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County Supports Felton Water Acquisition from CalAm RWE

After one and a half hours of public testimony, the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to create a Community Facilities District as a first step in the acquisition of the Felton Water system.

The county will essentially loan Felton $50,000 to finance a formal appraisal and put a bond to the voters.

CalAm RWE has been running an extensive 'scare' campaign to convince residents that the water will cost up to $20 million ($1,165 per rate payer/month). Even higher figures have been cited. Residents testified that they've received phone call, letters, pamphlets, and posters from the company.

The Supervisors came out strongly in favor of taking back the water. Jan Beautz summed it up. "Some things should be owned by the public. Water is one off them. It should not be in the hands of private companies."

Friends of Locally Owned Water (FLOW) Felton

previous coverage: [ Felton fights privatized water I Felton organizes to stop privatization of its water I Jeff Almquist on water privatization in SC county I Felton Organizes to Take Back Water From RWE AG I KUSP advertises American Water ]

FLOW (Friends of Locally Owned Water)
was abundantly represented.

CalAm representatives brought their lawyers and stated that they have no intention of giving up their property. They also claimed that they wanted to work with the residents.

One resident asked why, if they were interested in working with the community, they were the only water district in the county that didn't give rebates for water conserving washing machines and instead spent money on anti FLOW campaigns.

Another resident commented that when he was overcharged he had to make five phone calls to Illinois before he could even get a person on the phone. That person could not help him so he had to drive down to the plant and get a worker to drive to his house before the problem could be resolved.

CalAm petitioned the Public Utilities Commission for a 70% rate increase. The PUC granted 41.4% over the next two years.

Montara got their water system back from CalAm in an action forced by the Public Utilities Commission paying $6,725 per household.

The Supervisors came out strongly in favor of taking back the water. Jan Beautz summed it up.

"Some things should be owned by the public. Water is one off them. It should not be in the hands of private companies".

You can contact FLOW at:

831-335-5621 or 831-335-3053
info (at)

This meeting was broadcast by public access station Community Television of Santa Cruz County. Call 831-425-8848 for a copy.

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more past coverage

More past coverage of Water Privatization in Felton, from Sprouts Radio Feb. 11, 2004. These are Real Audio files.

Re: County Supports Felton Water Acquisition from CalAm RWE

Why did Felton willingly privatize their water system to begin with? They sold it, it wasn't stolen.

What did they do with that money?

Do you want to live in a country where people can sell their property and then a few years later regret that sale and use threats of state-sponsored force to "reclaim" it?

This is so hypocritical. Felton sold their water system voluntarily and at a price of their choosing. CalAm didn't use any emminent domain shit to force the sale then.

RWE should be allowed to set their own price now, or not sell if they so choose. Or else FLOW becomes just another gang of west coast liberal thugs.

This is a Globalization Issue

Felton didn't sell their water. Citizens Utilities of Minneapolis, the same company that owned Montara's water, sold it to CalAm. Montara got to Superior court before CalAm (and their parent company American Water Works) could sell their water to RWE.

Felton has a bigger water supply than Montara.

In Santa Cruz County there was the matter of the purchase notice being sent to the DA's office instead of being sent to the (correct recipient) County Counsel office. Santa Cruz missed the deadline to block.

The county has shown by every action taken that it was and remains opposed to the acquisition.

Read more like the following excerpt from:

In the United States, public ownership of water services is still the norm. An estimated 85 percent of water utilities are publicly owned, and communities have the right to seize private properties deemed to be vital to the public interest.

But those rules may be changing along with open markets and globalization.

Re: County Supports Felton Water Acquisition from CalAm RWE

Everyone here is avoiding the obvious question.

How did CU of M come to own Felton's water system?

Did Felton sell it to them? Again I ask, what did Felton buy with the money from that sale?

Who did the initial sale, exactly? Was it the citizens of Felton via public vote, or their elected representatives?

If the latter, was the sale legal, fair, and square? If it was not, were the sellers ever punished and has the city of Felton returned that money to the unfortunate buyer?

This doesn't sound like justice to me. It sounds like sour grapes, and a bad solution to a bad decision.

Anyway, why should we expect SLVWD to do any better? I would wager that the same local politicians who controlled Felton's water system when it was Felton's property, will be in control under the SLVWD flag.

