Letter: Disagreeing on water project editorial

In response to your editorial “Proposition puts taxpayers at disadvantage” I disagree with the tone and logic suggested by your board regarding water rate increases.
San Benito County is an agricultural based economy. Water is the lifeblood of this community. Water districts and purveyors are under increasing pressure to meet environmental and federal/state water quality regulations in order to manage the watershed that serves the agricultural, municipal and industrial segments of the county.
The Freelance has been monitoring and reporting on the progress of the Urban Area Water Project for years. It should come as no surprise to anyone that investing in infrastructure is necessary to maintain the foundation of the community, meet increasingly stringent drinking water quality standards and state water control board sewer discharge standards to the environment.
My personal water utility career spans 25 years. During that time, federal and state government environmental and public health regulations have mandated to the water industry the investment in additional staff, training/certification, water treatment plant capital improvement projects, tools and equipment to meet new and revised water quality standards. Invariably, investments in mandated infrastructure improvements are reflected in increased water rates, taxes, fees and assessments.
San Benito County knows all too well from experience the cost of failing to manage its infrastructure and responsibly raise rates to invest in water/sewer treatment plant and conveyance systems. The Hollister sewer treatment plant debacle is the prime example that continues to impact ratepayers today.
I give credit to the San Benito County Water District, the Sunnyslope County Water District and the City of Hollister for demonstrating the leadership to invest in the necessary capital improvements proposed and managed by the Uran Area Water Project partnership in the face of negative and often ill-informed media and public opinion. The partnership met its obligation to promulgate the building of the proposed water treatment plant including financial impacts as required by law and reported such data to the public. The Freelance editorial board would do well to study the comprehensive proposal and consider the adverse effects of failing to make such a critical investment before condemning the effort as a sham.
San Benito County cannot afford to fail its obligation to meet federal/state water quality regulations as recent history has proven and been documented by the local press.
To paraphrase: Freelance Editorial Board, you can’t have it both ways. You’re either all in or all out.
Michael Smith, Hollister

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