BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
The East Palo Alto Sanitary District’s board decided last night (May 7) to hire a lawyer to give them a second opinion about whether it’s legal for a father and daughter to serve on the board.
Martha Stryker was elected in March to serve on the five-member board, joining her father, Dennis Scherzer, who has been a longtime member of the same board.
During her campaign, Stryker said that she did her own research and found it would be legal to join her father on the board. She said the request to hire a lawyer for a second opinion feels like a personal attack.
“I am fresh, I am new, I am ready to move on and leave all of this baloney behind.” Stryker said. “If you want to spend $10,000 of taxpayer money to make a point … I strongly disagree.”
The sanitary district’s attorney has already written a memo saying that it is legal for Scherzer and Stryker to be on the same board, but board members Glenda Savage and Joan Skyes-Miessi said that they have heard from residents who are concerned that Stryker and Scherzer are on the same board.
Apparently, Skyes-Miessi had asked General Manager Akin Okupe to get a second opinion, but the amount of legal fees surpassed the limit he can spend without going to the board. Around $4,000 had been spent on getting a second opinion before Okupe found out the cost would go over his limit.
Skyes-Miessi also said that she has some “real concerns” about the potential erosion of the democratic process of the board.
Stryker pointed out that she was the highest vote-getter in the March election, with 1,781 people voting for her, or 25.37% of the vote, some 400 votes above the second place winner, incumbent Betsy Yanez.
Ultimately, the board voted 3-2, with Yanez, Skyes-Miessi and Savage voting to move forward with the second opinion, agreeing to spend $10,000 in addition to the $4,000 in legal fees Okupe has already racked up.
The board last night also discussed the sewer hook-up fees it intends to charge developers, which some say are excessive.
On Tuesday, City Council decided to sit down with the district in order to find out why it is holding up development projects in town with its demands for fees. The main project the city is worried about is the addition of 91 low-income apartments at the Light Tree Apartment complex at 1805 E. Bayshore Road. The city has put $4 million into the project, and is a partial recipient of the $20 million grant the city received from the state.
If the project does not get a letter saying the sewer district will serve the project by June 14, the city could lose the state grant.
Okupe said that he had completed his analysis of the project and determined that the sewer pipes underneath the project are full, which would require an upgrade of the pipes.
According to a presentation the council heard on Tuesday, the district has told Light Tree it needs to pay $4 million in fees for the upgrade.
However, Okupe said that the district’s consultant is preparing a cost table to show what developers ought to pay.
Project Manager Matt Schreiber told the board that Light Tree is willing to pay its fair share, and said that aside from the additions to the complex, there will be changes made to the rest of the building that will result in a decrease in pipe use.
Scherzer at one point reprimanded Schreiber for coming to the board a month before needing its approval.
However, as Schreiber pointed out in his comments, the city had sent the district information on the project in 2018.
Anonymous commentary about Scherzer
After Scherzer finished his comments, someone watching the meeting via Zoom said “ugh, listen to this a**hole.”
At which point, Skyes-Miessi reminded everyone to make sure their microphones were muted.
Ultimately, the board agreed that it will hold a special meeting on Thursday at 7 p.m. to discuss the Light Tree project. The board also instructed Stryker and Yanez to meet with council members Regina Wallace-Jones and Larry Moody before Thursday’s meeting.