Community Columns

Bee misstates facts of MID outage, Westley-Rosemore line

Why has The Bee gone out of its way to misrepresent -- recklessly and irresponsibly -- the cause of the recent MID power outage? It seems The Bee will go to any length to try to convince you they are right, as do members of the MID Board that I sit with.

The Bee has misstated facts to a degree that should embarrass its editors. What are the facts? First, the MID Board approved the 2001 Resource Plan, which required that the Westley-Rosemore line to be completed by the end of 2005. This was not done. I was elected in November 2005, after the project was to be completed. MID's general manager has never explained why he failed to bring the project in on time and within budget. The Bee has never questioned this.

Second, after being elected I clearly stated to the board and general manager that in order to participate in the hearing I would need to understand the context of the Westley-Rosemore project within the MID operations and long-term strategy. This required that I be provided a line-item budget, a short-term plan and a long-term plan. This is when the rope-a-dope over getting information first began. I have been regularly, routinely and repeatedly denied this and similar requests for information relating to decisions that affect ratepayers.

Third, The Bee intentionally misrepresented the cause of the delay in my vote, which has simply been the board's decision to hide information.

Fourth, had there been no delay in the process, the project still would not have been operational on the day of the outage.

Finally, and even more importantly, had the Westley-Rosemore project been operational, there still would have been a power outage. The new line would not have saved us from the outage, a fact The Bee was forced to admit the day following their Opinion piece which omitted this important fact from its editorial -- thereby having misled its readers by failing to report all the facts and the truth.

The Bee is attacking me for trying to do the job I was elected to do, to make informed decisions on behalf of the ratepayers -- and that requires information.

Who is The Bee's criticism benefiting? Not my constituents, who have been left holding the bag over and over again because of the actions of the MID board -- which The Bee praises with enthusiasm. I am dismayed that, to date, The Bee has not investigated and reported on the massive cost overruns that have literally cost the ratepayers millions and millions of dollars for such items as a new customer billing system, construction defects at the domestic water treatment facility and the Westley-Rosemore project.

I start every deliberation with one question, "How does this benefit the ratepayer?" Both the MID board and The Bee continue to manufacture excuses -- all because I requested basic, routine financial information. I am astounded to find a board that is willing to make decisions with little or no information. For example, recently the board was prepared to approve a 143-page report they never saw, until I objected.

Despite the attacks by The Bee and board, the public regularly thanks me for my efforts to protect them from unwarranted rate increases. It is my responsibility and your right to know how your money is being spent. I will continue to fight for ratepayers!

Serpa represents Division 2 on the Modesto Irrigation District board of directors.

Editor's Note

In his rebuttal to our editorial "Serpa owes an apology to those who lost power" (Aug. 30), Mike Serpa writes that The Bee "intentionally misrepresented" his reasons for not voting on ways to allow the Westley-Rosemore high-voltage power line to proceed. The Bee wrote that Serpa "withheld his vote not because he objected to the line, but because he wanted budget information."

He also writes that The Bee was "forced to admit the day following their Opinion piece" that the presence of the Westley-Rosemore line would not have averted a blackout. That is incorrect. The Bee reported in both its news story and editorial, both appearing Aug. 30, that a sagging line touched an almond tree and created the emergency. However, MID staff confirmed that there would have been no blackout if the district had been allowed to import power from outside the district. Because the Westley-Rosemore line was not in place, the MID was restricted in how much power it could import.

The Bee stands by its opinion.