Visalia city officials are halting plans to acquire California Water Service Co.
The decision, which was announced Wednesday, comes three weeks after the city notified the company that it would consider purchasing the company to oversee city water services.
The City Council had made a list of grievances to address with Cal Water, including a proposed 29 percent rate increase and Cal Water’s failure to meet the mandates of the state’s conservation program, which could lead to fines.
City leaders said they will allow Cal Water an opportunity to address their concerns before taking additional steps toward an acquisition.
In November, the city decided to pay for an appraisal of the Visalia District Water System, property owned by Cal Water. Cal Water responded by asking that the council not consider acquiring the system and allow the company to focus on efforts to comply with drought-related conservation efforts. The appraisal cost the city $66,185.
“We’ve been seriously concerned with many issues, among them conservation and rate hikes,” Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen said in a prepared statement. “When you’re looking at Cal Water requesting rate increases that will pull an additional $2.3 million out of Visalia every year and send it to San Jose, it was a necessary step to see where we stand.”
Despite Cal Water mailers and Web posts touting a “government takeover,” Wednesday’s notice confirms the city’s commitment not to acquire the system at this time.
Visalia has met the state’s mandated 32 percent conservation number only once in seven months, city officials said.