You've made your bed, now lay in it. Hopefully others will learn from your mistake. Hopefully you will too.

Re: County Supports Felton Water Acquisition from CalAm RWE

The water system (Felton Water Company) was privately owned by one Florence Fetherston. It was sold to Citizen Utilities of California, a subsidiary of Citizen Utilities of Delaware, for $200,000.00 in October of 1961. Since Delaware at that time had corporation friendly laws many companies were registered in Delaware. The name remained Felton Water Co. serving 800 customers with a local office in Boulder Creek and no rate increase.

It was later that the company became known as Citizen Utilities of Minneapolis. It became Citizens Telecommunications after they sold off their water interests.

San Lorenzo Valley bought back their system from CUC in the mid sixties.

It was not uncommon for water systems to be privately owned from 1900 on in this area as wealthy landowners would develop their own systems. Many of these small systems were consolidated during the depression when people went bankrupt.

Re: County Supports Felton Water Acquisition from CalAm RWE

Thank you eb. Your reply was very educational.

So we regard private ownership ("privatization") as inherently hostile to the communal good, yet Felton's water system was born of private ownership thanks to the good Ms. Fetherston. Interesting.

If the system was sold to CU of C/D in 1961, who later became CU of M, okay. But if SLV bought the system back later in the 60s, how did CU of M get involved again later on? They were out of the picture.

Unless SLV sold it right back to them later. Which makes SLV seem insane. They bought it from CU of M in the 60s, then at some point sold it back to CU of M (who later sold it to CalAm, etc, etc)

So they already solved this problem once by their own current standards, and then screwed it all up?

I wonder how many people were taxed how heavily to fund the last buyout in the 60s, just to see SLV turn around and sell it right back into those same private hands later.

And pocket all the money from the re-sale instead of returning it to the tax payers, of course.

Felton != SLV

You are welcome more questions.

You are a little mixed up.

Felton's system has always been, as far as I know, separate from SLV.

Felton would really like to join SLV and that is what they hope to do by getting their system appraised and floating a bond issue.

I noted that SLV bought their system back from CUC
in the 60's to illustrate the point that they are much happier now than Felton who didn't buy their system back. CUM became involved because CUC became CUM while still owning Felton's system.

Clear as mud?

RWE's business Plan

An acquisition spree before Mr Roels's (former Shell executive who took over as chief executive in February 2003) arrival, in which RWE bought American Water Works, Thames Water and Innogy in the UK, and Transgas, the Czech gas company, resulted in soaring debt. So far Mr Roels has made his mark by selling off non-core assets.

RWE's goal is to reduce net debt below Euros 17bn (Dollars 21bn) by the end of 2005. Adjusted for disposals and currency effects, the current level is Euros 17.7bn.

RWE has identified Europe, including the UK and eastern European countries, as well as the North American water market, as its main business areas. Activities in other areas are being reviewed.

Mr Roels expressed concern about recommendations last week by Ofwat, the UK water regulator, which would curtail significantly Thames Water's plans to increase prices (emphasis is poster's) and investment spending.

That could have a significant impact on Thames Water's business plan - although Mr Roels said it was too early to speculate about effect as RWE would push for changes before final arrangements were published in December and appeal to the UK competition authorities if necessary. "There is always a Plan B," he said.

Re: County Supports Felton Water Acquisition from CalAm RWE

As a historian, I am surprised that no one remembers that the Felton Water system belonged to the town and its citizens from 1869-1923. After a major fire in 1888, the system was incorporated, in March, 1889 with several leading citizens as trustees. By WWI the town lost much of its population and was disincorporated in 1917. George Fetherston, owner of much of the property on the main street, probably entered the picture as one of the trustees. Fetherston and R. L. Young of Oakland purchased control of the water system in 1923 as part of a plan for a housing development, Felton Acres. The two fell out, and Fetherston gained complete control in October 1925. In 1927, during a court case, he transferred his 252 1/2 controlling shares to his wife, Florence. The alienation of the company from its public roots was completed in August, 1933, when the Felton Water company was reorganized as Felton Water Co. It would be interesting to review these transactions from a legal point of view.

Re: County Supports Felton Water Acquisition from CalAm RWE

Who did Fetherston and R. L. Young of Oakland purchase the system from if the town was unincorporated?


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