Herald American

Bellflower negotiating on water system sale

BELLFLOWER — City officials are negotiating with four potential buyers for the 1,800-customer Municipal Water System, but are not expected to make a decision until Aug. 8, Mayor Dan Koops said.

If the council decides to go ahead with a sale, residents would vote on it Nov. 8.

Koops spoke at a public hearing June 27 to obtain resident input on the sale. The hearing was continued to the council meeting of July 11.

The companies in negotiation are California American Water Company, California Water Service Company, Golden State Water Company and Liberty Utilities. A total of 14 requests for proposals were sent out, Assistant City Manager Leo Mingle Jr. said.

City officials estimate the system is worth at least $20 million, but a number of issues are under discussion, besides the sale price. They include maintaining water rates for customers and future maintenance, plus water pumping rights in the Central Basin Municipal Water District.

“It’s very complicated,” Koops said. “That’s why we are not in a rush to make a decision.”

Koops said the city could decide in August to put off the sale if a satisfactory sale agreement could not be reached.

In a written report to the council, City Manager Jeffrey L. Stewart noted that because the council normally does not meet the fourth Monday of July, a decision would be needed Aug. 8 to place the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot by the Aug. 12 deadline.

Oct. 9 would be the last day for the “acquiring entity” to make the required disclosure to existing customers, Stewart added.

At the public hearing June 27, Ken Glenn, a member of the council-appointed Water Advisory Board, supported a sale.

A new owner must maintain the system and keep water rates low under the council’s May 9 request for proposals from prospective water companies.

Bellflower purchased the former privately operated Peerless Water Company in 2007 for $5.8 million after a number of the 1,800 customers voiced fears of drastically increased rates if Peerless sold the system to Golden State Water Company, which serves many cities in the area.

But officials soon learned that the previous owner had not properly maintained the system and spent millions on improvement of the infrastructure and a new well in the public works area on Flora Vista Street.