We at Ojai FLOW recently became aware of Mr. Jim Belna’s letter to the COURIER from September 5. His assertions about why Ojai didn’t opt to use revenue bonds are misleading. It had nothing to do with timing or taxes, but was rather a simple matter of cost due to our unique circumstances.
Ojai FLOW’s original analysis did propose the use of revenue bonds (as Claremont is currently proposing) because it is a more equitable distribution of the bond costs; e.g., the city of Ojai and Ojai Unified School District would pay their fair share. That penciled-out analysis proved to the Casitas Municipal Water District that Ojai ratepayers could buy their local Golden State Water Company operations with the savings derived from using Casitas’ water rates. That’s why Casitas took on the issue for Ojai’s Golden State ratepayers.
Mr. Belna is correct about one thing, though not for the reasons he states. The Casitas Municipal Water District did decide to not use revenue bonds to finance its water system purchase. However, this does not indicate a problem with revenue bonds. Revenue bonds are an excellent financing tool, which is precisely why we originally intended to use them. However, because our bonds are not backed by a city, the use of Mello Roos bonds turned out to be more advantageous for Ojai rate payers.
Claremont’s circumstances are quite different. Since the city of Claremont would be backing your revenue bonds, we fully expect that they would be the most economical and the fairest financing method for all the ratepayers.
I’d also like to refute another point made by Mr. Belna in his letter. He said, “There is not a single example of a California city that has successfully consummated a hostile takeover of a water utility.” To the contrary, Felton, California, with the help of its San Lorenzo Water District, successfully bought out their for-profit water company a few years back. And in Ojai, 87 percent of the voting ratepayers voted last August in favor of buying out the Golden State Water Company’s operations in Ojai.
You might also be interested to learn that we have personally discussed water issues with Mr. Belna. His arguments (pun intended) don’t hold water. Our impression of those discussions is that he was not receptive to new facts that we brought forward. We believe he is, for reasons unknown to us, simply opposed to the city’s purchase of your water system.
Ojai’s ballot measure can be found on www.ojaiflow.com under the tab “Reference.” Look for Measure V.
Chair, Ojai FLOW
Steering Committee Member