After nearly a year of silence on the topic, Claremont officials took a step forward in potential water system acquisition in October, offering Golden State Water Company $55 million for the purchase of the city’s water system.
This marked the second offer the city has made to the privately owned water company. Last November, Claremont officials presented Golden State Water with a $55 million proposal. Golden State administrators rejected both offers, maintaining, “The system is not for sale.”
The back-and-forth battle for water system ownership began in 2011 when Golden State Water requested the California Public Utilities Commission allow the company to enact a 24 percent water rate increase in 2013 in the water utility’s Region III, which includes the city of Claremont. The company also requested smaller increases in 2014 and 2015. In May the CPUC granted a 16 percent increase to be enacted in 2013.
The feud between Claremont and Golden State continued this year with a town hall meeting hosted by the city of Claremont in November. More than 500 attended the Wednesday evening meeting, where the Claremont City Council unanimously approved the use of $350,000 in city funds to prep financial and legal documents needed for the potential purchase of Claremont’s water system.
City officials also released information as to the feasibility of the water system’s purchase. To date, the Claremont City Council and city administrators have remained relatively tight-lipped on the water acquisition, and documents regarding the Water Acquisition Feasibility Study kept under wraps.
At the November town hall, however, officials offered a glimpse into their research, suggesting the city could afford up to $80 million with little to no impact to existing water rates and without resorting to a water bond or parcel tax. If the water system purchase was to cost $100 million or $120 million, city experts estimated water costs would still be lower than existing Golden State Water rates in 9 or 17 years.
Golden State representatives begged to differ. Water company executives responded to the city’s town hall by hosting a meeting of their own two weeks later, at which time they purported that the purchase would actually rack up to an excess of $200 million.
Despite Golden State’s assertions, the city moves forward with water system acquisition. On Wednesday, December 18 the city held a public information meeting to gather public feedback on an environmental report related to purchasing the water system. Work will carry into 2014 and is likely to be a hot button topic in Claremont for years to come. Stay tuned.