Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers

San Bernardino Sun
20 June 2003

Fontana City Council voices opposition to water rate hike proposal
FONTANA - To say Mayor Mark Nuaimi and the other four members of the Fontana City Council are unhappy with the rate hike that has been proposed for the last several months by the San Gabriel Valley Water Company would be putting it lightly.

They are so displeased with the proposed rate hike, in fact, that they unanimously passed a resolution to oppose it at this week's City Council meeting.

During a staff report on the item Tuesday night, Curtis Aaron, public services director for the city, told the council he doesn't think the water district has checked into all the options available.

"We believe Fontana Water Company has alternatives that they have not exercised,' he said.

The Fontana Water Co. is proposing to raise water rates about 40 percent this year and a combined 20 percent in the subsequent three years to pay for treatment of wells contaminated with perchlorate, according to information from the company.

The cost to remove perchlorate is $1.5 million to $2 million per well, plus an additional $500,000 to $600,000 in annual operations and maintenance per well.

That cost is expected to be passed onto the consumer, a move council members say could ultimately put some of the city's landscape districts at aesthetic risk and possibly make some business owners and potential homebuyers think twice about calling Fontana home.

Councilwoman Acquanetta Warren said she and councilman John Roberts have been working on a subcommittee for the past six weeks to figure out a strategy to approach the Public Utilities Commission in September to express the city's opposition to the rate hike.

"It was ridiculously proposed,' Warren said. "So we decided to say something officially,' she said, referring to the adopted resolution.

Roberts said it's impossible to tell what the consequences to the city would be should the Public Utilities Commission approve the increased rates. But there will be consequences, he said.

"It's going to have a tremendous impact on not only the residents but the city as well,' he said. "It's going to be a significant hit.'

"We don't believe the ratepayers should be held responsible for the cleanup issue. That's something they had no part in creating,' Roberts said.

John Whitehead, president of the San Gabriel Valley Water Company, which owns the Fontana Water Co., responded to the criticism Thursday by saying his company has "examined all our options.'

"It is a fact that perchlorate contamination in Fontana and Rialto is widespread,' he said. "In order to restore those water supplies it's going to cost millions of dollars and that's a very costly process.'

However, Whitehead said the company is adamant about pursuing the original polluters aggressively and making them take fiscal responsibility for the cleanup. Once it has recovered the cost from the polluters, the company will then pass it back to the ratepayers in the form of reduced water cost.

If the PUC approves the rate hike in September, Councilwoman Janice Rutherford said residents in planned communities throughout the city may end up paying an aesthetic cost.

Residents in Community Facilities Districts pay a yearly tax which is put toward landscape upkeep, she said.

In order to cover a cost increase, that tax might have to be raised, a move that requires approval from voters.

If they vote such a proposal down, then the city will have to cut services, which could possibly result in a lot of dead grass and brown landscaping.





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