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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | West County / Channel Islands

Board OKs Study on Leaving Water District

October 18, 2000|MATT SURMAN

County supervisors took another step Tuesday toward canceling a contract with the district that provides water to the Channel Islands Harbor area, where tenants have long complained that they pay too much at the tap.

With a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors agreed to further study withdrawing from a 1996 deal with the Channel Islands Beach Community Services District, despite protests by district officials and some homeowners. A study that the supervisors approved last year estimated that the potential cost of such a withdrawal would be $1.4 million.

A restaurant at the harbor typically pays about $400 a month for water service, and a residential customer pays about $33 a month. Nearby residents fear that if the harbor leaves the district, their water bills will skyrocket to compensate.

Tension between businesses at the harbor and the community services district board have been boiling for years. The argument stems from a 1996 decision by the board to join with the city of Port Hueneme and the Navy in building a $30-million water treatment plant.

"Why chase more good money after bad?" asked Michael Koutnic, a harbor business owner who supports breaking from the district. "Business and the county have been paying . . . more for water than those across the street."

The additional study would include an environmental document charting construction risks, engineering drawings and cost estimates about ending service and, if necessary, a letter of termination to the services district.

The district says it is doing its job.

"We're only going out and implementing what you asked us to do," district General Manager Bill Higgins told supervisors. "We've provided a safe and reliable water service."

Supervisor John Flynn strongly supported additional study, saying said the county owed it to tenants to keep them happy.

"This is how the issues become exposed," he said. "The lessees are our business partners."

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