Claremont COURIER/Saturday, January 5, 2013
he Claremont CityCouncil will meet for thefirst time this year to dis-cuss a longstanding topic of de-bate: the Claremont HillsWilderness Park. Plans sur-rounding the park and its up-graded parking facilities are justone of many items that will keepcouncilmembers busy this Tues-day, January 8.
The council will vote to officiallyadopt new hours of operation for theWilderness Park and its associated park-ing lots. The council approved 12 sets of rotating park hours at its last meeting inDecember. Hours will rotate based on theyear’s fluctuating dawn and dusk times.The park will be open as early as 5:30a.m. and as late as 8:30 a.m. in the sum-mer months, with hours ranging from 6a.m. to 7 p.m. in the fall and winter. Op-erating hours of the Thompson CreekTrail will remain the same, 6 a.m. to 10p.m. The parking lot hours will corre-spond with those times.Trying to make the park available tothe public as much as possible whileheeding noise and safety concerns, thecouncil says the new set of flexiblehours, though numerous, present the bestsolution for both sides.The council will also evaluate whatshould be done with street parking nearthe crowded park. Following the com-pletion of the expanded north parking lot,the city is suggesting that parking be re-stricted along Mills Avenue north of Pomello and on Mt. Baldy Road fromMills to Via Padova. The city is also sug-gesting the council approve the creationof a master plan to more thoroughly han-dle the Wilderness Loop’s overarchingparking issues to ensure problems aren’trelocated to a different street.
Foothill Boulevard makeover
Creating a master plan for the en-hancement of Foothill Boulevard willalso be discussed. After years of negoti-ations, Caltrans relinquished Claremont’sportion of Foothill Boulevard last Au-gust. Along with the rights to the street,the city was given $5.7 million to makenecessary repairs and enhancements. Thecity is asking for the council to approvethe use of $350,000 to conduct immedi-ate, needed repairs while also asking forapproval to conduct a search for a con-sulting team capable of conducting themaster plan.Other administrative matters on Tues-day night’s agenda include adopting acity policy regarding social media,amending the city’s sewer policy to in-clude the unincorporated areas of Clare-mont and establishing an ordinance toenter into a franchise agreement with theSouthern California Gas Company toallow use of the city’s public right-of-ways to provide natural gas services.The council will evaluate the perform-ance of City Manager Tony Ramos inclosed session before the regular councilmeeting. Those who wish to speak on theevaluation may do so before the counciladjourns into closed session at 5:15 p.m.The regular meeting will begin at 6:30p.m. View the council’s full agenda atwww.ci.claremont.ca.us.
Wilderness Park, Foothill upgrades on tap for council
Is the PUC doing enough to help control water rates?
laremont residents have yet to seethe bulk of the latest set of water in-creases pile on top of their waterbills, but it won’t stop the increases fromtrickling in.
