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Sewer costs are not confined to Los Osos 

Pay attention, everyone, because this issue impacts us all

I am not one of the Los Osos “Sewer Nuts,” as the Shredder called the persistent voices who argue against the Los Osos sewer. I’ve never spoken publicly anywhere about the sewer issue, though I’ve lived here for 24 years. So please, Board of Supervisors and the entire San Luis Obispo County, do not turn off my microphone yet, because you really should think carefully about the ramifications to your local job and to our area economy building the sewer will have.

First, consider that a recent annual Los Osos Community Services District Water Quality Report on tests for 18 regulated substances to determine whether there are any “biological, inorganic, volatile organic, or synthetic organic contaminants” in Los Osos water found no violations: Not one of the nasty substances that were subjects of the tests, among them mercury and nitrates, fell outside of the acceptable range. We have been warned of evils lurking in Los Osos water for 23 years, yet none were found; there are no violations.

Perhaps you can understand why some people object to what’s about to happen. Starting in December, the first new property tax for the sewer must paid by Los Osos residents. Just in time for the holidays, my household will dish out an additional $375 for half of the annual sewer assessment. That won’t kill us; however, like many other residents, we want to avoid stacking up credit-card debt, so we’ll cut a few corners. We certainly have no alternative but to buy gas at $4 per gallon and we need to buy groceries; those are staples we simply can’t do without. Where my family and thousands of others in Los Osos will make up for the new tax is to skip such discretionary spending as going to the movies in Arroyo Grande, or we won’t check out one of the new restaurants in downtown San Luis Obispo, and do I really need another pair of shoes? We’ll save $50 by not dining out; save $40 by foregoing a movie and a drink before or after; hold onto another $50 by not shopping for clothes we really don’t absolutely need, and we’re nearly half way to saving the money to pay the new tax. We’ve got Netflix (heck, it only went up $10), and it can save a lot of money by letting us skip going out.

Are you getting it, Board of Supervisors and everyone else? When the average family in Los Osos will have to pay $245 EVERY MONTH FOR THE NEXT 20 YEARS to flush the toilet, if the sewer is built, in addition to the increasing higher annual sewer assessment starting this December, where is that money supposed to come from? It’s going to come from our discretionary spending. Yes, Los Osos has some great restaurants, but there are far too few, and there a very few shops, so where do Los Osos residents spend their discretionary money? All around the county, that’s where! Superficially, whether or not Los Osos residents must pony up for a new sewer seems immaterial to anyone who isn’t a resident, but think twice about that, SLO County.

Our county neighbors should care about this issue because it is, in fact, not confined to Los Osos: This is a San Luis Obispo County economic issue and every business and employee whose livelihood is related to public discretionary spending ought to care about what is happening to more than 14,000 Los Osos residents. Since the 2011 CSD water quality analysis found no violations after 23 years of crying wolf, why is the sewer being forced on a community who must bear the financial burden heaped on it by decision makers who are not among those paying for their decision?

This project continues despite the lack of scientific foundation, merely because of the intransigence of the Board of Supervisors, Roger Briggs of the Water Quality Control Board, and Public Works Director Paavo Ogren, who evidently care only about flexing their power. If Los Osos residents are forced to pay the sewer tax, sales tax and other county revenue will be diminished for many years, which will adversely affect schools, other public services, and small businesses throughout the county. If the Los Osos sewer is built, it’s going to remove millions of dollars annually from our county’s economy. The ripple effect will be profound.

Now you can turn off my microphone.

Gary J. Freiberg is a retired financial advisor and economist. Send comments via the opinion editor at econnolly@newtimesslo.com.

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