Claremont Insider: Water Issues

Friday, July 6, 2007

Water Issues

A reader wrote in to inquire about the status of Claremont's possible purchase of the water utility from Golden State Water Company (GSWC):


I am concerned with the silence surrounding the purchase of the water company. Is the silence an indication that negotiations are happening and nothing is reported? I hope not, I think this is a crazy idea that is going to put Claremont residents in an unmanageable situations. To pay for the deal, the city will need to use resources that I have not heard exist. (Is it not the fact that we have not yet build the much needed sports park because we don't have the resources to do it?).

What other projects will suffer then, will we have enough money to run our schools as we believe in or are we going to be voting on additional bonds to support the school system? Will we have the money we need
for city maintenance, and road manintance or are we going to pay for additional bonds to keep our standard of living?

I think the council has not told us the whole story, and I believe that we should have a referendum of the subject. Could you please address the issue?

A Concerned Claremonter

Well, our post yesterday questioned the need for the sports park because the assumption that we've got a growing youth population isn't supported by the 1990 and 2000 U.S. Census figures. And the trends are towards smaller families and fewer kids. The youth sports leagues claim to have more kids than ever, but that may because of higher in-town participation rates and also from larger numbers of out-of-town kids being allowed in. So, we wonder whether the need is really there and if the scarcity of playing fields is a self-created one.

We've talked about the water company in the past, and the cost is high (an estimated $100 million and possibly as high as $150 million). However, the money we borrow to buy the water utility would be financed with revenue bonds, which are paid from a portion of the water bill. So, the tax isn't direct, the way the Johnson's Pasture Measure S bond was; rather, it'd be built into your water bill.

The troubling thing about this is that five people, the Claremont City Council, get to make the decision on what would be by far the largest municipal purchase in our town's history. Like the reader, we think the fair thing to do is to have a referendum and put it to the voters. If the majority believe it's a good idea, then go for it. If not, then let's forget it.

The reader also has a good point about our local tax rates. The Claremont 400 doesn't seem to realize that there is a limit to what voters will pay for. We had the $49.8 million Measure Y school bond in 2000, the $12 million or so for Measure S last year, the Village West parking structure which came in at several million over what had been projected, the City Yard on Monte Vista (completed in 2005 with significant cost overruns), a $10 million-plus Padua Sports Park, a $20 million-plus police station, the Village West parking structure--all for a city of 35,000.

It's not good form in Claremont to speak of limits, but they are there. People will pay willingly for things they believe are essential, appropriate, and fair. They'll resent everything else. For more, research the defeat of the 2006 Parks and Pasture Assessment and the passing of the 2006 Measure S bond - both were dedicated to purchasing Johnson's Pasture, but the assessment had a lot of added costs that property owners deemed non-essential.

Time will tell where the water company and all these other projects fall in the scheme of things. In the meantime, the water company purchase seems to be in limbo, and it may be dying a slow death.

One thing is sure: The 400 do not trust you to vote on it.