City water plan long on promises and short on facts
by Denise L. Kruger, senior vice president, Golden State Water Company
Golden State Water Company recently hosted a customer meeting in Claremont to share information about water service and the cost of the city’s plan to take the water system by eminent domain. We detailed our quality of service, the characteristics that make Claremont a unique system to manage and maintain, and shared that the cost of a potential acquisition by the city is likely to exceed $200 million.
One of America’s most respected water economists, Dr. Rodney T. Smith, presented his study published last year, which concluded water rates would increase by at least 30 percent under the city's estimate, and would more than double at a price that reflects a realistic value of the system.
Claremont residents deserve all the facts as their city continues to pursue a costly takeover. Unlike the city, Golden State Water has provided facts and backed them up. The entirety of Dr. Smith’s research was made public, including the evidence that justifies his conclusions.
The city has continuously attacked our company and our employees, while repeatedly refusing to disclose any evidence to support their claim that taking the water system will lead to lower water costs. Requests for their analysis have been made by our company, non-profit organizations and local media, and have all been denied by the city.
Following their November 6 community meeting, city lawyers rejected information requests to produce documents that would support the charts and graphs they showed at their public meeting and put on their website. The city simply refuses to provide the background used to produce those charts, yet claims they are being fully transparent. “Transparency is not the issue here,” Claremont City Manager Tony Ramos was quoted as saying in the November 20, 2013 Claremont COURIER.
We disagree. The city's lack of transparency should concern everyone.
Ask yourself, if the facts justified a takeover, wouldn't the city jump at the chance to share them? If the government wants residents to tax themselves and pay higher water costs for years, shouldn’t they provide the details and facts to show the benefit? The city has spent more than $1 million of taxpayer money on lawyers and consultants to promote a takeover plan without any vote of the people.
This issue is about more than eminent domain. It’s also about the reliability of water service. At the November 6 meeting, Mr. Ramos promised that the city itself won’t run the water system or create a water department, but refused to say who will run the system or what level of service will be provided. Residents are left in the dark about who their water provider might be, how this important decision will be made, and how any “contractor” that gets selected will make important decisions on infrastructure investment and maintenance in the future.
Golden State Water is best positioned to meet Claremont’s needs, now and in the future. We are financially sound with significant expertise and a sole mission of providing reliable water service and maintaining infrastructure worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Company professionals place tremendous emphasis on research and development, infrastructure replacement, maintenance and customer service. Our access to capital provided more than $20 million for Claremont since 2000 to improve capacity, replace pipes and mains and to strengthen water quality and reliability.
We encourage you to demand the city be forthcoming. Video from our public meeting and Dr. Smith’s research is available at www.gswater.com/claremont. We will be holding another customer meeting early this year and hope you will come learn more and work with us to address important issues about your water service.
Residents deserve transparency, not secrecy, and we’re committed to providing complete information. We hope the city will change their non-disclosure policy instead of paying private lawyers to keep financial information away from taxpayers.