Management of the Novato Sanitary District, Measure F (June 2010)

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A Management of the Novato Sanitary District Referendum, Measure F ballot proposition was on the June 8, 2010 ballot in Marin County for any voters who live in the area served by the Novato Sanitary District, where it was narrowly approved. http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/rv/main/currentelection/results.htm

The ballot measure let voters have the final say over the decision by the board of the Novato Sanitary District to turn over the management and operation of its new $90 million wastewater treatment plant to Veolia Water.[1] Supporters of the Veolia contract said that the contract would save the district $7.2 million versus alternative management deals.[2]

The California Healthy Communities Network, based in Martinez, turned in over 4,000 petition signatures on October 15, 2009 to qualify the veto referendum for the ballot. 2,178 valid signatures were required.[3]

At the time of the Measure F victory, Novato Sanitary District primarily served residents of Novato, a city of about 52,000 residents located about 30 miles north of San Francisco.

A "yes" vote was a vote to enter into a contract with Veolia Water to manage the sanitary district. A "no" vote was a vote against the contract with Veolia Water.

Election results

Measure F
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 7,632 50.59%
No7,45349.41%
These final, certified results are from the Marin County elections office.

Supporters

Supporters of Measure F said that the contract with Veolia Water would keep sewer rates low and maintain local control of wastewater facilities.[4]

Arguments in the official voter guide in favor of Measure F were signed by:

  • Martha Patsy White, past president, League of Women Voters
  • J. Deitrich Stroeh, director/partner, CSW-ST2 Engineering
  • Phillip Brown, retired manager, City of Novato
  • Patty Bennett, Novato youth and schools advocate
  • James D. Fritz, retired chief engineer, water district

Opponents

Opponents of the contract with Veolia Water said that the contract would turn the treatment plant into a corporate profit center, that there were hidden costs and that the projected savings were speculative.[4]

Arguments in the official voter guide opposed to Measure F were signed by:

  • Dennis Welsh, Novato Sanitary District board member
  • Basia Crane, president, on behalf of the Marin United Taxpayer Association
  • Lynne Wasley, vice-chairman, on behalf of the Novato Democratic Club

Text of measure

ShowImage.jpg

The question on the ballot:

"Shall the Novato Sanitary District's approval of the contract entitled 'Novato Sanitary District Contract Service Agreement for Operations, Maintenance and Management of Wastewater Treatment Facilities' be adopted?"[5][6]

The ballot title was approved by a 4-1 vote on March 8.[2]

In September 2009, the board had approved a different ballot title by a 3-2 vote. The September question was, "Shall Novato Sanitary District's approval of the contract entitled 'Novato Sanitary District Contract Service Agreement for Operation, Maintenance, and Management of Wastewater Treatment Facilities' be repealed?"

Board members Dennis Welsh and George Quesada, who opposed the district's contract giving management control to Veolia Water, voted against the ballot title in September, saying it was confusing. Welsh said that the language should be worded so that voting "yes" means "I want the contract with Veolia" and voting "no" means "I don't approve of the contract with Veolia".[5]

The law firm that was assisting the group that opposed the Veolia contract also said it believed the September 2009 ballot title was both confusing and non-compliant with California's election law. The law firm indicated it expected to be able to wage a successful lawsuit against it if the board gives its final approval to the ballot question it initially approved in September.[5] However, in March 2010, the board made the change to the ballot title that Welsh and Quesada requested in September 2009.

Timeline

The Novato Sanitary District had a tumultuous 2009:

  • May 2009: $514,000 is pilfered from the district's Bank of Marin account via hackers. The district has now recovered most of the money.[3]
  • Federal agents working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criminal investigation unit raided the offices of the Novato Sanitary District. The raid was about an investigation into environmental violations said to have occurred in 2006 and 2007.[7]

The events leading up to the possible referendum began in July:

  • July 27: The Novato Sanitary District board voted to privatize the management of the new wastewater treatment plant.
  • September 21: The district signed a five-year contract with Veolia, a French company.
  • October 5: Veolia took over operations at the plant.
  • October 15: The California Healthy Communities Network turned in 4,000+ signatures to qualify their referendum vote for the ballot.
  • October 29: The Marin County registrar of voters announced that enough signtures were valid to qualify the question for the ballot.[8]

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