June 11--CLAREMONT -- A Nov. 4 election ballot measure granting the city the authority to finance a $55 million revenue bond if the acquisition of the Golden State Water Co.'s water system exceeds $80 million has been approved by the City Council.
The measure was unanimously approved at Tuesday night's meeting.
Based on existing water rates and charges, the bond would generate enough revenue to purchase the system for up to $80 million.
"It will give the residents the opportunity to register their support or opposition to this measure," said Councilman Corey Calaycay.
Claremont is not required to take the ballot measure to a public vote, but it was a move to let residents weigh in, and to keep the process as transparent as possible, said City Attorney Sonia Carvalho.
A resident's comment and reiterated by a Golden State official claims the city can actually borrow up to $135 million in its takeover efforts. The calculation takes into account the $80 million and $55 million revenue bond.
"Golden State Water believes residents should have the opportunity to vote on the entire financing proposal of $135 million and continues to recommend that the City operate transparently, produce public information and allow for a full review of their plan," said Julie Hooper, spokeswoman for Golden State Water.
But the city has stated that its appraised value of the water system is $55 million but it would be up to a court to decide how much the water system is worth.
The council spent most the meeting debating what several members called an "eleventh hour" proposal submitted to the city late Tuesday afternoon by Golden State Water and Claremont Affordable Water Advocates, a group of city residents.
City Manager Tony Ramos said it is his understanding that residents have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Golden State Water to look at potential alternatives, other than eminent domain, to see if there's any way possible in trying to find a comprise.
In the proposal, the council was asked to postpone its decision on the ballot measure so the two sides could review 20 alternatives.
"Golden State Water continues to believe that collaboration is better than conflict and has offered to work with the city to find alternatives to a costly takeover."
Hooper said there has never been a public takeover of a water system where the acquisition and rate promises have come true, "and Claremont will be no different," she said.
Carvalho told the council they can still review the proposal to see if there are any possible solutions. The council could rescind its motion calling for a special election, if it believes there is a solution, but it has to do it prior to Aug. 13 which is the deadline from Los Angeles County to remove an item from the ballot. It is going to cost Claremont$75,000 to add their special election to the November ballot.
Councilman Sam Pedroza said he didn't want to give any credibility to this request, adding that he has never received correspondence about alternatives from this group prior to Tuesday's meeting.
"To me, as far I'm concerned, it is a completely made up thing by Golden State Water to stall this thing," he said.
Calaycay urged members of the group and the water company to come before the public to discuss this new proposal.
"This is very inappropriate. If they have an MOU, then put it out here in the table so that the council and everybody else to see. Not your minions," he said.
Calaycay said the council's decision doesn't close the door on discussions. He went on to say that Claremont doesn't respond well to negative campaigning.
"If it wants to bring in negative campaigning, bring it on," he said. "Be very careful Golden State, do your negative campaigning and it could actually make matters worse for you."
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