Red Flag Alert for Santa Paulans

January 26, 2007
By Craig Mailloux, Santa Paula resident I know next to nothing about sewer plants, but I know a bumpy road ahead when I see it. Red flags are flying over the Vertreat process that some are now proposing that we consider.We all know that Santa Paula is facing a sewer and financial crisis if something isnít done about our decrepit sewer facility. Daily fines of $25,000 are just around the corner, yet we have people wanting us to start the design process all over again.For several years, our city council and city staff have wrestled with how to solve the sewer crisis with a financial time bomb hanging over our heads. They have talked with experts, hired consultants, met with industry representatives and various governmental regulators, and talked with their counterparts in other cities and situations.Then along comes the election, a new city council, and the usual out of town gadflies once again began trying to exert their will over the citizens of Santa Paula by promoting the Vertreat system. They showed up armed with reams of paperwork to push Vertreat.Quite frankly, I donít know if Vertreat is a solution for Santa Paula, but I do know that people who donít live here, donít have property here and donít pay taxes here, should not be interfering with those of us who do. They are more than welcome to speak out, but they take it far beyond that.That is the first red flag. Next is why is there only one municipal Vertreat system in place in the entire United States, in tiny Homer, Alaska?Why does the parent company, Noram, appear to not market to municipalities, just businesses?Why will Noram not allow their usual distributor to speak with us?Why did we have to push Noram to meet with us? Why werenít they beating down our doors to get us to buy their system?Why would we consider buying a system in violation of state law, which says we must have legislative approval to purchase a system, which must, in turn, be run by the company that sold it?
Why on earth would we put a three hundred foot deep shaft, in fact at least two of them, on an earthquake fault? Duh!Why is it that the only people that appear to be speaking out at council and informational meetings are the out of town gadflies? Why arenít Santa Paulans speaking out?Why are those on the city blog pushing the Vertreat process doing so anonymously? This isnít a controversial process, so why would anyone be afraid to sign their writings in favor of Vertreat?Why would someone think that just because a system works on a giant aquarium, it would work for the citizens of Santa Paula?Why did the United Water Conservation District, based right here in Santa Paula, tell the City Council in writing to quit stalling and get this project done? UWCD is the organization that supported then-Mayor John Procter who negotiated a deal to use the first $8 million in fines towards the cost of the new plant.Why should the citizens of Santa Paula, who will have to pay for the sewer plant, gamble our money on an untried municipal system? Will Noram refund our money and replace their system if it doesnít work for us? Duh!Our city staff has done its homework under City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz and Public Works Director Cliff Finley. In fact, theyíve already met with the Vertreat people.Our new council members are expected to ask questions. I even spoke with Bob Gonzales about the issue one day during the campaign and pointed out to him that he had sat through numerous city council meetings where the issue was discussed and was likely as up to date as anyone on the issue. He agreed that he was and that a decision should be made as soon as possible.And now we are in limbo as we wait for a company that doesnít appear to want to do business with us to make a presentation in February. I would urge the council to make the decision and letís move on, without Vertreat. Letís go with something tried and true.

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