Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Where is Assistant City Attorney Rollie Stevens?

By Emerson Drake

While it doesn’t have the same connotations as asking “Who’s John Galt?” , “Where is Rollie Stevens?” should make people stop and think.  Rollie Stevens was Modesto’s  Attorney negotiating the water contract between the City of Modesto and the Modesto Irrigation District back in 2005.  This contract spells out the fact that Modesto and the Farmers stand first in line for OUR/MID water.  MID has demanded and Mayor Marsh has acquiesced to, Rollie Stevens absence at any talks between MID and Modesto.  Why?  Because MID knows Mr. Stevens is the most knowledgable  individual on the city staff regarding this contract which is vital to Modesto’s long-term BEST interests.

MID is supposed to be owned by the ratepayers but over the years, we ignored the MID Board and allowed the Board to spend/waste Millions of dollars unchecked, and at an ever-increasing rate.  In recent years the public exposed several of their ill-fated ventures.  One was the TANC project that the MID General Manager led, and despite public outcry against it, the proposal was curtailed only when (SMUD), Sacramento Municipal Utilities District came to their senses and pulled out of the monstrosity of overspending  that General Manager Short had helped to create. The cost to MID was approximately $5 million dollars.  The second was the Bio-Mass/ Garbage burner Project of Stephen Endsley.  After discovering how badly they were being duped by Endsley and MID, the MID ratepayers rebelled and finally MID pulled out of the garbage burner business.  The cost to ratepayers was $1.2 Million plus MID Attorney Tim O’Laughlin pocketed a cool $92,000.00 for this project alone.  This was despite being assured by attorney O’Laughlin that MID had no exposure to litigation. It seems it’s all a mater of perspective with O’Laughlin, who lives in Chico,  and doesn’t buy water or electricity from MID.

Now MID is pretending the small sale of 2,240 acre feet isn’t important, but as always the devil is in the details.  And the details here which bear importance are;  if the contract is signed, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will be first in line for any MID water for the next fifty years, yes before Modesto and the Farmers, and has first right of refusal over any potential water sales MID might care to make.  The contract also sets a price for future water sales which includes an extremely small price escalator.

Just as important and maybe even more so because of its size is the looming 25,000 acre foot sale.  MID intends on pursuing it immediately after the 2,240 sale, so both sales should be considered at the same time by ratepayers trying to make a decision.  We also need to consider the small sale doesn’t pay for anything. The 2,240 acre feet times the $700.00 per acre foot comes to $1,568,000. yearly.  At this rate it will take 70.79 tears to pay for the $110 Million in infrastructure the MID Board claims we need.  And yes, the much larger sale triggers an EIR or Environmental Impact Report but with the SFPUC  footing the cost and being the lead agency, stopping it at that point is a much harder task than most realize.

Now back to the initial question of  “Where is Rollie Stevens.”  To use a sports metaphor,  it’s like playing a Superbowl and having our coach decide to bench our all-pro quarterback or 2,000 yard running back because the other team doesn’t want to play against him.  Why would we concede to those conditions?

This is the $64,000 question we need to ask Mayor Marsh. 

So Mayor, why are you keeping Rollie Stevens on the sidelines? 

Modesto and the farmers need to stand shoulder to shoulder on the water sale issue.  Agriculture is the economic driving force in the Central Valley and we need to nurture it.  And as we all  know,  if you want to keep something alive in the Central Valley, you need to water it.

We have NO extra water for sale to San Francisco.

Rollie Stevens, we need you.

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