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LAFCo votes to let service districts remain separate

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer
2/19/2012

Separate checks, please.

That’s the request Quincy’s two service districts are sending to the state as they try to formalize their failed merger.

The 16-year effort to join Quincy and East Quincy into one water and sewer district began to unwind last spring when East Quincy’s board voted to back out.

On Monday, Feb. 6, the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) board of directors voted unanimously to let the two districts remain separate.

LAFCo Director John Benoit said the decision to formally kill the consolidation was a matter of time and money.

He said the districts faced an accounting mess if they weren’t formally joined or separated by May. That’s because the state considered them one district, even though they weren’t.

The State Board of Equalization issued just one tax-revenue check instead of two because the districts had agreed to be joined by July 1, 2011.

Although East Quincy’s board voted to end the merger plan last spring, the consolidation wheels were already in motion, according to LAFCo. The state currently recognizes the districts as the American Valley Community Services District (AVCSD), which doesn’t exist.

In making his recommendation to the LAFCo board, Benoit stressed the districts were facing a time crunch because of the tax distribution deadline.

“Just to clean up the issue, I urge you to consider the resolution (to de-consolidate),” Benoit told the LAFCo board.

“I realize that we asked (the district boards) to go to mediation. And they are probably open to it,” Benoit said. “But I think time is of the essence in respect to this issue.”

The consolidation process is finished for now. However, the districts might be on the verge of collaborating on a potential new wastewater treatment plant.

EQSD engineer Dan Bastian outlined the first phase of a treatment plant feasibility study during a public meeting Jan. 30.

He recommended the districts work together if they decide to build a treatment plant to replace the aging Quincy plant.

EQSD board chairman Greg Margason said he was impressed with the engineer’s presentation.

“Everyone who was at the meeting, I thought, received a very good understanding of what the problem is that the whole valley is currently facing,” Margason said.

The district boards agreed to hold another joint meeting March 21. Margason said the boards “will continue to work together and go from there.”

LAFCo refused to approve the deconsolidation in November. It ordered the two district boards to meet and discuss mediation.

However, LAFCo appeared to back off its consolidation stance as the tax distribution deadline drew closer.

“The two districts don’t need to be merged to collaborate,” Benoit told the LAFCo board. “The districts in Truckee collaborate. The districts in Sacramento collaborate. The districts in Monterey collaborate with one treatment facility.”

The next step in the deconsolidation process is a public protest proceeding.

LAFCo will hold the public protest hearing March 12. It is set to begin at 10 a.m. at the Permit Center Conference Room, located at 555 Main St. in Quincy. The hearing will end at 10:15 if no one appears to submit a written protest in person.

A protest proceeding allows the public a chance to voice its opinion on the deconsolidation.

If enough people want the consolidation to go forward, it could be put to a vote of the two districts’ customers.

However, contrary to previous reports, the process of putting the matter to a vote is not a simple task.

Benoit said a petition signed by 25 percent of the valley’s registered voters or landowners would be required to get the measure on a ballot.

“It’s really a very hard thing to do,” Benoit said. “It has been done. But not on something of this scale.”

Benoit predicted that if the districts ever consolidate, it would likely be “for a later date and another generation.”

Anyone with questions about the protest proceeding can call the LAFCo office at 283-7069.


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