City denies Golden State’s request at town hall meeting (updated)

The city of Claremont has denied Golden State Water Company’s request to give a presentation at the city’s upcoming town hall on water, taking place on Wednesday, November 6 at 6 p.m. at Taylor Hall.

After a year lull, Claremont officials broke their silence on the waterfront, reporting they had offered the publicly owned water company a second offer of $55 million for the purchase of Claremont’s water system. The city’s previous proposal, made last November, was $54 million. Golden State has denied both bids.

In late September, City Manager Tony Ramos announced the city would host a town hall meeting to discuss information on the city’s potential water system purchase. To date, the Claremont Council and city administrators have remained tight-lipped on the water acquisition, and documents regarding the Water Acquisition Feasibility Study kept under wraps.

The purpose of the November 6 meeting is to update Claremont residents about the future of the city’s water system, according Mr. Ramos. Though denying the water company’s request for a presentation at the meeting, Mr. Ramos encourages Golden State officials to speak during the night’s public comment.

“All members of the public, including Golden State Water, will be given an equal opportunity to provide their input,” Mr. Ramos said. “We cannot grant special treatment to Golden State Water.  The future of Claremont’s water system is critical to our community and every member of the public will be afforded the same opportunity to have their voices heard.”

In a statement, Denise Kruger, Golden State Water’s senior vice president of regulated utilities, expressed her disappointment with Mr. Ramos’s decision to “not make an accommodation to give residents the opportunity to hear all perspectives at a four-hour community meeting.”

“We hoped that the city would be reasonable by providing us with the opportunity to participate, and we were eager to engage in a thoughtful discussion about the water system,” she expressed.

Ms. Kruger says the water company will host its own customer meeting at a later date.

The back and forth battle between the city of Claremont and Golden State water began in 2011 when the water company requested a more than 24 percent water rate increase in 2013 with smaller increases in 2014 and 2015 for the company’s Region 3, which includes Claremont. Last spring, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a 16 percent increase. Many residents have come forward, including those with the League of Women Voters and Claremonters Against Outrageous Water Rates, to effectively put an end to the increases by advocating for local water system ownership.

““Local control is exceedingly important, to the city, to the residents, to the people who need water here,” said Marilee Scaff in a previous interview with the COURIER. “We should never have let the water get out of our hands, but at the time when we started [considering purchasing the water system], the little southern California water company headquartered in San Dimas seemed like just a friendly neighbor. It has turned into a big national company listed on the New York stock exchange much more concerned about their benefits to stockholders.”

Despite the public backlash, Ms. Kruger maintains her pride in the service Golden State Water provides to the Claremont community.

“The city cannot match our 24-hour service, water quality professionals or ongoing maintenance of the drinking water system. Claremont does not have a water department, the capability or resources necessary to meet the ongoing demands of the community,” Ms. Kruger said.

“Moreover, independent analysis by Rodney T. Smith, PhD, a Claremont-based nationally acclaimed water expert, proved that a city effort to acquire the water system for $54 million will result in higher water rates of at least 30 percent higher than they are today. The city’s second offer to purchase the water system for $55 million is unrealistic and would only cover a fraction of the value of the system.”

Mr. Ramos has asserted city officials will discuss these and other details surrounding potential water city ownership at Wednesday’s town hall meeting. The gathering will take place at Taylor Hall, located at 1775 N. Indian Hill Blvd. in Claremont. It will also be streamed live on the city’s website for those unable to attend in person. The COURIER will have updates as news develops.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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