California Water Service (Cal Water) chastised the City of Visalia last week for its decision to move forward with an appraisal of Cal Water’s private property. Cal Water again described the City’s action as the first step in a government takeover.
“We requested that the City withdraw its notice of appraisal and not delay the process. The City’s announcement that it is delaying its decision whether to take our property is simply that: a delay,” said Cal Water Vice President Shannon Dean. “Our system will never be for sale, and furthermore, the City’s repeated statements about us are inaccurate and misleading.”
Dean said Cal Water made the withdrawal request because the condemnation process would divert resources and focus away from drought response efforts, and because Cal Water would never entertain an offer from the City to purchase its system.
“We believe that this ‘delay’ is simply an effort to spin the issue and make it appear as if Cal Water is on probation, setting the stage for the City to resume its takeover effort in the near future. This is not a fair way to treat a company that has provided excellent service and safe water for nearly a century,” Dean said.
According to Dean, the City’s most recent press release about the delay continues to provide the inaccurate information that Cal Water has sought to correct since the City first announced that it had decided to appraise Cal Water’s property.
First, the City of Visalia’s press release implies Cal Water has “high rates” in Visalia. Yet, since 2011, the typical Cal Water customer in Visalia has seen their monthly water bill increase by about $0.20 per day. During that time Cal Water has invested millions of dollars into water system improvements to help ensure it remains safe and reliable for decades to come.
By comparison, Dean said, the City of Hanford recently proposed new water rates that would result in customers paying 112% more for a monthly average of 14,212 gallons of water by 2019. Similarly, the City of Fresno recently implemented new water rates that will result in a typical customer paying 21% more for that amount of water by 2019.
Dean also refuted the City’s contention that Cal Water’s conservation plan is insufficient, stating that Cal Water has implemented a comprehensive Drought Response Plan, which has been recognized by the State Water Board and cities throughout California for its efficacy. She noted that in November, Visalia customers achieved a water-use reduction of 33.6%, surpassing the state’s mandatory water conservation target of 32%.
“The State set very difficult targets for our customers in Visalia, because it didn’t take population growth into account. However, our customers have done a great job taking advantage of our robust conservation program. And we offer this program to our customers despite the fact that the City actually advocated for and were successful in slashing our water conservation budget in Visalia by 64%,” Dean said.
“We have worked very hard to serve the citizens of Visalia and build a collaborative relationship with the City of Visalia, and we will continue to do so. But on behalf of the company and the 61 Cal Water employees who live and work in Visalia, I will say once again that we are not for sale. Not now, not ever,” Dean said.
Cal Water serves about 132,200 people through 42,400 service connections in Visalia. The company has provided water service in the area since 1926. Additional information may be obtained online at www.ProtectVisaliaWater.com and www.calwater.com.