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What the County's Talking About This Week 

Court to decide if teen suspects will be tried as adults

This week the San Luis Obispo District Attorney's office is asking a juvenile court judge to determine whether two 16-year-old boys can be tried as adults in the recent violent beating of an Oceano man.

On Thursday morning, the court will begin a process that, as Deputy District Attorney Andrew Baird described it, could take several weeks. First, mental health officials will determine whether the minor can be treated as a minor or if they should be treated as an adult.

"In addition, the probation department will do a background investigation, and make a recommendation also," Baird said.

Sheriff's deputies found an unconscious Silva de la Paz, 42, at about 3 a.m. near the corner of 19th Street and Wilmar Avenue in Oceano early Saturday morning. His bloody wallet was found nearby. When medical professionals first took de la Paz to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, he was in a coma and listed in critical condition.

The district attorney's office has since reported that his condition has improved.

After three teens were arrested for the beating, Baird's office filed felony charges - robbery and assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury - against the two 16-year-olds. The third boy, who is 15, has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

If convicted, each boy could spend between seven and eight years in juvenile or state prison.

-Abraham Hyatt

Citizens come to blows as CSD agrees to pay $116 million for sewer

The Los Osos Community Services District (CSD) in a special meeting last week voted 3-2 - with Lisa Schicker and Julie Tacker dissenting - to accept a combination of bids for construction of the town's grossly contentious downtown sewer debacle. Although the $116 million price tag was considerably higher than previous estimates, General Manager Bruce Buel warned that a second round of bids would likely drive the price even higher.

"It was a very tough call with no right or wrong answer," Buel acknowledged. "But there was a lot of risk in not taking the bids."

The board looked at the possibility of soliciting more contractors in hopes of finding a lower bid, but there was no convincing evidence to suggest that a second round would be any more competitive than the first. Only three contractors participated in the first round of bids, while another eight companies declined the invitation.

The pro-sewer board members and their Move Forward/Save the Dream supporters simply maintain that further delays will only increase the cost of the project. Construction is now expected to begin in July.

Director Tacker, a staunch opponent of the downtown sewer project, was also skeptical that the CSD could attract a lower bid. Anyone who reads the newspaper knows what kind of budget the CSD has for this project, she explained, and it's no surprise that the bids came so close to that budget.

At the previous board meeting, on April 7, Directors Tacker and Schicker both recommended rejecting all bids and finding a different project.

"I'm staying true to my campaign promise," Schicker announced, referring to her commitment to move the sewer out of downtown. This comment drew a warm round of applause from the Community Center's capacity crowd, at which point CSD President Stan Gustafson threatened to clear the room.

Director Gordon Hensley's analysis of the cost vs. risk led him to opt for the "bird in the hand" rather than hunt for a "bird in the bush."

Reactions were mixed following the April 21 vote. Save the Dreamers mostly rejoiced that the project is moving forward. Sewer opponents are still counting on a board recall to change the course of the project.

One sewer supporter, Sharon Fredericks, apparently let her emotions get the best of her and demanded that Tacker resign from her position. When Jan Van Der Garbedian stepped in to defend the board member, Fredericks allegedly hit her in the face several times. The incident was reported to the Sheriff, and the district attorney will most likely file charges for assault, according to a county legal clerk who declined to give her name.

Neither the victim nor the suspect could be reached for comment.

-Jeff Hornaday

 

Cal Poly students vote down fee increase

Cal Poly students voted down a fee increase last week that would have expanded and improved student facilities. Blake Bolton, Associated Students Inc. president, described it as "a huge disappointment."

The proposed fee increase would have added $21 per quarter with incremental increases until 2011, at which point fees would have totaled $175 per quarter. The money would have gone to expanding and improving student facilities, such as the Recreation Center and Student Union. If passed, fee increases would have also provided money for a new student center. The increase lost, with 63 percent of voters voting against it. About one-third of Cal Poly students voted, which Bolton said is a pretty solid turnout.

A separate fee increase for club activities also failed, but only by 75 votes.

Bolton said he was surprised at the results because studies had been conducted that showed students wanted the new facilities and increased services.

