SYV Star Staff Report
The preliminary results of the vote-by-mail ballot were in favor of forming the Los Olivos Community Service District (LOCSD) after polls closed at the Santa Barbara County Elections Office. Of the 484 registered voters, 228 chose to form the district and 83 voted against it, as of Jan. 30.
“This is a huge win for the sovereignty of Los Olivos. Now we can focus on the immediate challenges that face our unique town and protect the interests of our friends and residents in Los Olivos as opposed to relying on neighboring municipalities to make those decisions for us,” said Jaime Dietenhofer, resident and owner of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company which has a location in the small town.
The proposed LOCSD would be governed by a board of directors also elected by Los Olivos residents to manage the planning, construction and operation of a community wastewater system. The board members chosen were Lisa Palmer, Tom Fayram, Mike Arme, Julie Kennedy and Brian O’Neill.
“Once the election is certified next week, we move on to the real work of starting up our efforts to determine the best, most cost-effective wastewater solution. We have an incredibly talented – and most importantly already functional – leadership team in the five likely candidates-elect. We are ready to get to work for all of our town’s residents,” Palmer said.
Wastewater and septic systems have been a decades-long issue in the small town that was designated a “special problems area” in the 1970s because of its high water table. That increases the risk that septic tank effluent will pollute groundwater.
“We already see impacts in the shallow zone in the entire Santa Ynez basin, and the Water Board will continue to move forward with our analysis and present the data and impacts. If there isn’t a CSD, then the decision goes to the county … on how to plan to address this issue,” according to Howard Kolb of the Regional Water Control Board.
New state and county regulations are forcing changes in the use of septic systems or onsite wastewater treatment systems. A septic system that fails, especially if it is not up to current standards, can cost thousands of dollars to upgrade, according to Environmental Health Services.
Some residents were concerned that forming the CSD would give more power to people who own more property within the proposed district, but Hood assured them that every registered voter gets one vote.
At the Jan. 4 meet the candidates forum, the candidates said they would do whatever is best for the community, but they can only do that job if the district is formed and they are elected.
“The report that EHS had done several years ago of building a treatment plant was just a suggestion. We don’t know costs of anything until we can get grants and matching funds, which are only available if we have a CSD,” Palmer said.
Election results must be certified by the Board of Supervisors, and approved by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).
If official, formation of the new district could become effective in April or May.