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Monday, Mar 18 2013 11:00 PM

ANOTHER VIEW: What sounds like water agency consolidation is really takeover

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    Becky McClure

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By BECKY McCLURE

In response to Lois Henry's March 13 column, "Oildale water fight may finally be drying up," I would like to clarify a few things. All this information is public record.

First, what Henry did not mention is that the new directors, by a 3-2 vote, tabled action on installing meters for retail customers of the North of the River Municipal Water District. Retail customers need to know that a $398,000 grant and $100,000 interest-free, 20-year loan for installing meters was granted in November 2012. This grant will allow NOR to install meters at no direct cost to the customer. To be done properly, the installation of meters would be an 18-month project. Compliance for water metering is state-mandated to take effect in 2025. This grant was provided by the state to help with water conservation -- which the state wants to be at 20 percent less than 2004 levels by 2020. Conservation and metering go hand in hand as metering will allow for tracking usage and conservation. The grant has a timetable and can be forfeited -- a loss of almost $500,000 to the NOR retail area.

Oildale Mutual Water Co. has no plans at this time to install meters for its customers/shareholders because it will lose revenue if customers only pay for what they use. The reason given by NOR board President Jim Tyack for tabling action on this grant (which took two years to obtain) was so that consolidation could move forward. Oildale Mutual wants the consolidation to be completed by this June.

Consolidation talks were started in November after a tolling agreement was signed between the two entities. The threat of a lawsuit by Oildale Mutual is still in the air if things do not go the way it wants. Consolidation was never defined by Oildale, and Oildale stalled the talks until its candidates were installed on the NOR board and voted themselves as representatives of NOR for the consolidation talks. What Henry and Oildale Mutual call consolidation sounds more like a takeover -- with no survivors at NOR. By the way, Oildale does not need NOR to get water from the Kern County Water Agency. Oildale Mutual could directly contract with the agency, but it would have to give up some of its very private business information and comply with the same regulations as the other entities that contract with the agency.

My biggest concern is this: Why would Oildale Mutual want to hurry and get this done instead of taking the time to do it right and consider all the options that are available, such as consolidating into one entity or renegotiating a new contract? Also, what is such a big secret that Oildale Mutual would want NOR, a public entity, to violate the Brown Act by talking confidentially and not allowing NOR residents to know what is going on?

Becky McClure is an Oildale Mutual Water Co. shareholder/customer and a former Division 3 director for the North of the River Municipal Water District. Another View presents a critical response to a previous editorial, column or news story.

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