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The political war over water in San Juan Bautista is escalating
out of control. And in this war, the casualties may be the
residents of San Juan who could see any hope of improving the
Mission City’s antiquated water system go down the toilet.
The political war over water in San Juan Bautista is escalating out of control. And in this war, the casualties may be the residents of San Juan who could see any hope of improving the Mission City’s antiquated water system go down the toilet.

Last week, the San Juan City Council decided that it would go it alone in trying to use a $3.8 million federal grant to overhaul the city’s water and sewer system.

They feel that the San Benito County Water District wants too much control over the grant, while water district officials are worried that San Juan will not administer the funds properly.

In a resolution, the council stated that it hasn’t been able to reach an agreement with the water district, and says it plans to use other methods to raise the rest of the funds needed to complete the nearly $8 million project. The water district had planned to match the grant with $3.1 million of its own money.

The problem is, the federal government has suspended the grant and says it is a real possibility it will go away altogether if the two parties – which the feds say applied for the money together – can’t come to terms.

So, we have a government standoff that is jeopardizing a crucial project for San Juan residents. The discouraging part is the money is there now to finance the project. The grant has only been suspended and the water district has committed to pitching in millions. Now, because our local politicians can’t come to an agreement, San Juan is taking a riskier approach to fixing the water system.

That’s a breakdown in leadership on both sides of the debate, and our elected officials must do more to secure an agreement.

The two government bodies should call on someone to mediate the dispute and find a solution. Perhaps they could call on retired Judge Tom Breen, a respected man with area ties, to help solve their differences.

We’d also like to see Congressman Sam Farr, D-Carmel, ask the federal government to hold off on canceling the grant while the two parties work this out.

Losing this grant to another city with a plan in place and the ability to make it work would be a failure by the officials on both boards to serve the people who elected them.

And that failure, we hope, is one that voters will not forget when it comes time to go to the polls.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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