continued Regarding a future presentation of a PromiseLand plan, Thometz says, "At a bare minimum, we think it should be scaled back by 80 percent from what we were shown last March." Thometz goes on to list the task force's concerns over the project. "Number one is water," he says. "There's no water district here. Everybody out here is on groundwater and wells."
Metzdorf counters that St. Vincent de Paul has already done hydrological studies, which have come up positive.
The task force's next concern is the impact on local schools. "Campo elementary has three temporary buildings," Thometz says. "Schools are very crowded. We can't get pinned down on whether PromiseLand is going to have a school or not. Are they going to start out having a school, or is it going to come later?"
"I would like to see the school on the ranch from the very beginning," Metzdorf counters. "However, I don't want to lose the possibility of integrating some of these kids into the system that exists out there already. I would like to have a school once we get up and running. But, depending on the numbers of kids that we have immediately, we may have them utilize the resources of the local school system."
Thometz continues: "There's a gigantic question here about taxes. We have asked this question time and time again. Are you guys going to pay taxes or not? Are you going to pay building fees? Is this going to be tax exempt as a nonprofit? Already out here we have a fire department that, because it's funded out of taxes, gets very little money. Is the tax base going to be eroded? We'd like to know."
Metzdorf responds that, as a nonprofit organization, "Property tax is something that we would not be adding onto the tax base. But, when you consider the amount of goods and services that we would be purchasing in the local community with sales tax, I think we would be making a tremendous impact."
What about the sewage and wastewater generated on Promiseland Ranch? That's another task force concern. Metzdorf says he's still looking into different options, including normal septic tanks and leach fields, self-composting toilets, and a small on-site sewage-treatment plant.
Thometz speculates his Campo neighborhood is turning host to a facility it would rather not have so that St. Vincent de Paul can bring in state foster-care money -- money it will use to fund projects in other parts of the county. "This is a way to make a goddamn lot of money," he asserts. "It's going to be a big-profit generator. Under the assumption it's $1500 month, you're talking about $400,000 a month on 250 kids. I think they're going to have a low-cost facility here, and they're going to have a lot of money, a lot of revenue to use elsewhere."
Though he concedes that PromiseLand will receive state money -- to the tune of $3000 per child per month -- Metzdorf denies the ranch will make a profit. "The children that come to us through Child Protective Services," Metzdorf explains, "will indeed have money available to whomever is supporting them during the time they are in foster care. We will be eligible for that money. I'm looking for the money that comes in to actually support the day-to-day operation of what we're doing at the ranch. If someone thinks that it's going to be generating a surplus so that we would be able to run other operations in downtown San Diego or anyplace else, I'd be happy to show them a budget. There's no way we would ever generate a surplus. We will probably be running at a modest deficit on Promiseland Ranch."
The task force's biggest concern is whether PromiseLand Ranch will destroy the rural character of Campo. Metzdorf says appropriate architectural design and building placement will preserve Campo's character. "If we build something that maintains the character of a Southwestern environment in its architecture," Metzdorf explains, "something that does not make its own statement but instead blends into the landscape...by using woods, by using stone, [then] it really takes on the texture, the feel of what's already there."
But Thometz isn't convinced. He thinks the influx of 250 foster-child residents, plus their accompanying caretakers, administration, and the buildings to house them, will make Campo something he and other task force members never wanted. "People have sacrificed a lot of convenience to live here," he says. "There's no cable, no water district. The sheriff isn't even on duty from 10:30 at night to 6:30 in the morning or on weekends. And you have to drive a long way to get anywhere. My partner puts 40,000 to 50,000 miles a year on her car going into town. The closest movie theater is in Alpine. The closest supermarket is in Alpine. You accept certain sacrifices in return for certain benefits. What are the benefits? Crystal-clear nights... You look out, and the stars touch your nose...wide-open spaces. It's quiet and peaceful. That's the rural character that not just us, but the county has said should exist out here. That's what we want to preserve."