CLAREMONT - The battle between Golden State Water Co. and Claremont over local water assets shows no signs of slowing as multiple groups have recently appeared to support one side or the other.

One almost needs a scorecard to keep track of the groups.

One group is Stop the Claremont Water Grab, a program of The California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights, which supports not taking over the water company.

The other organizations, all in favor of taking over the water company, include Claremonters Against Outrageous Water Rates, the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area and Sustainable Claremont.

The issue is whether the city should attempt to obtain the company's Claremont assets either by purchase or eminent domain.

Claremont officials have been at odds with the San Dimas-based water company for some time after it asked the Public Utilities Commission to approve a rate increase of more than 24 percent for 2013 and additional increases in 2014 and 2015.

A negotiated settlement resulted in Claremont's 11,000 customers and ratepayers receiving a 15.1 percent rate increase in 2013, 2 percent more in 2014 and 1.8 percent in 2015.

In November, Claremont officials sent an initial offer of more than $54 million to purchase the company's local assets but Golden State officials have said no.

On Dec. 18, Golden State released a feasibility study by a water expert it paid for that said the water company's local assets could cost as much as $204 million.

City officials issued a news release two days later stating the water company "hires lobbyists and consultants to mislead residents."

Stop Claremont Water Grab/California in early December started issuing statements taking issue with the city's $54 million offer. The city responded with a news release about how it was spreading "false information" about the water utility system.

The alliance, which sponsored 2008's Proposition 98 to reform eminent domain "abuse," was founded in 2005 and describes itself as the state's leading private property rights organization.

Marko Mlikotin of the Folsom-based alliance is against the "push" of the eminent domain process and the price it puts on local residents.

"In every case we've been a part of, it's never disclosed what the true cost is (of an eminent domain action) until after it was acquired," Mlikotin said.

A year ago, before Mlikotin's group entered the battle in Claremont, Claremonters Against Outrageous Water Rates was beating the drum to take over the water company.

"We're that watchdog group I truly believe are representing the lion's share of the residents in Claremont," said Hal Hargrave of that group. "We haven't taken a straw poll but we can tell by our activity on email and just being active in the community and getting a wide range of our demographics in town ... we're well over 95 percent in favor of getting (local assets) away from Golden State water."

Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area have advocated city ownership of the water assets since 2004, when it issued a report in favor of the take over.

Freeman Allen, who co-wrote the league report and is on Sustainable Claremont, said the water company and the water grab group has misunderstood the 2004 report in saying the cost would be more than $100 million.

"We assumed $100 million for the purpose of analysis ... we said the cost of the system might be more or less," Allen said.

Allen said the water grab/alliance group is an arm of Golden State.

"It's more of Golden State water's propaganda," Allen said.

Mlikotin took issue with his organization being tied to Golden State.

City officials said River City Communications in Sacramento operates the Mlikotin's organization and has aligned itself with the water company.

"It's not uncommon for a consulting firm to manage a non-profit company," Mlikotin said in a previous interview. "(Claremont) has not really disclosed what the financial impact is. Acquiring the water company by eminent domain will incur millions of dollars in debt."

The Claremonters Against Outrageous Water Rates Hargrave disagreed with Mlikotin's comments and pointed to Allen's report.

"A lot of educated people in Claremont have dug into this topic (of water). It's nice to have that data and fact base behind what's going on. I truly believe the $54 million (from Claremont) is fact based and the $200 million (from the water company) is a scare tactic."


Reach Wes at via email, call him at 909-483-8549, or find him on Twitter @ClaremontNow.