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Storm water cleanup fee needs to be reassessed

Posted: January 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

We believe Santa Clarita Valley residents are fortunate to be well governed on the municipal levels, both by the city and by our county representative, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. But every once in a while, some inexplicable gaffe of judgment comes along that makes us shake our heads in wonder.

Locally, the all-time favorite such gaffe may be 2007’s short-lived back-in angled parking in downtown Newhall. That will be good for decades of guffaws.

But the gaffe before the county Board of Supervisors last week wasn’t anywhere near as humorous. Supervisors chose to send out obscure-looking mailers during the holiday mailing season warning property owners they may have to pony up a bunch more money to clean up Los Angeles County beaches.

County Public Works information about what, exactly, this tax — oops, we mean fee — would cost proved to be wildly off, in some cases, from what the mailers said it would be for individual owners. "Off" as in the county said one thing, the fee document said a lot more.

Some property owners never got the notices. Others tossed them as junk amidst the press of holiday-season mail.

The poor planning in the area of notifying property owners was compounded by poor planning and communication elsewhere.

These November or December notices — for those who got them — called for a mid-January response. Not much time to process and respond to a message that’s unclear, contradictory, or all-together absent.

The plan, if one could call it that, proposes that the county will collect a property fee for storm-water cleanup, but it doesn’t take into account that many cities already impose a fee for the exact same purpose. And they’re carrying out that purpose just fine, thank you. So residents who live in a city — like Santa Clarita — who are already paying a fee for this service should cough up considerably more money to pay for people in other parts of the county to do there what’s already being done here — all because they’ve committed the sin of buying land here?

If it didn’t involve such unfair monetary assessments, that might be worth a guffaw.

During a public hearing last Tuesday, supervisors were unsurprisingly overwhelmed by objections. Although they were scheduled for a vote on the matter — a vote that would put the question formally to property owners via mail-in ballots — they instead extended residents’ protest period for 60 days and promised to tweak the plan to meet some objections.

Considering the ineptitude of the initial plan, we’re not much reassured by this.

The county needs to reassess this entire proposal, not just make a few changes like adding a sunset clause and then sliding it onto a general election ballot.

Since a number of cities already have storm-water cleanup plans that are working quite well — and at a lesser cost to property owners than the one proposed by the county — Public Works officials should assess existing programs for effectiveness and cost, model the best of the best into their own plan, and figure how best to impose that plan in areas of the county not currently covered by such plans. Then be transparent in their proposal.

Let those not already paying a fee for storm water cleanup pay the new fee for storm water cleanup. Don’t double-dip where the plan is already working.

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