Is the goal to merge districts?

Some observers see an apparent OCGOP effort to combine special districts that provide services such as trash and water.

August 31, 2012|By Joseph Serna

Political watchers speculate that if eight candidates with ties to the Republican Party of Orange County win office in November, special districts that provide trash and water services could be combined.

Bob Ooten, president of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District's board of directors, said there's a possibility that his organization could merge with the Mesa Consolidated Water District. He believes the OCGOP, in an effort to shrink government, is backing some candidates and tacitly supporting others who want fewer agencies.

"There's a concerted effort," he said. "It's a little terrifying."

OCGOP Chairman Scott Baugh could not be reached for comment Friday.

Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Jeff Mathews and businessman Don Harper — both of whom are endorsed by the OCGOP Central Committee — are challenging the incumbents on the Sanitary District board.


If the two are elected, Ooten expects them to align with Director Jim Fitzpatrick, any ally of Costa Mesa's conservative council majority.

"I certainly think I can help eliminate the board entirely," said Harper, an accountant who's also worked in mergers and acquisitions. "My intention is to work with the City Council and Mesa Water. I think the trash contract can go to the city. The rest of it can certainly be consolidated with Mesa Water."

Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ethan Temianka, who is also endorsed by the OCGOP and is close to the council majority, is running for Mesa Water's board.

Incumbent Jim Fisler and Costa Mesa Mayor Eric Bever, who will be termed out of the council, are also running for Mesa Water seats.

Meanwhile, Councilmen Gary Monahan and Steve Mensinger are campaigning to keep their council seats. Together, with fellow candidate Colin McCarthy, the Planning Commission chairman, they have been dubbed the "3Ms" by opponents and are endorsed by the OCGOP.

Combined, the Sanitary District and Mesa Water have $21.1 million in undesignated reserves, as well as operating budgets of more than $57 million.

Sanitary District staffing is less than 20% of its budget. Pension liabilities are less than $400,000.

Mesa Water does not receive tax money from the county, but it does receive more than $28 million in revenue annually. The two districts have more than $158.5 million in combined assets.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles