League of Women Voters has been urging Claremont to buy water system for 74 years: Guest commentary

Seventy-four years of urging Claremont to buy its water company was recently celebrated by the Claremont Area League of Women Voters. In those years our community has grown from a little town of 2,000 to a city of almost 38,000 — and the cost of buying that water service has ballooned phenomenally.

In 1940, when the League first studied community needs and urged the city to buy its water service, it could have been bought for a few thousand dollars. But the City Council said they didn’t have money for the purchase.

Then in 1960, Muriel O’Brien lead another League study, which concluded: “Buy the Water Company.” The cost would then have been $4 million to $5 million. Council again said: no money!

In 2004, City Manager Southard was actively negotiating with Golden State Water over the officially appraised value of $50 million, cheered on by Claremont LWV. However, negotiations broke down, and there was still a split vote on the council,

In 2005 the League actively took on the challenges of whether to buy the water company. LWV published a booklet, “Water Issues in Claremont,” in 2005, now posted on our website. Studying those issues carefully, Co-Chairs Freeman Allen and Marilee Scaff provided booklets and made pro-and-con presentations to 21 Claremont service clubs, political and church groups, and even took the book to the assembled staff of Golden State Water Co.

In 2006, the League voted officially “to support public acquisition of the local water system ... by the use of public financing, believing that public control is worth the cost, even if high, and has long-range advantages to rate-payers and to the community.”

In 2012, by unanimous vote, the City Council commissioned a new appraisal. The same appraiser they used in 2004 now appraised the company infrastructure at $55 million.

In 2015 — next year! — the city must finalize the decision to own our own water company! Costs of purchase are mounting phenomenally; everybody knows they will never go down. Rates to ratepayers are going up outrageously; they will only go higher. Drought makes water more necessary and scarce; we need local control of our future. We have a unanimous City Council supporting purchase. We must support our council. Revenue bonds, which are not taxes, are the fairest way to finance the purchase.

The League of Women Voters, after very careful consideration, urges all Claremonters to tell the City Council: Buy the water company!

Marilee Scaff is a past president (1988-90) of the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area.

(note: the original letter was also signed by many other LWV presidents)