What happens next with city Golden State Water negotiations?
The first water negotiation meeting scheduled to take place between Golden State Water Company and the city of Claremont has been canceled.
After about a month of pause in the water discussion, City Manager Tony Ramos announced the city’s intent to meet water company officials at the city council meeting Tuesday night. Golden State Water officials confirmed on Wednesday that a meeting was scheduled to take place between city and water company representatives in the form of a conference call Friday, January 25. Legal counsel would be present for both sides.
No sooner was the meeting announced than it was called off due to scheduling problems, according to the city. The 2 groups have yet to meet following the city made its first formal offer for purchase of its water system.
In November, Claremont attorneys presented Golden State with a $54 million offer for purchase of the city’s water system and assets. While the water company has made repeated statements that Claremont’s water system is not for sale, officials say they are open to dialog and ways to work together moving forward. The city maintains its focus on water system ownership, whether through negotiations or by acquisition.
The privately-owned water company approached the CPUC in July 2011 to request a rate increase of more than 24 percent to take effect in 2013 with additional, smaller increases to be added in 2014 and 2015. The appeal was followed by a series of protests from the water company’s customers, many here in Claremont, upset about yet another set of rate increases. After several public hearings held in November 2011 and negotiations the following spring, the CPUC has been charged with deliberating the final rate.
While a decision was anticipated by the end of 2012 in order for the rates to take effect as requested on January 1, 2013, the CPUC has yet to render any decision on the final rate.
As the city awaits a decision from Sacramento on the water rates, Claremont officials made their own visit the state capitol on separate city business. Mr. Ramos and several city council members attended the League of California Cities’ first policy committee meetings for 2013. Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali sits on the employee relations policy committee, Councilmember Sam Pedroza on transportation, communication and public works, Councilmember Joe Lyons on community and economic development and Mr. Ramos on public safety.
“League support and opposition to legislation is a means of influencing our state decision makers and ensuring our local government is representing at a state level,” Mr. Ramos said. “We want to thank our councilmembers for serving on these policies. It is an extra added duty beyond what you do as councilmembers but that is how we get our voice to be heard representing the residents of Claremont.”
In other council news
Back on the home front, Claremont continues to move forward on city policy and goals. Among them is continuing to allocate funds to community efforts like the Safe Routes to School program. On Tuesday, the council approved the allocation of $450,000 in Caltrans grant funds and $51,500 in local Measure R funds to support the program’s continued efforts.
Implemented in spring 2011, Safe Routes provides education, training and incentives for students to promote the safe use of public walkways for walking or biking to school. The half-million in funds will be used to make bike and pedestrian improvements on public right of ways near Danbury, Vista de Valle and Sycamore elementary schools as well as El Roble Intermediate.
Councilmember Joe Lyons added his voice to the council’s unanimous support of the city’s continued work with the Safe Routes to School program and overall city sustainability efforts.
“This is a good example of how we advance our city’s interests…and acquire funding from the federal and state levels that are available for our residents’ needs,” Mr. Lyons said. “This is a kind of home rule that I think we do well in Claremont and I think other cities would do well to model after us.”
The council continued to drive city interests forward on Tuesday night by adding its approval to the latest budget for the city’s Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG), supporting city and countywide programs and projects dedicated to helping low-income individuals.
This year, the city will award $137,204 to participants in CDBG, a federal block grant program that receives grant funding from Los Angeles County on a yearly basis in order to continue its operations. $60,000 of that grant money will be used for housing rehabilitation, $20,580 for senior case management and $56,624 for job creation and business incentive. Mayor Larry Schroeder added his pleasure in the city’s continued funding for the job creation and business incentive, which gives loan forgiveness to new or expanding businesses in exchange for hiring a full-time employee.
“We get double credit here. We are not only helping low income people, but we are also helping economic development,” he said.
City manager gets merit bonus, payout
The council also awarded a one-time merit bonus to City Manager Tony Ramos to the tune of $10,048.50 and a payout of 2 weeks paid vacation at $7,729.66 for a total of $17,778.16 in addition to his regular salary. Council members directed city counsel to prepare a resolution approving merit awards for the city manager, promoted to his current title in November 2011, after conducting an employee evaluation earlier this month. City accomplishments under his leadership include the Foothill Boulevard relinquishment, the establishment of Courier Place, development at Auto Center Drive and the parking lot expansion at the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park.
“During the process of evaluation [the council is] appraised of the long list of accomplishments that our city manager has overseen,” Mr. Lyons said, adding, “It also give me the opportunity to compliment the staff also that makes his job and his accomplishments certainly the stellar accomplishments that they are.”