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War of words continues as city council bites back at Golden State Water

The back-and-forth between the city, Golden State Water and Claremont residents brings new meaning to the term water fight.

The ongoing battle with Golden State Water boiled over this week after CBS aired an investigative report by David Goldstein last Monday night. Mr. Goldstein’s record request to Golden State CEO and President Robert Sprowls to release documentation outlining GSW’s expenditures, including infrastructure updgrades, employee travel, entertainment expenses and health club memberships, was denied. As a private corporation, Golden State asserted that it is not required by law to release expense reports.

Through a mass mailer to customers, GSW Vice President Denise Krueger challenged the reporter’s methods, stating that Mr. Goldstein did not address water usage when highlighting the $598.98 water bill provided by Claremont resident Hal Hargrave of Claremonter’s Against Outrageous Water Rates. In an effort to justify GSW’s request for a 24 percent rate increase, Ms. Krueger explained that the company’s “rates are designed to promote conservation.”

The Claremont City Council has responded to the fray by releasing a mass mailing to Claremont residents this week. The letter is printed below.

—Kathryn Dunn

editor@claremont-courier.com

 

Dear Claremont residents,

Recently, you may have received a letter from Golden State Water Company in which it tried to justify its high rates in Claremont. Don’t be fooled. This mailer is an attempt to distract you from Claremont’s continued opposition to Golden State Water’s never-ending rate increases!

Your City Council is fighting Golden State Water’s endless applications for rate increases. Not only is the City Council actively opposing Golden State Water’s recent application for a 24.54 percent increase, we are also examining other options in order to oppose Golden State Water’s actions.

So why is Golden State Water so desperate and willing to run a mail campaign in Claremont? The answer is simple…profit. It is clear that Golden State Water Company will spend any amount of money it takes to keep the cash flowing from Claremont ratepayers. Under state law, private water companies may submit rate increase applications to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) every three years. Golden State Water Company never misses an opportunity to raise rates in Claremont. In fact, Claremont residents are forced to pay approximately 84 percent more than our neighbors who receive water from a municipally-operated provider.

Under the PUC’s guidelines, private water companies, unlike municipally-operated providers, are guaranteed a profit. Golden State Water generates extremely large profits. In the last quarter alone, Golden State Water’s parent company announced profits of over $15 million. These profits come directly from ratepayers.

Amazingly, Golden State Water is attempting to blame their high water rates on Claremont residents. The company infers the high rates in our city are the result of our “consumption.” For the company to make these statements underscores the pressure they are feeling from the City, and you the ratepayer. We believe our residents are smart enough to realize that these statements are a smoke screen intended to distract attention from the company’s efforts to raise water rates yet again. Indeed, in its mail piece the company claims to provide water for “less than a penny per gallon,” however, it fails to mention the myriad of fees and other charges, including a WRAM fee, charged to ratepayers when they conserve water.

The City of Claremont will continue to be transparent in our effort to bring fairness to Claremont ratepayers. Furthermore, we will continue to evaluate all available options, including establishing a municipal water system in Claremont. State law prescribes ways to accomplish such a goal, including the use of eminent domain. We are currently in the midst of appraising the water system and assets in Claremont, and expect to receive a certified appraisal in October.

We want to assure you that whichever course of action we take, our process will always remain transparent. Therefore, we found it imperative to write you and give you truthful information regarding Golden State Water Company’s claims. Golden State Water Company’s claims—including one that the City will raise property taxes to buy the water system in Claremont—are factless and illustrate how desperate the company has become.

We can assure you, that the City will identify and examine multiple options to fund and operate the system should the City Council choose to end Golden State Water’s monopoly and move forward with acquiring the water system. For more information regarding the City’s actions to oppose high water rates in Claremont, please visit www.ci.claremont.ca.us.

Respectfully,

The Claremont City Council

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