By Logan Hall
In January, Golden State Water Company applied for a rate increase totaling 44.7 percent over the next two years — this on top of rate hikes totaling 107 percent in the last decade for its Ojai customers.
Thursday afternoon, the first of two scheduled meetings was held at Chaparral Auditorium to allow GSWC officials to explain to the commuity the justification for the rate increase application, and give customers the opportunity to tell a representative from with the California Public Utilities Commission what they collectively thought of that idea.
“I don’t think we’ve gotten the quality of water we deserve,” stated Maryanne Newman. “We need help in this situation.”
Golden State said in a January press release that the new rates would cover the increasing costs to operate and maintain the local water system, and fund more than $8 million in local capital investments that are critical to providing reliable, high quality water to the area. About half of the new revenue would be used to operate the aging water system — some of which is about 80 years old — and half to update it.
More than one attendee of the hearing, brought up the need for GSWC and its parent company, American States Water Company, to provide returns to their shareholders.
“The expenses that they use to justify the rate increase could easily be absorbed by the company owners,” said Michael Seek. “It would be a great hardship for most people here in Ojai to cover these costs, but the shareholders could do it easily.”
The city of Ojai seems to be on the side of the public and Steve McClary, assistant to city manager Jere Kersnar, read Kersnar’s prepared statement urging the CPUC to approve a lower rate increase. “The city has been closely following the activity of GSWC since its substantial increase in 2007. The amount of the rate increase is out of proportion to the benefits to the Ojai customers,” read McClary to CPUC administrative law judge Douglas Long.
According to Long, the CPUC will make a decision on the final rate increase at the end of this year.
See Wednesday’s Ojai Valley News for comments from Ojai city officials addressing last night’s second meeting.