The city of Visalia and California Water Service Co. appear to be moving toward a truce in their escalating war over control of the Visalia waterworks.
The water system is owned by Cal Water, a publicly traded company, and the city set off alarm bells last month by ordering an appraisal of the company’s Visalia operation, which was seen as the first step toward the city using its power of eminent domain to acquire the system.
Mayor Steve Nelsen said officials have been unhappy about the city falling short of meeting state mandated drought targets, rate increases the city opposed and other issues.
But Tuesday, the City Council issued a statement that Cal Water asked the city for more to time to work on drought response and other issues of common concern.
The council will have the appraisal it ordered completed as planned, but it will hold off and not try to acquire the waterworks, the statement said.
Instead, the city plans to work with Cal Water on common issues, Nelsen said.
“We will continue to move forward in the spirit of cooperation,” he said. “We all have to do our part and will continue to seek what is in the best interest of the public good.”
We all have to do our part and will continue to seek what is in the best interest of the public good.
Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen
California Water Service spokeswoman Shannon Dean said Cal Water is studying the city’s statement but welcomes cooperation.
“We need a cooperative working relationship and we’d be happy, as we have since 1926, to continue working with them cooperatively,” she said.
But, she said, “it’s a mischaracterization that we’ve asked for time to improve our performance in the area of drought response and rates. We have been doing a good job on drought response and our rates are very fair.”
According to a separate statement that Cal Water issued late Tuesday, customers in Visalia reduced water use by 33.6 percent in November, exceeding the state mandatory target of 32 percent.
Cal Water sent the city a letter last month asking it to stop moving toward a takeover because it was “taking our focus away from the drought,” Dean said.