"It's truly a disappointment for future students of the university, and a time of lost opportunity," he said.

Bolton said Cal Poly students have, in the last couple of years, passed numerous other fee-increase votes. He added this last vote "was just the boiling point."

-John Peabody

 

Further discussions for power plant outfall

In a closed session, the Morro Bay City Council ruled against entering into litigation to evict Duke Energy for operating without a lease agreement. The city and Duke have been unable to come to an agreement over the outfall lease. The outfall is the area of land that Duke rents from the city for the purpose of discharging water that is used in the plants cooling operation. The cooling water is discharged into the ocean.

The city has said the lease for the land is worth $960,000 a year, and Duke has said it refuses to offer any more than $350,000. "$600,000 is quite a bit of money to Morro Bay during these budget times," said City Attorney Rob Schultz.

Morro Bay city officials met with Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee on April 15 for information purposes, said Schultz.

"We've got to make sure that the people understand and that the decision makers do too," he said. The city also has a meeting arranged with State Senator Abel Maldonado.

Duke maintains that the outfall lease is worth $7.75 per square foot. This amount is equal to other outfall lease agreements in the state. But Shultz said the city's appraisal of $25 per square foot is more accurate because the land of the outfall lease is on commercially viable property, unlike any other outfall in the state.

According to Shultz, other outfall sites cannot be used for commercial property because they're underwater or not at all viable, as in the case of Diablo Canyon. For this reason it's fair for the city to ask for more, says Shultz.

Mayor Peters said it's the city's position not to jump into litigations, and she is still hopeful that the city and Duke can work out an agreement. "What we want is something that's good for the city and Duke."

-John Peabody

 

Osos citizens file petition to move the sewer

Less than a week after the CSD's acceptance of downtown sewer project bids, members of the Los Osos group Citizens for a Safe Environment (CASE) turned in a petition for an initiative to move the sewer. CASE handed in the petitions to the County Clerk's office on April 27 with about 1,790 signatures. Roughly 1,350 were verified by the campaign, and 1,007 signatures are required to put the initiative on the ballot.

Al Barrow, president of CASE, emphasized the importance of community involvement in this deeply divisive issue and the citizens' rights to vote on the project's cost and location.

"We never give up our right to vote if elected officials aren't doing what we want them to," Barrow said.

County Clerk Julie Rodewald expects the office to finish verifying those signatures, as well as signatures for the recall initiative, in time for the June 2 meeting of the CSD.

If the County Clerk verifies enough signatures through its system of random sampling, the two issues would be consolidated into one election. That special election would probably take place sometime in September, Rodewald said.

By that time, construction on the sewer might be well under way. That would not make it impossible to stop or move the project, General Manager Bruce Buel said, but "the pain level is going to be much higher."

-Jeff Hornaday

 

Fish sculpture returned with apology

Local hooligans who absconded with "Trout On the Range" returned the sculpture to City Hall on April 26. The bandits retuned the fish with a letter of apology and a $100 donation for the Prado Day Center, the group benefiting from the sculpture fund-raiser, Trout About Downtown.

"We would like to
apologize for out actions. Taking the fish was a
mistake and we would like to return it," wrote the fishnappers.

"Trout On the Range," along with "Steely Dan," was stolen on April 25 but police soon after found "Steely Dan" not far from its stand near Firestone Grill.

According to Betsy Kiser, public art coordinator for the city, the sponsors of Trout About Downtown are considering installing tracking devices in the trout.

-John Peabody

Dan DeVaul arrested for animal cruelty

Dan DeVaul, owner of the Sunny Acres sober living facility, was arrested on charges of animal cruelty last week. DeVaul, who was profiled in the March 3-10 New Times story "It's all about humanity," was herding cows with his jeep when he allegedly struck one of them.

Animal Services had the Holstein put down after determining that its legs were broken. Sheriff's Deputies arrested DeVaul on suspicion of animal cruelty. ³

-John Peabody

 

This weeks' news was compiled and reported on by staff writers Abraham Hyatt, John Peabody, and Jeff Hornaday.

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