I suggest that Doug Hardcastle find a new line because his claim as being business friendly and wanting to bring more business to Oakley does not go hand-in-hand with his actual track record while serving at Ironhouse Sanitary District. His record with that board has actually handicapped Oakley and Bethel Island by continued rate and fee increases.
Just this week, during the City Council Candidates Forum, Hardcastle laid claim that he wanted to find a way to increase business in Oakley. The truth is, he passed on the opportunity to help bring business to Oakley and Bethel Island while at Ironhouse because he failed to reduce fees even when the City begged Ironhouse to lower fees.
According to Samie Hartley from the Brentwood Press, she states,
Hardcastle, a 30-year Oakley resident, is currently the president of the Ironhouse Sanitary District Board of Directors and owns Hardcastle RV on Main Street. He also wanted to find a way to increase Oakley’s business base.
“What I’d like to see for Oakley is to bring a lot of the home businesses out into the open so that they can prosper and grow,” Hardcastle said. “What I’d like to see is for the city to invest in more business properties. I like to eat and shop, but I think our money could be better spent on business parks.”
Oakley will not get those business properties build, restaurants and shops opened, or investments in business parks because few want to pay the bloated fees. While Hardcastle is a nice guy and I have no problem with him personally because he does good things with the Lions Club, politically he has been a disaster for Oakley and its growth along with the rest of the Board.
At Ironhouse, fees (Plant Capacity, Trunkline Capacity, and Connection Fees) have gone up each year since 1999/2000 up until last year when the City of Oakley had to essentially step on Ironhouses throat to get a reduction—if you don’t believe me, ask the City!
Executive Director Tom Williams stated during my meeting with him the Board did this willingly because they wanted to help the City. The reality is business’s are playing in the Ironhouse Sandbox and really do have to pay and arm and a leg to play. Here is the document showing the fee increases since 1999 on Development Request 14
To put this in perspective of how unfriendly Mr. Hardcastle and the Ironhouse Board has been to Oakley business, they held up Oakley Disposals Franchise Agreement for multiple years. According to Oakley City Manager Bryan Montgomery, it cost Black Bear Diner around $150,000 to hook up into Ironhouse which is ridiculous considering it would have costs Blackbear under $10,000 to hook into Antioch or Brentwood.
Ironhouse needs to change its thinking and stop worrying about fees and instead be finding ways to encourage pro-business policy. Instead, they chose a path of chasing away prospective new businesses with unrealistic fees and rates as shown in the above document which in itself does not tell the entire story because Ironhouse configures other factors on top of those development fees.
Like Ms. Hartley, Rowena Coetsee of the Contra Costa Times provided a very nice overview write up of the same forum where she stated Mr. Hardcastle is not a fan of cutting fees which his track record at Ironhouse proves that fact. This is what she reported:
Doug Hardcastle wasn’t enamored with that idea, however, saying that cutting fees would undermine city services such as street maintenance and consequently dissuade businesses from moving to Oakley.
He wants to focus on getting the type of employers that offer well-paying jobs, jobs that will enable residents to work in town instead of commuting.
What Mr. Hardcastle needs to realize is you are not going to get those well-paying jobs to Oakley area unless you reduce rates and create incentives for business to come to Oakley. The fee reductions need to begin at Ironhouse who is the bottleneck!
If you cut fees more than Ironhouse did when their arm became twisted by the City, the lost revenue in fees is essentially made up over time with annual service charge while Oakley then benefits from tax revenues new business could generate–it’s really not that complicated and everyone wins which includes the ratepayers. Instead of getting revenue up front, one is making it back over time and likely its even a higher source of revenue to play with!
Going a step further to highlight Mr. Hardcastles record of not being a fan of fee decreases, below is a document highlighting the fee increases he has helped put on ratepayers to fund Ironhouse spending habits.
In 1999/2000, ratepayers paid just $249. Today, we pay $618. Here is the history of increases on ratepayers Request 12 Sewer Use History2000-12.xlsx
If he was so worried about business coming to Oakley, I’d like to know where in the minutes he states his concerns. If he did state his concerns about handicapping business with increased rates, I’d like to see it. Even if he did state concerns, it shows his arguments were not effective enough because rates continued to increase each year.
Again, while I do like Doug Hardcastle as a person, this isn’t personal, its just a fact that his pro-business stance is a fib because his record states otherwise. The City of Oakley does not need someone elected with a history of fee increases while claiming he attends City Council Meetings since they started in 1999.
The truth is, he attends the council meetings because he gets paid a $170 to do so on top of his $170 for his monthly Ironhouse meeting.
Mr. Hardcastle is not a candidate whom I believe Oakley should get behind this November.