Ramona voters overwhelmingly approved two proposals Tuesday for the expansion of sewage treatment plants in an election forced by a citizen initiative measure that was approved in November.
The underlying issue was local growth control when voters in November approved by a 60% majority Proposition NN, which required resident approval for any capital expenditure of more than $1 million by the Ramona Municipal Water District. Tuesday’s election was the first test of the new procedure.
Proposition A on Tuesday’s ballot called for expansion of the district’s San Vicente waste water treatment plant to its ultimate capacity of 750,000 gallons a day to allow the final build-out of the community of San Diego Country Estates. It passed by an 87.46% margin.
Proposition B proposed a 400,000-gallon-a-day expansion of the Santa Maria treatment plant and construction of a 1.5-million-gallon-a-day water reclamation plant to treat the sewage water so it can be used for agricultural purposes. It was approved by an 86.21% margin.
Neither proposition would require new fees or tax increases to Ramona area residents, according to district officials who signed the ballot arguments in favor of the measures. No local opposition surfaced against the issues.
On Monday, a Superior Court judge refused to issue a temporary injunction that would have canceled Tuesday’s election. Judge James Malkus said the election would not cause irreparable harm to the water district, because an April 17 hearing will determine if the November initiative requiring voter approval of RMWD projects is indeed legal.
Attorney Wesley Peltzer, representing the district, said he expects to argue at the April 17 hearing that the initiative measure--Proposition NN--is invalid because it is beyond the power of the electorate to impose and because it conflicts with a number of state laws that include provisions giving powers to the district’s board of directors.
Peltzer added that if voters had failed to approve either proposal in Tuesday’s election, he would have asked ask the judge to invalidate the election results.
The Ramona district, which provides water, sewer, park and recreational services to the Ramona area, has been involved in controversial projects in recent years, including a $32-million dam and reservoir that prompted a citizens group call for a county grand jury probe of the district leaders’ fiscal responsibility.
The grand jury report, issued two years ago, questioned the water board’s leadership and the district’s ability to keep and attract competent personnel, but found no fiscal irregularities worthy of legal action.
Tuesday’s turnout was 17.02% of registered voters.