Claremont won't try to buy Golden State Water Co.

CLAREMONT - The City Council will continue to look at ways to fight water rate increases after deciding not to pursue purchasing Golden State Water Co. for now.

"At this time, the council wasn't ready to make that commitment," Councilman Sam Pedroza said on Friday. "The way I took it to mean is until the economic times are better than they are now ... is when they will be reconsidering it."

The city will continue to protest rate increases and "this regionalized rate system," Pedroza said.

Golden State Water issued a general statement about the city's decision.

"Golden State Water Company will continue to provide exceptional water service to the residents and businesses in Claremont at competitive rates," said Ben Lewis, GSWC's district manager for the Foothill District, which includes the Claremont customer service area, in the e-mailed statement.

League of Women Voters member Marilee Scaff, who helped research a 2005 document titled "Water System Ownership and Water Issues in the City of Claremont," said she and the League were in favor of purchasing the water company.

"The citizens' control of utilities is in the public good," Scaff said.

Reaction to the council's inaction has been mixed, Scaff said.

"I think there are a number of people who are quite disappointed," Scaff said. "Other people are glad we didn't."

Scaff believes the reason the council did not act was a financial one.

"They would like to negotiate for the water company if Golden State (is) a willing seller ... if Golden State is not a willing seller, there only is eminent domain," which would constitute a larger expense, Scaff said.

Scaff said if Claremont purchases the water company, within 10 or 15 years the rates could go down and the city could apply for grants.

Surrounding cities - including Pomona, Upland and La Verne - have their own water companies and Scaff believes Claremont could ask for help from them if needed.

In 2006, the League of Women Voters listed a 2004 Golden State Water negotiation figure of $86.7million, which was $36.7million for water rights and $50 million for infrastructure.

City manager Jeff Parker has said he saw letters that put a city consultant's estimate of the company's value at $40million while the company's estimate was $100 million