The decision was made unanimously in front of more than 150 people Thursday night gathered at a special meeting held in the Alexander Hughes Center. The topic of water, specifically looking at the purchasing of the water system, was the only item slated for discussion.
City Manager Tony Ramos and City Attorney Sonia Carvalho will meet Monday to begin mapping out plans, including hiring those necessary to properly analyze purchasing the water company. A utility consultant, appraiser and financial consultant will be among hiring expenditures.
City staff and council members will also prepare to meet with a coalition of cities to prepare plans for a united protest against Golden State Water. The coalition includes the cities of Barstow, Cypress, Placentia, and Stanton.
“I’m looking forward to moving forward with local control..for our water rates, local control for our destiny on water conservation,” said Mayor Sam Pedroza. “We also need to fight the rates, and I think that’s what we are looking at...really taking a full-hearted effort at going after and fighting these rates. This decision will define our careers as elected officials.”
Claremont and the other 4 cities within the coalition will contribute $5,000 each to further protest efforts against Golden State Water. The money will be taken from the City Manager’s contingency fund. The council also approved the use of $25,000 to $50,000 general reserve funds to take part in the ”evidentiary hearing process” to be held by the California Public Utilities Commission.
At least $250,000 from the general fund will also be needed for the initial research into acquiring the water system, according to Ms. Carvalho. Costs include covering consultants, advisors, appraisers and bond counsel in order for staff to do a thorough review of the purchase possibilities. Similar expenditures were made in 2004, the last time the city did an analysis to acquire its water. According to the staff report, the city spent more than $200,000 in that analysis. And costs are expected to continue to rise past the million-dollar mark if the city takes the next step after those reviews.
“None of these can be assumed,” explained Ms. Carvalho. “You have to carefully follow the process and there are certain findings to be made in public when you go down this road.”
Though the process of acquiring the system will be lengthy and costly as recognized by staff, council members and residents present, Randy Scott of Claremonters Against Outrageous Water Rates says it is time to stop “kicking the can” and go ahead with the purchase.
“We have been down this road before,” Mr. Scott said. “Previous mayors have said, ‘Coulda, woulda, shoulda...’ We should have done this. I’d really like and hope we have learned from these experiences. It’s time to break the monopoly of this company.”