EDITORIAL. From Debbie Ruddock and Deborah Penrose who are both Half Moon Bay City Council members and represent the city on the SAM Board of Directors February 6th 2024. Also posted in the Half Moon Bay Review.
The ongoing concerns and friction among the members of the Sewer Authority Mid-coastside are clearly not in the best interest of any of the three agencies’ constituents and ratepayers and put us at greater risk of environmentally damaging sewer spills during winter storms.
But the reality is that the SAM Joint Powers Agreement has significant shortcomings which must be fixed if we are to protect ratepayers and the environment. The city is calling on the other two SAM members — Granada Community Services District and Montara Water and Sanitary District – to join us in renewed, good faith efforts to settle these issues, and to do so with a focus on transparency, respectful and ongoing communication, and partnership.
Updating the JPA is key to settling the issues we face. The agreement’s outdated and inadequate language has led to multiple budgeting disputes among the three agencies. This is of particular concern at present, with much of SAM’s infrastructure reaching (or having already reached) the end of its useful life.
The JPA’s provisions for budgeting do not adequately distinguish general (or maintenance) budgets that all three agencies pay for, from project (construction or reconstruction) budgets, that only the agencies benefiting from a particular project pay for. This led to the City seeking help from the courts to clarify which agency should pay for what after years of nearly successful negotiations with the two districts. In the most recent Court of Appeal ruling (for Half Moon Bay), the Court recognized the need to make that distinction clearly. These terms result in two very different financial impacts to Half Moon Bay ratepayers who are already shouldering the costs of large capital projects in the City– and who should not have to subsidize the cost of services to their neighbors.
However, the ruling also noted that the courts cannot determine as a matter of law what the agencies intended on this point in the 1979 SAM agreement. If the parties cannot agree on a way forward, a trial on this issue will be needed, meaning continued conflict among the SAM members, legal fees, and delay. With the extremely high costs of litigation to all three agencies, it seems obvious that it would be better to re-write the JPA language so that it is unambiguous and equitable. Another ongoing concern is that SAM Board Members cast a total of eight votes (four for Half Moon Bay, and two each for Montara and Granada), which frequently leads to a stalemate, with no means to break the tie, making it hard to make decisions. To upgrade SAM’s aging facilities to protect the environment and our sewer customers, an additional, neutral seat on the Board – however that is determined by the three agencies – would end those frequent stalemates.
Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside (SAM) Meetings ~ 2nd & 4th Mondays @ 7:00pm
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Our regular office hours are 7:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. The Authority can be reached 24-hours a day at:
Our Address is:
Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside
1000 Cabrillo Hwy N.
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
(650) 726-7833 (fax)
The Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside (SAM) provides wastewater treatment services and contract collection maintenance services for a population of approximately 24,000 in the following areas:
- City of Half Moon Bay
- El Granada
- Moss Beach
- Princeton by the Sea
SAM is a joint powers authority (JPA) created by its three member agencies: City of Half Moon Bay (City), Granada Community Services District (GCSD), and the Montara Water and Sanitary District (MWSD).
The JPA is a separate, independent, public agency created by the member agencies to perform functions and share powers common to the member agencies. Those powers are outlined in a joint exercise of powers agreement (Agreement). The Agreement creating SAM can be found on the Documents page.
Each Agreement identifies how the independent agency will be governed. In the case of SAM, each member agency appoints two members from its governing board to represent it on the SAM Board of Directors, for a total of six directors.
The Agreement also establishes the weight of each director’s vote. The vote by each representatives from the City is given the weight of two votes. The vote by each representative from GCSD and MWSD is given the weight of one vote. The total number of possible votes is eight. A quorum is a minimum of five votes and resolutions require at least six votes to pass.
2024 SAM Directors