Felton Learns Hard Reality of Broken Promises on Water System Condemnation
Nine years ago, condemnation advocates urged Felton, Calif. to move forward with a government takeover of its water system, which was then owned by California American Water. The condemnation advocates made several promises and ultimately the San Lorenzo Valley Water District took over the system in 2008.
As we have captured in our Felton case study, several key promises made by condemnation advocates have failed to become reality. For instance, Food & Water Watch, Felton FLOW and other condemnation advocates told Felton leaders and residents that the takeover would cost about $2 million, yet the final price tag was well over $13 million. Activists promised that water rates would increase just 24% over the first eight years of government operation, yet rates increased 67% instead. And these condemnation advocates glossed over the enormous new tax residents would have to pay to finance the takeover – about $535 annually per resident for 30 years!
And now the record of the Felton water system under government operation just got even worse. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported this week that San Lorenzo Valley Water District customers, which now includes Felton residents as a result of the 2008 condemnation, will soon pay the highest water rates in Santa Cruz County. Bills are expected to increase 37% and will reach an average of $111 a month by 2021.
In addition, the Sentinel’s report illustrates another key point: that condemnation advocates’ promises of “increased local control” under government operation have also been proven false. As the Sentinel notes, more than 3,000 customers submitted written opposition to the water rate increase, but the San Lorenzo Valley Water District ignored their input and pushed ahead with the new rates. The same thing happened during the last rate increase under government control in 2013. So much for “local control.”
The only thing you can count on from condemnation advocates is that the many promises they make will be broken. Unfortunately, Felton residents have had to learn that the hard way.