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Plan B? 

If you're ruminating on the state of your personal affairs—your bills, commitments, and future—and you're feeling overwhelmed, consider the San Simeon Community Services District (SSCSD), and I'm guessing you'll feel much better about your situation, because holy Toledo, what a shitshow! The little hamlet of 462 permanent residents located along Highway 1 between Cambria and Hearst Castle is facing an existential crisis, at least according to its interim General Manager Patrick "Chicken Little" Faverty, who assures residents the sky is falling.

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It's a long, complicated tale of woe, years in the making, but in short, the SSCSD promised the California Coastal Commission it would relocate its wastewater treatment facility by 2038. The current facility is in a flood-risk area too close to the ocean. Faverty estimates the move along with a couple of other required projects will cost between $15 million and $20 million, and according to my calculations, even the low-end number pencils out to $32,468 per resident.

Faverty's Plan A is to abdicate the community's responsibilities and pass them off to SLO County. In other words, the SSCSD wants to divest itself of its most expensive responsibilities, and if that doesn't work, dissolve itself altogether, giving up control of the town. I think residents might be forgiven for asking if Faverty is the right person for this job. Usually for big projects like this, leadership investigates state and federal grants, bonds, and economic development programs to help fund them, but so far Faverty's best solution is to bail.

The SSCSD was created in 1961 and has a long history of providing street lighting and maintenance, water, and wastewater treatment. Yes, it's faced with perhaps its biggest challenge to date, in part because of past desperate and misguided decisions. Gather 'round the fire and listen to this horror story that started a decade ago when the parent company of its former water provider, APTwater Services LLC, went bankrupt. The community faced a total shutdown of services in 2014 until knight in shining armor Charles Grace, who happened to be APTwater Services' general manager, stepped up and personally paid for the SSCSD's operator salaries to ensure residents didn't lose access to water or wastewater treatment services.

Hm. So while Grace was manager, his company's parent company went broke, which probably impacted his salary—but he had enough pocket change to keep San Simeon's water flowing out and wastewater flowing in, eh? Interesting. Then Grace's own company, Grace Environmental Services (GES), was named the new provider (nothing to see here, move along), and after two years of providing service, GES won an eight-year contract good through ... the current debacle.

Oh, did I mention Grace was acting as the de facto SSCSD general manager even though he was never officially appointed? Grace's dual role eventually came to the attention the SLO County District Attorney's Office and the Fair Political Practices Commission in 2021, beginning a joint investigation into Grace and his company that found a conflict of interest, forcing Grace and his company out.

Guess how Grace, whose name now suddenly drips with irony, handled his ouster? Yes, he took his marbles and left, and now Faverty and his skeleton crew are scratching their heads, wondering how to proceed. Good grief!

"Grace left the district with nothing. He and the previous operators walked out the door after the settlement without offering any support," Faverty told New Times. "Sure, there are systems in place, but to be frank, they are antique and should have been replaced years ago."

There's no question Faverty and the SSCSD are in a hard place, but dude, you taught leadership classes at UC Santa Barbara, so how about trying a little, I don't know, leadership before you dissolve an organization that has given San Simeon residents a measure of autonomy for the past 63 years?

On March 7, the SSCSD board of directors will vote on whether to divest their water and wastewater responsibilities, a process that if granted would take nine to 12 months ... if it goes quickly! Think Oceano trying to divest of its fire protection, which has dragged on longer than a year. I get that the length of this process is exactly Faverty's argument for rushing divestment, but how about in the near term the SSCSD starts a plan to relocate the water treatment facility and explores grants and funding?

"This town has much to offer, but it's been mismanaged for too long," Faverty said.

Um, OK, but now you're the manager, so manage it better.

Speaking of wastewater, the March 5 election is coming up, and that means it's time for Flyer Wars, when your mailboxes are flooded with political ads full of red meat talking points.

Fifth District Supervisor candidates Susan Funk and Heather Moreno are already on the receiving ends of flung poo. Funk accuses Moreno of silently endorsing MAGA extremism: "won't stand up to ... MAGA-style Republicans." Moreno claims Funk is "endorsed by extremists that want to DEFUND the POLICE." Um, has Moreno claimed to be a MAGA Trumpian? Has Funk campaigned on defunding the po-po? No-no? Then who cares? This bottom-of-the-barrel politics is unworthy of our attention.

But hey, before you relegate these glossy cardstock flyers to the blue bins of destiny, remember they're thick enough to fold into durable paper airplanes. Fun for the kids! Wee! Δ

The Shredder is showered, rested, and ready. Dish the political dirt at [email protected].

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