Spend money to make money: CCSD buys washers, plans to recoup in fees

ktanner@thetribunenews.comJanuary 17, 2013 

In the search for how to reduce Cambrians’ water consumption and free up the precious liquid for others to use, the town’s services district has struck a $30,000 deal with Laundromat owners Norma and Eliseo Casas.

Bob Gresens, engineer for the Cambria Community Services District, estimates that by installing 20 brand new, 18-pound-load, Maytag high-efficiency machines, in place of others that were at least 20 years old and used much more water, the district and the Casases could conserve as much as 1,083 gallons of water per day.

After discussions in December and January, the district Board of Directors unanimously approved providing those new commercial machines to the business, at a cost to the district of $30,007.
The laundromat’s four 30-pound-load washers won’t be replaced under this agreement.

The district’s 2012-2013 budget included $50,000 for commercial, institutional and industrial retrofitting. District staff and directors said the changes at the Laundromat are among the conserving opportunities that would provide the most water-savings benefit for the investment,
Eliseo Casas is installing the machines, and will maintain and repair them as needed, but the couple won’t have to pay back the district’s investment. The Casases may not sell the machines, and if the business should close within five years, the machines would be returned to the district. If the business is sold, any new owner also would be bound by the agreement.

CCSD staff estimate that repayment would come from fees paid by new development, projects that might be allowable because more water would be available to serve those new accounts.

The district’s complex formula allocates a certain number of points when a water-saving device replaces one that’s not so thrifty. Each retrofit “point” equals the use of 1.47 gallons of water per day. CCSD banks those points, and someone who wants to build a new home or remodel an existing one, for instance, can buy the points, then considered fees in lieu of finding someone whose plumbing fixtures need to be retrofitted.

In effect, the purchased points cover the new project’s future water demands, as required by district ordinance.

The Laundromat retrofit generated 737 retrofit points.

District staffers say the points method is easier and more reliable than having each individual homebuilder or project developer find and retrofit other homes or businesses that have older plumbing fixtures.

The method’s bookkeeping, however, is complex, and the district had to do some in-depth research recently to straighten out that list.

Norma Casas said Monday, Jan. 14, that she and her husband think the CCSD deal will “help us and help the people in town, too,” by making more water available for the community and generating lower water bills for the Laundromat owners.

District board President Mike Thompson said the trade is good business. In a Jan. 9 email, he said that besides being available for locals, “from a Chamber of Commerce perspective, a clean and well-functioning, visitor-serving Laundromat is almost as important as clean and attractive public restrooms.”

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