Thursday, June 7, 2007
Joe Rosa, who manages the Pajaro/Sunny Mesa Community Service District, wants ownership of five small water systems in North Monterey County so that the public district can fix them up. The system in Prunedale has serious arsenic contamination, but Rosa can’t dig a new well until Pajaro/Sunny Mesa is the owner.
John Richardson has the titles. The court appointed Richardson receiver in 2002 to manage and then sell off the water systems formerly owned by Alisal Water Corporation (Alco). Judge Jeremy Fogel took the systems from Alco for falsifying water reports and committing a host of Safe Drinking Water Act violations.
Five years later, Richardson has not completely transferred any of the systems.
Rosa says Richardson is deliberately delaying the transfer for his own economic gain.
“He has refused to transfer the title to the systems because…he will no longer have a justification for his inflated and unwarranted billings for his ‘services,’” Rosa writes in a recent court declaration.
Richardson says he is not stalling and declined to respond to the allegation that he is padding his pocketbook. “I’m just shocked that he made these kind of comments,” he said. “I’m dealing with them in district court and I really don’t want to bring this out in the paper.”
The dispute centers on who will pay for a pipeline relocation in Moss Landing and debt left behind by Alco.
In April 2004 the court approved Pajaro/Sunny Mesa’s offer to buy the five North Monterey County systems for $33,000. The water district started to operate and maintain the systems under contract with Richardson in February 2005 while awaiting transfer approval from the California Public Utilities Commission.
Meanwhile, Monterey County had demanded that Alco relocate a pipeline to allow the rebuilding of the Moss Landing Bridge. Marc Del Piero, Pajaro/Sunny Mesa’s attorney, says Richardson didn’t address the issue until it became a crisis.
Rosa says Richardson directed him to sign a $250,000 contract to get the work done in December 2005. “The receiver wanted PSMCSD to sign the contract, so he could say that it was our liability, thereby freeing the money to pay himself,” Del Piero says.
In the meantime, more than 30 homeowners will continue to shower in arsenic-laden water. They have been advised to drink bottled water.
“It’s sad, because you have a bunch of our ratepayers that have been suffering from bad water or excessive costs for years and years,” Rosa says. “I think they’ve been neglected long enough.”