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Los Olivos Voters Strongly Favor Measure P, Forming Community Services District

Los Olivos voters appeared to have overwhelmingly approved Measure P, which calls for the formation of a community services district for the Santa Ynez Valley community, according to semi-official election results Tuesday.

The vote-by-mail election for 484 registered voters in Los Olivos asked them to weigh in on whether to form the district, and whether to levy a property tax to provide start-up funding for the new agency.

Votes in favor of forming a CSD numbered 228 votes, or 72.8 percent, compared to 83, or 26.5 percent, opposed with 313 ballots counted as of 10 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Santa Barbara County Election Division's first tally Tuesday night.

The measure needed more than two-thirds, or 66 percent, voter approval to pass.

Election Day marked a key milestone for the grassroots Los Olivos Wastewater Reclamation Steering Committee to ensure Los Olivos residents have a voice in their future after some residents objected to efforts to annex the community into the Santa Ynez Community Services District.

Lisa Palmer, a steering committee member, gathered with several supporters to await the results Tuesday night.

"I'm cautiously optimistic, but I'm excited," she said after the first results were released.

Members of the group urged the Santa Barbara Local Agency Formation Commission to allow residents of the 130-year-old community to have a chance for local control and self determination regarding their future. 

For decades, Los Olivos has been designated a special problem area due to concerns with septic tanks and groundwater amid increasingly stringent regulations.

Without a wastewater treatment solution, residents faced costly state-imposed solutions.

A local district could apply for state funding, access low-interest loans and take advantage of recycled water opportunities, an environmental health official said in 2015.

Opponents said joining an existing CSD would be less costly and quicker to solving the septic tank troubles in Los Olivos.

Another opponent said the Santa Ynez Valley did not need one more government agency since it already has a number of special and school districts.

The ballot also allowed voters to pick the members of the new agency’s first board of directors. 

Five people sought the five seats — Mike Arme, public works utility contractor; Tom Fayram, registered civil engineer with decades of work for the Santa Barbara County Public Works Deparment; Julie Kennedy, a Los Olivos School District trustee; Brian O’Neill, a senior program manager for AECOM Technical Services; and Palmer, who has three decades of communications experience.

With 198 of 313 ballots, Fayram led with 226 votes followed by Arme with 221,  Palmer, 218 votes; O'Neill, 214; and Kennedy, 211. Five candidates ran for the five seats up for grabs.

Voters had until 8 p.m. Tuesday to submit ballots. Any ballots with a postmark from Tuesday or earlier and those turned in at the last minute an Elections Office will be counted in the coming days. 

Before they’re official, election results must be certified by the Board of Supervisors, with the certificate of completion later approved by the Local Agency Formation Commission.

If approved, formation of the new district could become effective in April or early May. 

"At least we’re working toward a solutions with what we think is the right government entity to create that solution," Palmer said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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