Claremont Insider: Water Company News

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Water Company News

Active Claremont last week hosted a discussion panel on the topic, "Should Claremont Buy Its Water System?"

The Claremont Courier's Tony Krickl had a summary of the meeting. Will Bigham at the Bulletin also reported on the discussion.

Bigham's article noted that proponents from the Claremont League of Women voters claimed that the city could end up paying lower rates within 20 years:

Two speakers at Thursday night's panel - the authors of a well-received 2005 League of Women Voters water study - argued that if the city were to purchase the water company, an initial rate increase to pay off bonds will be offset in as soon as 20 years by lower rates and by local control of service and infrastructure.

The problem is, the city already has a credibility gap when it comes to promises in connection with rates. One issue is the fact that the city back in 1998 signed off on the current water pricing structure in exchange for leasing its water rights to Golden State Water (then called Southern California Water). Now it would have to buy back those leased rights in addition to taking on the burden of refurbishing an aging water infrastructure - a cost that has not been established yet, but possibly in the tens of millions.

Tony Krickl's Courier article noted that one suggestion being tossed around is to put the matter to the voters in a simple yes or no referendum.


The letters section of yesterday's Courier contained a couple letters about former Mayor Judy Wright's dissembling regarding the city's Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) assessment.

One of the letters, by a former member of the city's Citizens Finance Advisory Committee, described what it was like back in 1989 when the city was considering implementing the LLD. The letter underscored what we've been arguing all along about the behind-the-scenes manipulations that go on over big issues in town. We thought this comment from the letter was particularly insightful:

It was a very nasty time in Claremont’s history, pitting neighbor against neighbor. During all of this, our committee chairs were reporting back to our City Manager Glenn Southard. This man was always in the shadows and was keeping a pulse on our committee. I remember over hearing “Do whatever you have to do to make this happen.” What haunting words now—little did I know we were being used to justify some creative financing that would never go away.

Words that don't bode well for a citizen vote on the water company purchase or for lower future water rates under a city-managed water company.