In the upcoming year, leaders of the Oceano services district will focus on upgrading aging sewer and water lines, help address flooding issues and discuss improving the community’s downtown.
Members of the Oceano Community Services District board say they’ve become a more cohesive, stable group over the past year. They’re no longer worried about the district’s solvency and can now shift their focus to infrastructure upgrades.
While the district doesn’t have land-use powers — planning decisions fall to San Luis Obispo County — Oceano services district members take an active interest in developments proposed for their community.
Four seats on the five-member Oceano Community Services District are up for re-election. The district provides sewer, water, street lighting and fire services to Oceano residents.
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Three members of the board are running unopposed, and an election will not be held for their seats. They are Matt Guerrero, Mary Lucey and Felma Hurdle.
The only contested election is between Rick Searcy, a retired construction worker and former board member, and Karen White, a retired journalist who lives in the town of Halcyon, within the Oceano services district boundaries.
Searcy previously served about 16 years on the services district board and was born and raised in the community.
During a community forum, Searcy said he believes the district’s most immediate challenge is making improvements to its water infrastructure and delivery system.
Searcy was appointed to the board in May 2011 but resigned a year later, citing medical conditions, less than a week after he was involved in a crash along Highway 101 and cited on suspicion of misdemeanor driving under the influence.
He pleaded not guilty to those charges, which were later dismissed, court records show. Instead, he pleaded no contest to a reduced charge, known as a “wet reckless,” which includes a fine and 18 months of probation.
White was appointed in June to fill Searcy’s seat. During a community forum, White acknowledged being a newcomer to the board but said she’s spent her life in the area and served on the Oceano Advisory Council as well as the Halycon Advisory Council, both of which advise county officials on developments.
White said she’s concerned the county’s plans for Oceano don’t always match local residents’ goals for the community.
She’s also keeping a close eye on a nonprofit organization’s plans to build a homeless services center in Oceano, just a few blocks from Highway 1.
Organizers of that plan would still have to obtain necessary permits from the county. However, the 5Cities Homeless Coalition is in a 24-month escrow on a parcel on Nipomo Street that’s owned by Searcy.
He was out of town Monday and could not be reached for further comment.
Also on the November ballot is a measure that would require voter approval before the Oceano services district could permanently sell water to an entity outside its boundaries.
The measure was proposed by an initiative petition signed by more than 500 people in 2011 after they became concerned about the board’s consideration of selling some water to local developers or other cities.
No arguments for or against the measure were submitted.
An impartial analysis by San Luis Obispo County Counsel Warren Jensen noted the measure could be subject to a legal challenge in part because the decision to sell water is an administrative matter, not within the initiative power of the voters.
White, who signed the petition, said as a board member she would never sell Oceano’s water on a permanent basis.
“It’s one of the assets Oceano is holding for its own growth,” she said.
Searcy said he was glad the measure is on the ballot, adding, “Whatever the outcome is, I’m positive that the sitting board will make good judgment on it.”