Council, taxpayers association rep have heated discussion over water

Most everyone had water on the mind at the Claremont City Council on Tuesday night, not only because of the heat outside, but because of a heated discussion within the doors of city hall.

On May 9, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) granted Golden State Water Company the water rate increases they sought for 2013-2015, announced City Manager Tony Ramos. Rates will rise to 15.6 percent in 2013 with smaller increases of 2.7 and 1.8 in 2014 and 2015. The CPUC’s final decision corresponds with the settlement reached by the water company, the Division of Ratepayer Advocates.

Since the new rates were expected to go into effect on January 1 of this year, the CPUC also granted Golden State Water the ability to charge a Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism (WRAM), an extra surcharge added to water bills to make up for the revenue lost since January 1.

City officials have not been quiet about their displeasure with the Claremont’s increased water prices since Golden State Company first filed for rate increases in July 2011. With a dedicated group of citizens, the city of Claremont has been actively fighting the increases, even going so far as to answer some residents call to take the power of rate increases out of the water company’s hands. In early 2012, the council unanimously agreed to work toward purchase of its water system even if it could only be done through eminent domain. The water company has responded in kind, stating on numerous occasions that it is not interested in selling.

Council members were no less vocal of their disapproval of the water company and the CPUC as they responded to Chris Mann, a Banning resident who came forward on behalf of the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association to dissuade water acquisition. The council also pointed out that Mr. Mann is the owner of Mann Communications, a public relations company.

Mr. Mann questioned the city’s ability to effectively manage the water system better than golden state water.

“The current provider has a pretty good record on water quality,” Mr. Mann said, who also questioned the city’s ability to respond effectively in an emergency and it’s ability to keep rates from continuing to rise.

Council member Sam Pedroza pointed out that being able to have that public discussion locally and not by a board in San Francisco will be an advantage in the city’s favor.

“We know increases happen whether private or public, how they happen I think is the difference,” Mr. Pedroza said.

For a full report on the Tuesday, May 14 city council meeting, pick up Friday’s edition of the COURIER.

—Beth Hartnett


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