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3 Local Cities File to Stop Public Notice of Public Hearing

Cities flip-flop on notifying residents about water rates

Lakewood, CA – Today, three cities went to court in an attempt to stop the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD) from notifying the public about the rate setting process and scheduled public hearing.  The cities of Signal Hill, Downey and Cerritos asked the court to enjoin WRD from sending notices to approximately 800,000 property owners within the district’s service area.
Judge Ralph Dau summarily and forcefully dismissed the request for an injunction to stop WRD from issuing the notification.

“We are pleased by the Court’s decision not to prevent WRD’s effort to notify parcel owners about our rate setting process and the public hearing,” said WRD Board President Albert Robles.  “We believe the decision to communicate to all residential and business parcel owners insures that no one is excluded from our rate setting efforts and lends to a more transparent public process.”

Representing the cities is the law firm of Aleshire & Wynder, which also serves as Signal Hill’s contracted city attorney. Signal Hill stopped paying their groundwater assessment to WRD in March 2011. At a city council meeting last month, Signal Hill City Attorney, David Aleshire defended the city’s refusal to pay the WRD water assessment by suggesting, “If [WRD] would go through a proper noticing and a proper hearing process . . . . we’d be happy to pay, but evidently, not withstanding our saying that, we have to just go down this litigation road to the bitter end.”

At the same city council meeting, Signal Hill’s City Manager, Ken Farfsing, seemed to echo Mr. Aleshire’s stated position: “It gets to accountability of the WRD for their rate increases to all of their member agencies and every resident and business that’s paying water rates in the Central Basin and also the West Coast Basin.”

“WRD is making every effort to notify the broadest spectrum of parcel owners so that no one can come back to us and say that we wrongfully excluded them from the process” said WRD Board Member Rob Katherman. “While this may be troubling for a few cities, the fact is that WRD serves over 4 million residents throughout 43 local cities. We can’t simply ignore the vast majority of those who have a right to be engaged in our rate setting process.”

Despite the cities’ efforts, the public notifications were mailed to approximately 800,000 parcel owners within WRD’s service area.  WRD is in the process of determining its 2013-14 FY budget and will continue to hold regular public meetings soliciting the public’s input.

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