Council: Sale of former WWTP property still questioned by public speakers
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula City Council
Published: December 05, 2012
Negotiations are continuing on selling to the local trash hauler city-owned industrial property on the west end of town, although a citizen asked the City Council to consider alternatives.
John Wisda, a council appointed Planning commissioner, made his remarks at the November 19 council meeting.
The council has been working to sell the approximately 10-acre site of the former wastewater treatment plant for months, a move that has brought considerable public comment questioning the soundness of a sale versus a lease or other options. Crown Disposal wants to purchase the property as a maintenance yard, with future plans to have the Corporation Road location serve as a recycling facility and food digester.
According to reports such future uses would require minimal environmental cleanup. Crown would pay approximately $2.04 million for the parcel, which also holds the city’s maintenance yard and the Future Farmers of America farm.
City Attorney John Cotti told the council negotiations were continuing, including carving out a small portion of the property to retain for city use and allowing use by the FFA for up to one year. A “host fee” for dumping will also be imposed if future use of the property includes waste disposal.
Such fees as well as some other issues, said Cotti, were causing more discussion. Cotti said he and City Manager Jaime Fontes “spent an inordinate amount of time” on the proposed deal, but Crown requested a number of changes that require further negotiation.
Wisda used his public speaker time to question what the city would do with the income from the sale. “I think,” said Wisda, “the money should be rebated back to the utility payers... how about a little relief for the ratepayers?”
He estimated such a payment “would be small, a couple of hundred dollars,” and such a use would be better than general fund spending. The city would be ridding itself of an asset, a move Wisda questioned overall, and he said spending of such revenues should be accounted for.
Wisda also criticized the council for the lack of transparency on the proposed sale, noting the property was never advertised, was not listed with a Realtor and possibly could be sold for more. He also noted that another option, the city leasing the property to Crown, was also never addressed.
“These options were never discussed publicly,” and Wisda questioned the “non-transparency” of the proposed deal, “put together by staff and not by the council.” Wisda said such issues prompted him as a Planning commissioner to vote against the sale, rather opting for a lease.
At the direction of Mayor Bob Gonzales, Cotti said the there had been public discussion on the proposed sale and the property had been offered to and rebuffed by housing providers and schools.
Fontes and several council members discussed how the money would be held and/or spent, including potentially a new computer system to replace the “antiquated” system Councilman Jim Tovias said the city has had to deal with for years.
Later in the meeting, Councilman Fred Robinson harkened back to the issue and said he agreed with Wisda that a refund to ratepayers should be considered from sale proceeds.