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GOLDEN STATE IS OUT! Agreement expected to be signed April 12

“It's been quite a journey, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us,” CMWD General Manager Steve Wickstrum said April 7. “We want to make sure the transition happens smoothly, and we want to pick up the ball and make sure the system is the very best system to serve the people up there.”
Ojai voters approved CMWD's acquisition of GSWC's Ojai service area in 2013. GSWC responded with a lawsuit aimed at blocking CMWD's plan to form a CFD for the purpose of raising money for the buyout. After rejections by the superior and appellate courts, the lawsuit made its way to the Supreme Court of California, which likewise rejected it in 2015. That same year, CMWD retained the services of the Ventura-based Bruce W. Hull & Associates to conduct an appraisal of the Ojai District. Based on that appraisal, in February 2016 CMWD offered GSWC $23.7 million for its local holdings. That offer was rejected by GSWC in March 2016.
In January 2017, the eminent domain bid was set for a phase-one “right to take” bench trial June 12 and a phase-two jury trial involving valuation and damages Dec. 11.
The agreement eliminates the need for further legal action.
“I'd say we're all elated,” said Pat McPherson, chairman of F.L.O.W., the grassroots organization largely responsible for bringing the issue of acquisition to public referendum in 2013 at which Ojai residents voted overwhelmingly to place a community facilities district bond on their property to finance the acquisition. “We're really pleased we didn't have to go through the court, that we could get it done quickly,” he explained.
In January, Ventura Superior Court Judge Vincent O'Neill found F.L.O.W.’s seven-member Board of Directors liable for $23,209 in fees and costs payable to GSWC and its legal staff for services associated with the eminent domain suit. This agreement would release them from that liability and requires the other two parties to pay their own legal fees associated with this effort.
The agreement does not address the issue of repairing the Ojai Playhouse building, damaged by waters from a July 2014 water main break on Ojai Avenue. It also does not determine who will take over the seat currently held by GSWC on the Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency.
The CMWD meeting will be held April 12 at 3 p.m. at the Oak View Park and Resource Center, 555 Mahoney Ave. in Oak View. The meeting will be open to the public.
Contacted for comment, GSWC officials had not responded by 4 p.m. April 7.

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