Finding # 15: A previous Board, upon legal advice, chose to place sewer fees on the tax roll to capture direct and indirect operating costs.
I want to expand on the original words concerning this finding as spelled out in the Kern County Grand Jury Report of June 2015, “A previous Board, upon legal advice, chose to place sewer fees on the tax roll to capture direct and indirect operating costs.
Obviously, the Kern County Grand Jury considered evidence that led them to this conclusion.
Internalized Question # 2:
I wonder, “Which lawyer suggested placing sewer fees on the tax rolls in the first place?” Before continuing, I highly suggest that you read Finding # 14, I think it will better prepare you for the conclusion you are about to come to?
Yes, this is true and it is also following precedent, all of Los Angeles County properties pay their sewer fees on the property tax and it is considered common practice with most jurisdictions and this action is also authorized by the California Health Code 5473.1, sewers are different from water, electricity, gas where you are paying for a service and a system and not a product.
Continuing from the discussion in Finding # 14, I prefer to call Finding # 15, “The Smoking Gun”, as Rosamond Community Service District Board Member Olaf Landsgaard and other rental property owners screamed loud and often about placing the sewer fee on the property tax because this action would make them the property owners responsible for the sewer fee regardless if their rental properties are rented out or are vacant, Mr. Landsgaard was heard to ask quite often, “If the house is empty then the sewer is not being used so why should land lords be made to pay for something they are not using?”
To characterize the issue in this manner really doesn’t consider all of the infrastructure involved in sewage disposal and quite literally demonstrates a very simple line of thought (perhaps, simple logic for a simple mind).
As for over simplifying things… just remember, if you can get a lawyer to recommend it… he becomes the fall guy and all matters related to the decision fall under “attorney – client” privilege. In other words, when answering an uncomfortable question, it’s always easier to say, “Based upon my lawyer’s advice….”
Having provided substantial background information, I will introduce an aspect I didn’t mention in Finding # 14, sewer systems are gravity flow systems and are designed for the estimated flow based on how many connections each particular trunk line supports. When a sewer system is designed, the engineers look at current demand and also estimate future growth. It is also preferred and much less expensive to design a gravity–flow system, rather than having to rely upon expensive pumps to maintain a gravity “simulated” flow. Sewer system operates best when there is a constant flow of about a one-third of a pipe, this allows for waste as it is deposited into the system to be carried away to the sewage treatment plant. This is why one street may have a 10” line and the next street over might be a 12” line; line diameter is all based upon the hydraulic-flow aspects of raw sewage.
Almost always, lines are installed with projected flow rates in mind.
Similar to denying that a tree falling in the woods makes no noise if no one is there to hear it, Mr. Landsgaard has publicly conjectured that an empty residence doesn’t place a demand upon the existing sewer system and he is completely wrong when expounding this theory of “no use equals no expense”. The plain and simple truth is just the opposite of the “Landsgaard Theorem” in fact empty houses induce more stress upon the sewer system than occupied homes, let me provide a realistic example:
Concerning optimum flow designs; when houses connected to a sewer system are using the system on a regular basis…normal flow exists…in this desired state…say a street has 30 homes on a trunk line and the pipe is designed to run at one-third full and you have seven rentals on this line and if all the rentals are sitting empty then what happens to the flow?
Flow decreases, then deposits are not swept away as designed and “backups begin to develop”. Backups result in odors and can contribute to partial or full blockages causing a sewage overflow (raw sewage is very bad for public health and safety).
You should also know the besides raw human waste, there is also residual grease and cooking fats that are generated as we prepare meals and wash dishes.
The number one contributors to clogged sewer lines are Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG). Additionally, FOG, as it is referred by the waste management industry is (at a minimum) are consider flow reducers. FOG components in wastewater are among the more stable of the organic compounds and are not easily decomposed by bacteria so these fats coat, congeal, and accumulate on pipes, pumps, equipment and sometimes obstruct lines. As FOG builds up in the system, preventative maintenance is required to clean out the backups. All sewer lines are on a scheduled cleaning cycle based on flow amounts (usually on an annual basis). Therefore, empty houses can result in sewer lines needing to be cleaned more frequently which, in turn, raise sewer fees.
Clearly, one can see the fallacy in Mr. Landsgaard’s argument.
This faulty logic was not lost on RCSD General Manager Steve Perez, who observed that when the sewer rate study was completed, it based fees on ALL properties connected to the system. Mr. Perez compared total amount of revenue actually coming into the RCSD to what SHOULD have been coming in (based upon total number of connections) and he identified an annual shortfall of approximately $150,000. This amount translates into no less than 312 connections during any given month sitting empty, not paying a sewer fee. Owning a rental property is a business and as a business, the business owners should pay their obligations and not have everyday homeowners subsidizing businesses by picking up part of the tab.
At the current rate of revenue ($150,000 every year) then it will not be long before the sewer rate has to be raised prematurely to make up for the short fall in revenue. (If you need a reminder), refer to Finding # 14 at the justification given in 2009 for having to increase rates.
I know, you internalize the answer to my question of, “I wonder, “Which lawyer suggested placing sewer fees on the tax rolls in the first place?”
Here’s the real answer: It was Mr. John Gibson who gave the advice. Mr. Landsgaard is a bit aloof, and I think not smart enough to come up with this ploy. I will further support this observation on Olaf in the discussion for Finding # 20, concerning the tiered-water rates….
====================== Finding # 15 states: “A previous Board, upon legal advice, chose to place sewer fees on the tax roll to capture direct and indirect operating costs.”
The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 15: “The Board agrees with this finding.”
To read the next section click here: The Midnight Writings: Finding 16 and 17 – “Sewer Fees: There and Back Again”