Angered by a surcharge that cost Anaheim $80,000 and Fullerton $13,000 last year, officials from both cities reaffirmed last week their intention to withdraw from the Municipal Water District of Orange County.
Anaheim and Fullerton join Santa Ana, which also has announced its intention to leave the agency. The requests will be considered at a special hearing before the Local Agency Formation Commission--which handles such issues--on Nov. 6.
To residents of the three cities, the withdrawal will mean little, since none of the communities gets water from the Municipal Water District, officials said. "It's just a paper work thing," according to Ray Auerbach, Anaheim city water engineering manager.
The move, however, will save the cities the surcharge, a district requirement enacted last year, he said. In Santa Ana, the water district surchage cost the city $36,000.
At first, city officials decided to try and negotiate their differences with the water district, particularly the surcharge. But after several months of talks, city officials decided to stop participating in the 33-member water district.
The Municipal Water District was formed in 1951 when most Orange County cities were denied membership on the larger Metropolitan Water District, originally a 13-member agency with only three cities from Orange County--Anaheim, Fullerton and Santa Ana.
Subsequently, sections of the three Orange County cities became members of the Municipal Water District as well, since the newer district serves areas that once were unincorporated but were later annexed to the three cities.
However, Anaheim, Fullerton and Santa Ana have continued to receive their water from the Metropolitan Water District. If the cities follow through on their intention to leave the Municipal Water District, they will get their water from the same source as before.
Meanwhile, officials in Anaheim, Fullerton and Santa Ana are concerned about gaining greater Orange County representation on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California board of directors.
There are now five Orange County members in the 27-member MWD--Fullerton, Santa Ana, Anaheim, the Coastal Municipal Water District and the Municipal Water District itself, said Larry Sears, Fullerton water system engineer.
With their latest decisions, officials in Fullerton and Anaheim "took what appears to be final action," Auerbach said. "As far as we're concerned, there's no more negotiation (with the Municipal Water District)." The hearing before the Local Agency Formation Commission had been postponed from Sept. 11.
In response to concerns by Municipal Water District officials that the district should remain intact to better deal with water issues, Orange County city officials said they still will communicate with the district.
"We've had a close working relationship with Municipal in the past and we'll continue to do that," Fullerton City Manager Bill Winter said. "The unity will continue to exist."