Downey, WRD head to trial

DOWNEY - The cities of Downey, Cerritos and Signal Hill are heading to trial in their dispute with the WRD after a judge issued a ruling last week denying the water agency's argument that the cities do not have a right to a refund for allegedly illegal rate hikes. A trial next year is expected to determine the size of a refund owed by WRD.

"We are pleased with the court's ruling and feel that it is the right thing to do for our city and our residents," said Mayor Mario Guerra. "As a city we stand for what is right and ethical and what WRD did was wrong on so many levels."

The three cities stopped paying their water bills more than two years ago, claiming that rate assessments by the Water Replenishment District of Southern California were illegal because they did not conform to Prop 218, which mandates that new taxes be approved by a two-third majority of voters or supported with a rate study.

The cities of Bellflower and Pico Rivera also stopped paying their water bills although they are not part of the lawsuit.

In April of 2011, the court ruled against WRD, ruling that its rate hikes violated Prop 218 because the new rates were initiated "without conducting a study to justify the proportionality of assessments to the services provided or allowing protests," Downey officials said.

City officials estimate that 40 percent of the average residential water bill is made up of WRD's allegedly illegal assessment.

A judge ruled in June that the WRD cannot shut down city water wells for non-payment.

The court will hold a case management conference on Feb. 7, where it is likely to set a trial date.

********** Published: December 20, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 36