EDITORIAL: Privatize Profits Socialize Risk

By Patric Hedlund

The Lebec County Water District (LCWD) is making strides to emulate what we’ve seen with the bail outs of Wall Street banks, privatizing profits and socializing risk. Said simply, LCWD is on the verge of adopting a water line put in by developers in order to keep promises the developers made to their buyers during the sale of property for the Holiday Inn Express in Lebec.

Developers Jeff French and Emilie Wainright are lovely people whom we personally like, but they also built an illegal water line with the assistance of Bob Karr, the husband of current LCWD Director Millie Karr, and Bruce Koch, former president of the LCWD Board. The line was built without permits, without approval of the board of LCWD and without notice to the public—all requirements under LCWD’s own regulations and state law. Then they connected the illegal line to the public water system—again, without notifying the public or their own board, according to the Kern County Grand Jury.

Millie Karr’s husband could be held civilly liable if something goes wrong with the line. The Kern County Grand Jury has pointed out the problems. They also said that Millie Karr’s insistence that she not recuse herself from advocating for adoption of the line by the public water agency is very likely a conflict of interest. That could have legal repercussions, possibly invalidating contracts on the issue by the board.

On Tuesday, Aug. 13—with several members of the grand jury looking on—Director Karr urged other members of the LCWD board to “get this done and approved” by voting for the public water agency to adopt the line, putting the burden on the public for assuming risk of liability if something goes wrong. That is not far-fetched. Lebec residents still remember their water-free Christmas week after the line was put in, and they know that shortcuts were taken to restore function to the public water system.

We invite the LCWD Board to use this same space to explain to the public why it is important that they adopt the 12-inch water line supplying Wainright Court. Why should the builders of the line not retain responsibility for liability in perpetuity for problems the line might create as they develop the rest of Wainright Court? Why not provide a percentage of developers’ proceeds to help maintain the line? Why should the public take all the risk while the developers take all the profit?

This is part of the August 16, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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