been involved in the process since April of 2015 when he actually believed that merging with Santa Ynez CSD was the best option.
“We met with a board member and discussed the option to merge, but in that research we found out that Santa Ynez, Solvang and the county had been having discussing our situation and solutions without us a Los Olivos residents having a seat at the table. That’s when I changed my mind and feel forming our own district gives the residents the best option. None of the choices we have are free at this point, and neither is doing nothing,” Richolson said.
A competing plan had proposed annexing Los Olivos to the Santa Ynez Community Services District, as costs for the CSD were unknown at last year’s Santa Barbara Local Agency Formation meeting in April when the vote to proceed was approved.
The ballots are due by 8 p.m. on January 30 to the Santa Barbara County Election’s Office, or stamped by Jan. 22.