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Claremont and Golden State agreement will simplify November bond vote

In a move that warranted much discussion between Claremont’s legal counsel, residents and city council Thursday night, the city entered into an agreement with Golden State Water Company.

In the five-page agreement drafted between the City of Claremont and Golden State, the city agreed to release financial feasibility documents and revise the ballot question to seek approval of $135 million in bonds rather than $55 million as previously stated. In exchange, Golden State agreed to abandon the citizen initiative petition drive that would require the city to seek voter approval for all bonds issued in connection with the acquisition of the water system.

Golden State also agreed to dismiss the Public Records Act lawsuit and the CEQA lawsuit, court battles the city has allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars in defense costs.

“After much discussion the city council ultimately accepted a compromise proposal with the city’s current water system operator forcing Golden State Water to dismiss all frivolous lawsuits against the city and drop the company’s misleading petition drive. The compromise proposal saves taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees and is the best long-term deal for city residents and rate payers,” said Joe Lyons, Claremont Mayor. “While the city’s ballot language changed as part of the negotiated agreement, the impacts to rate payers remains the same.”

By obtaining the dismissal of the lawsuits filed by Golden State, it also saves the city potentially years of delay as the cases make their way through the Los Angeles County court system. Adding to that, Golden State Water agreed they would not file any additional lawsuits based on activities or actions taken by the city prior to the adoption of the agreement.

The water company also conceded there would be no future challenge of financing if the city decides to move forward with the purchase of the water system. The later removes future obstacles that can delay an ultimate decision on the water acquisition.

Denise Kruger, Senior Vice President of Regulated Utilities for Golden State Water Company issued the following the statement.

"Golden State Water Company has been proud to support the local efforts of residents who believe citizens deserve the right to vote on the entire $135 million bond proposal. Golden State Water has always urged the city to give residents information about the total costs including how much they would have to pay in principal and interest payments over 30 years. Resident should know that even with $135 million in borrowing that will not be enough money for this unprecedented takeover plan.

As we've noted from the beginning, we are willing to meet with city leaders to address water issues. This agreement represents a first step in what we hope will be a continued collaborative process. As a show of good faith, we have agreed to abandon two lawsuits between the company and the city.

The issue of a comprehensive solution also remains, and we continue to stand ready to meet with the city. We have told city leaders that we will immediately engage in substantive discussions aimed at reaching a global compromise that averts a costly and divisive eminent domain fight and ensures residents have the best water service and lowest possible cost. As we've demonstrated through our negotiations with Claremont Affordable Water Advocates (CAWA), residents can have lower water bills and local control without a $135 million bond obligation that will dramatically increase resident water costs indefinitely.

We're ready to get to work for as long as it takes to find a solution that benefits the community.

We would like to thank Claremont residents and CAWA members who continue to support the Compromise Agreement. We look forward to working with the community to build on yesterday's agreement, and with the city to forge a lasting and positive solution.”

As both the city and Golden State move forward in executing the terms of the agreement between them, residents should continue to educate themselves on the ballot measure set to come before them in the fall. The question posed to Claremont registered voters on November 4 will require a “Yes” or “No” vote and will read as follows:

“Shall the City of Claremont be authorized to issue water revenue bonds up to $135 million to pay for acquisition of the Claremont Water System and incidental expenses payable only from the water system’s revenues?”

The COURIER will continue to update this story as more details become available.

—Angela Bailey

news@claremont-courier.com

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