County supervisors Tuesday allocated another $750,000 to keep the Los Osos sewer project going.
The 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Frank Mecham voting “no,” marked a shift from financing and permitting to designing the $165 million project that is expected to begin construction in September 2011.
Mecham has been a critic of the continued use of county general funds to keep the project alive. The board has spent $6 million in general funds so far, mostly on Public Works Department staff time.
The money is scheduled to be paid back in March when grants and loans from federal and state government are obtained. However, Mecham said, the spending has been keeping him awake at night.
“Costs for this project just keep escalating,” he said.
Roughly half of the money for the project — $87 million — is coming from federal stimulus funds. The remainder will be provided by loans from state water officials.
Tuesday’s hearing also featured dozens of complaints from Los Osos residents who said the cost of the sewer is prohibitive and will drive some residents out of their homes. Others complained about a lack of transparency.
“I believe this process may very well be rigged,” Vita Miller of Los Osos said.
As a precondition of getting the state and federal funding, supervisors locked in the rates Tuesday that the county will be able to charge Los Osos residents. Currently, the monthly cost to an owner of a single-family residence would be $194.
That sum could drop to $163 a month if owners of undeveloped lots in the town vote to become part of an assessment that would allow them to hook up to the sewer system. The county would not start collecting the fee until the sewer system is operational — which it is not expected to be until 2014 at the earliest, said Paavo Ogren, county public works director.
The project calls for a sewage collection and treatment system to be installed in the town to replace septic systems. Construction of the collection system is expected to take three years, while construction of the treatment plant is expected to take two years.
Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.