Claremont council to discuss a purchase of Golden State Water Co.

CLAREMONT - The City Council will meet in closed session today to discuss purchasing the Golden State Water Co.

Councilman Sam Pedroza said the council expects to review several options, such as whether the city should take over its water provider or just continue to fight the water company's rising rates.

Pedroza said he brought the item to the council's attention because residents have been asking him about the increased rates.

In December, Claremont joined San Dimas, Apple Valley and Placentia in hopes of halting rising water rates charged by the water company.

"We've been talking about it for many, many years," Pedroza said. "Because of the water situation we're in and the economy, it's never going to be cheaper than what it is right now. We need to do something."

Golden State's day-to-day operations and customer service in Claremont are handled at the customer service area office at 915 W. Foothill Blvd., Suite E.

Golden State is a public utility and a wholly owned subsidiary of San Dimas-based American States Water Company.

Councilwoman Linda Elderkin said she has spoken to many residents who are upset with the Golden State's rates.

"If the city were to acquire the water company, it would be a very long time before we could lower the rates," Elderkin said. "We would have to take a great many things into account financially and get the management under control. But to expect to buy the water company means lower rates right away is a misunderstanding."

Claremont could take possession of the plant on Foothill by eminent domain, after paying fair market value.

Councilman Larry Schroeder said eminent domain "is a tool we have ... it wouldn't be out of the question."

Elderkin said she would look at eminent domain only if the council agrees to formally look at the option, and if "I reach a point where I think this is the right strategy for the city to pursue and the right time to do it."

Considering the city is about to lose more money from state cuts, Elderkin said, "Certainly, I have an interest in having more control over local water for sure. But whether or not it's something we can do, at this point in time, is certainly a different question."

A Golden State district manager in December said the interim increase is needed to help the company recover costs adjusted to inflation.

Alice Shiozawa, district manager for Claremont, San Dimas and San Gabriel Valley service area for Golden State, said future rate increases would be to maintain and improve infrastructure.

In Claremont, there are proposed $7.5 million in improvements - including a new 500,000-gallon reservoir to supply additional water and storage for the high fire danger area above Claraboya and Johnson's Pasture, Shiozawa said.