There is a fight brewing between the City of Soledad and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation over wastewater. The city claims the CDCR has failed to pay its share of a $3.4 million emergency repair project at the city's wastewater treatment plant. Soledad is seeking over $1 million.
City leaders said a claim was filed Tuesday morning on a major improvement project at Soledad State Prison. In 1993, the City and the Department entered into a Joint Powers Agreement in which the city agreed to provide waste water treatment services for the Soledad Prison in return for the Department’s agreement to share the cost of necessary treatment plant improvements. In 2004, the City of Soledad’s waste water treatment plant was performing sluggishly and the city said it was creating a threat to the Salinas River. Soledad mayor Fred Ledesma blames the waste overflow threat on prison overcrowding.
"Eight years ago the City of Soledad built a state of the art waste water treatment plant. The Department of Corrections asked us to upgrade the facility to accommodate them also which we did,” said Mayor Ledesma.
The city said the money went toward building an emergency holding place for all the waste, before it ended up in the river but the problem didn’t end there.
"This year we got word from the new secretary of the State Department of Corrections, Mr. Scott Kernan, advising us that they were not going to pay. Soledad with limited resources cannot afford to just eat that bill,” said city manager Adela Gonzalez.
According to Soledad, the CDCR is responsible for paying back $1.1 million to the city. KION reached out to the CDCR and the spokesman, Bill Sessa, said “Our policy is to not talk publicly about litigation. Haven't seen the lawsuit yet.”
It’s been a long drawn out process. The city said negotiations to get the money back began in 2009.
"Yeah, it's a little bitter pill to swallow in the fact that we want to be good neighbors to them and they have been good neighbors. We don't have any issue with current administration or staff. This is really a Sacramento issue,” said Ledesma.
The Soledad mayor said he expects the State to deny the claim, which could lead to a lawsuit.