Litigation between neighboring communities is a lose-lose for all parties. Public officials are tasked with working together, not against one another, for the benefit of their communities. The city of Riverside, unfortunately, seems to have forgotten this.
We at the Jurupa Community Services District (JCSD) have had a longstanding, mutually beneficial relationship with the city revolving around the use of its wastewater treatment plant. Regrettably, the city recently jeopardized this relationship when it blindsided JCSD with a costly and unfounded lawsuit.
The issue began in 2006 when the Riverside City Council authorized upgrading the city’s wastewater treatment plant to a $250 million high-end system — a Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) — in lieu of a traditional, more cost-effective system that would have saved tax dollars while fulfilling the region’s needs and meeting all state and federal regulatory requirements.
The decision to move forward with the expensive upgrade was not based on need. In fact, the city’s existing, traditional wastewater treatment system recently won a performance award for 100 percent compliance in 2012.
The wastewater plant is also used by two additional neighboring public agencies, Rubidoux Community Services District and Edgemont Community Services District. The three agencies have enjoyed a longstanding and positive business relationship with Riverside while contributing millions of dollars over decades to operate and maintain a time-proven, highly reliable treatment plant that has met and will continue to meet environmental protection standards.
This relationship has since been strained by the city’s recent decision to use the courts to inappropriately demand that our communities subsidize a large portion of Riverside’s expensive upgrade and incur higher operating costs, as the new technology chosen uses a greater amount of electricity. Jurupa maintains that this issue can be negotiated outside of the courtroom.
The lawsuit goes against previous agreements between the agencies and Riverside, which the city offered in 1990 to prevent our communities from building our own treatment plants. The agreements excluded the agencies from paying for any future upgrades, additions or modifications to Riverside’s wastewater treatment plant, while requiring us to pay ongoing operations and maintenance costs, which Jurupa respects and supports.
The agreements have served us well for nearly a quarter century. And, Jurupa has communicated that it is willing to help pay for the appropriate share of wastewater plant costs stemming from regular repair and maintenance, as outlined in the 1990 agreements.
However, Riverside’s current demand that the communities subsidize more than $31 million for its plant upgrade is simply unfair and destructive to our longstanding business relationship.
Since the filing of the lawsuit, we have acted in good faith, attempting to resolve the issue with Riverside and find a reasonable compromise while avoiding further unnecessary litigation.
We recently sent a letter to the Riverside City Council asking that council members drop its litigation and work with us toward a reasonable compromise. Our request went unanswered.
We now reiterate our request that Riverside drops its litigation and, in the spirit of our longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship, work with us to find a reasonable compromise that will benefit the city’s residents and our ratepayers while saving hard-earned tax dollars.
Robert Craig, Board President
Jurupa Community Services District