While the California Public Utilities Commission(CPUC) finalizes its decision on Golden State WaterCompany’s latest controversial appeal for water rateincreases, the state regulatory body has directed thatthe current rates be extended on an interim basis untila final decision is approved.That means the average Claremont residential cus-tomer with a 5/8-inch meter will continue to pay$60.98 per month for 9724 gallons of water, and theaverage customer with a one-inch meter will pay$138.34 per month for 19,448 gallons of water, ac-cording to Patrick Scanlon, Golden State Water’s vicepresident of operations.While rates currently remain the same, should theCPUC grant Golden State Water any portion of theirrequested rate increase, the company will then be al-lowed to add a surcharge to customers’ bills in orderto make up the amount lost between January 1 andthe time the final decision is reached.The privately-owned water company approachedthe CPUC in July 2011 to request a rate increase of more than 24 percent to take effect in 2013 with addi-tional, smaller increases to be added in 2014 and2015. The appeal was followed by a series of protestsfrom the water company’s customers, many here inClaremont, upset about yet another set of rate in-creases. After several public hearings held in Novem-ber 2011 and negotiations the following spring, theCPUC has been charged with deliberating the finalrate.A decision was anticipated by the end of 2012 forthe rates to take effect as requested on January 1,2013, however, the CPUC has yet to render any deci-sion on the final rate, according to CPUC spokesper-son Andrew Kotch. The current rates, also referred toas interim rates, will remain until a decision is made.Should the CPUC grant Golden State Water any por-tion of their requested rate increase, the companycould add a surcharge to customers’ bills in order tomake up the amount lost between January 1 and thetime the final decision is reached.While the city of Claremont and the water com-pany remain at odds, as the deciding body that pro-vides the final say in how much California residentspay for their utilities, the CPUC remains a key playerin Claremont’s water issue.“The CPUC is terribly important—they are the en-ablers of these rate increases,” said Claremont resi-dent Marilee Scaff. “They approve or disapprove therates. If they say yes, we have to pay it. They are thepolicemen.”The roots of the CPUC, first established in 1911,run nearly as deep as the city of Claremont. Initiallydubbed the Railroad Committee, the organization wasfirst implemented to regulate the ever-expandingSouth Pacific Railroad, whose increasing power wasdrawing public concern, according to informationprovided by Mr. Kotch. It had become apparent thatthe 3-person committee, initially created to managethe railroad company, was being used for the rail-road’s advantage. The expanded railroad committeewas the solution.The agency’s responsibilities grew with the estab-lishment of the Public Utilities Act the following year,expanding regulatory duties to include natural gas andthe electric, telephone and water companies, as wellas railroads and marine transportation companies.However, it wasn’t until 1945 that the group would berenamed to the California Public Utilities Commis-sion, more accurately reflecting its variety of regula-tory duties.The commission is composed of 5 board members,each with staggered, 6-year terms. Commissioners arenot elected, but instead chosen by the Governor.However, that isn’t where the selection process ends.Before appointment, commissioners are brought be-fore the state senate’s rule committee for a vote, ac-cording to Mr. Kotch. This is one of severalsafeguards set in place to protect ratepayers, he says.“There is scrutiny along the way. They are not sim-ply appointed into office,” he explained.The creation of the Division of Ratepayer Advo-cates (DRA) organization is another measure to en-sure equitable decisions for all involved, according toMr. Kotch. The DRA touts a mission of obtaining“the lowest possible rate for service consistent withreliable and safe service levels. In fulfilling this goal,DRA also advocates for customer and environmentalprotections.”“It’s a balancing act,” Mr. Kotch explained, “pro-viding the utilities with the ability to maintain opera-tions while still providing or watching out for thepublic so that the public is receiving reasonablerates.”While Ms. Scaff agrees that the DRA has helped,she believes there aren’t any true safeguards to ensurethe CPUC’s transparency.“We have to remember that the CPUC has manyresponsibilities and is not given very much time,” Ms.Scaff noted. “The CPUC cannot be counted on to pro-tect the public. We are the victims of all the manythings that go through the CPUC.”
California Public Utilities Commission
Paul Clanon, executive directorMichael Peevey, presidentTimothy Simon, commissionerMichael Florio, commissionerCatherine Sandoval, commissionerMark Ferron, commissioner
City to hold annualpriorities workshop
The Claremont City Council will hold its annual Pri-ority Workshop on Saturday, January 12 beginning at 8a.m. The workshop is an open public meeting in theCity Council Chamber. Council will discuss workitems and goals for the coming year.The agenda, which is available on the city’s websiteat www.ci.claremont.ca.us, sets aside time for discus-sion and questions relating to the review of last year’spriority project list wherein council may opt to discon-tinue or move forward with projects from 2012.Time to discuss new initiatives being presented isalso set aside and council will give direction on which,if any, should be added to the 2013 priority projects list.Adoption of the 2013 council projects list may occuror city staff will be directed to provide additional in-formation for adoption at a future meeting.