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Clearing up misleading info in Sentinel commentary

A January 2, 2005, commentary in the Santa Cruz Sentinel titled "Felton 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 be clarified:

Statement: The water district in Montara has 1,650 customers, about the same as Felton. Voters there authorized a $19 million bond.

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 ownership.

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!