Clearing up misleading info in Sentinel commentary
A January 2, 2005, commentary in the Santa Cruz Sentinel titled
can learn from Montara's water woes" contained some misleading
comparisons between the Montara water district purchase and local
efforts to buy back the Felton water district. We feel it is important
that several possibly misleading statements in the commentary
Statement: The water district in Montara has 1,650 customers,
about the same as Felton. Voters there authorized a $19 million
FACT: Montara did pass a $19 million bond, but only used
about $11 million to buy the water system - and this was the most
expensive water purchase around by a long shot. (They had developable
ocean view property that they had to buy.) We have about 20% fewer
people than Montara, not the same number of hookups. We expect to
request much less than Montara did to buy the Felton system and
cover all expenses.
Statement: Residents who are barred from connecting to the
water district's services are still required to pay for the bond.
FACT: The bond that Felton residents will vote on is written
so that residents who are on wells and don't use public water won't
have to pay for the bond. If individuals want to hook up to the
water system at some time after the bond has passed, they can buy
into the system.
Statement: Montara customers pay the same rates now as they
did to Cal Am, yet taxes have increased dramatically. For the next
generation or two, property owners will pay a bond tax that in most
cases far exceeds what they could ever pay in water bills.
FACT: With the 108% rate increase that Cal Am is asking
for, the cost of the bond and SLV water district rates combined
will be lower immediately than what Cal Am has requested in rates
alone. In the long run, everyone's better off financially. Significantly
better off. Historically, calculated from 1991, the SLV water district
has averaged 2.5% rate increases. That's less than half what you
can expect from Cal Am/RWE, looking at their rate increases here
and in the UK.
For next year, the SLV water district is only increasing rates
1%. They have about $11 million in the bank from selling the Waterman
Gap property, and the interest from that is used to keep rates down.
Better service? By joining the San Lorenzo Valley water district,
we get local service and calls answered locally, rather than calls
answered in Illinois by people who don't know our area and technicians
often coming from Monterey.
Statement: "Rent Control vs. Government Ownership"
- Cal Am rate increases must be approved by the California Public
Utilities Commission (PUC), which is not required under government
FACT: We've seen how rent increases are controlled by the
PUC. Two identical systems: the SLV water district and Cal Am. We
now pay about 40% more for water than SLV water customers. When
the 44% rate increase Cal Am has already received is implemented,
we'll pay about twice as much as SLV customers. And with the 108%
increase Cal Am is asking for, we'd pay about 3 times the SLV rate.
How's the PUC protecting us? It took $130,000 of public money to
get Cal Am's last requested rate increase reduced from 74% to the
44% they got. No one will be there to pay to protect us next time.
The bottom line is that, despite what Cal Am claims, Felton residents
will spend less money on their water bill each month under a locally-owned,
locally-managed water utility!