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LAGUNA BEACH : Merger of Water and Sewer Units Considered

While the city manager is waving it off as a bad idea, City Council members have pledged to keep an “open mind” regarding the possibility of consolidating water and sewer services.

Mayor Kathleen Blackburn and Councilman Wayne L. Peterson have been meeting with representatives of the Laguna Beach County Water District and South Coast Water District regarding the possibility of a merger. They hope to deliver service more efficiently.

The Laguna Beach County Water District has provided water here since 1925. South Coast Water District provides sewer service for residents south of Nyes Place, the area annexed in 1987. The city provides its own sewer service in other parts of town.

The three agencies have been discussing various options for merging services since the spring. A consultant’s report on the subject is due in October.

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Blackburn and Peterson have brought the matter to their colleagues’ attention at council meetings, saying it is time to determine what reservations people may have about consolidation. City Manager Kenneth C. Frank offered a list of objections.

“I can’t see any reason for taking the city’s sewer service and giving it to a special district,” Frank said. “No city gives up it’s control over its sewer system, or water system if it has it.”

Frank said the public is more likely to hold a city accountable than a special district. “Very frankly, nobody pays much attention to special districts,” he said. “I frankly believe city councils are more visible and more accountable to voters than special district boards.”

Mike Dunbar, South Coast Water District’s general manager, disagreed with Frank’s assessment in general.

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“I feel that special districts, because they have only one or two purposes, do those better,” Dunbar said. “I feel my time is not divided between several different areas and I can devote my full time to water and sewer issues.”


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