Monterey Peninsula voters want a public takeover of their private water system, if it’s feasible. When they passed Measure J, they asked the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District to figure that out.
Defining feasible is the focus of a public meeting tonight in Seaside. It’s one of five public meetings where the Water District will find out how far ratepayers are willing to go when it comes to a public takeover of California American Water.
The District is the agency in charge of the potential buyout. General Manager Dave Stoldt says for some, feasibility could mean a savings in the first year. He expects others are willing to wait longer.
“If it costs more in the first five years but then resulted in savings, that might be something that the public would say, 'yes, still we're in, we like that.' If there's no savings in the first 30 years because of the public debt but then that debt is retired and then they're savings for the next generation, there are folks who would say, 'well, that's feasible to me',” Stoldt says.
The District is hiring consultants to figure out when and if a buyout would lead to a savings for ratepayers. The consultants will value CalAm’s Monterey Peninsula assets, figure out the cost of service and how to finance a buyout. Finally, as mandated by Measure J, issue a report by the end of August.
During the Measure J campaign, CalAm hired its own consultant to calculate the value of its Monterey water system. MR Valuation put the number at $1.044-billion. That includes everything from the system’s well sites to Cal Am’s yet-to-be-built desalination plant.
Stoldt is not focused on the final, big number ,rather he’s thinking of ratepayers’ bills.
“If you can have all the same service, the same quality of service and quality of water, and it's no more expensive under public ownership, then you should be indifferent. If it's cheaper under public ownership, well, then that's just gravy,” says Stoldt. “So I think that's really what we're looking at here, that the price doesn't really matter. It's does my cost of service go up under one ownership versus the other.”
If a buyout is feasible, and CalAm refuses to negotiate, that could lead to an attempted takeover through eminent domain.
Fesibility Study Listening Sessions
Monday, January 7th 6:00pm Seaside Council Chambers
Tuesday, January 8th 6:00pm Monterey Peninsula Water Management District
Wednesday, January 9th 6:00pm Monterey Council Chambers
Thursday, January 10th 6:00pm Pacific Grove Council Chambers
Tuesday, January 15th 6:00pm Sunset Center, Carmel
Each session will last no longer than two hours.