PALMDALE – City of Palmdale and the Palmdale Water District officials have announced a global settlement of multiple claims and lawsuits and the beginning of a new, innovative partnership on recycled water.
District Board President Gordon Dexter and Vice President Gloria Dizmang, along with Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford and Councilmember Mike Dispenza announced the settlement and the proposed formation of a new joint powers authority tentatively called the “Palmdale Recycled Water Authority.”
“This is the beginning of what promises to be a very beneficial relationship, not just for the City and the Water District, but more importantly, for our residents,” said Ledford. “It may have taken a while to get to where we are, but now that we’re here, we’re going to do some great things in Palmdale.” Dexter added that, “After years of trying to negotiate our differences we finally recognized our common goal. It has been a long road to reach this settlement, but the resulting partnership begins a new era of mutual respect and trust in meeting the current and future water needs of our community.”
“I think both sides are thrilled to, if I may paraphrase, ‘beat their litigation swords into plowshares in the form of purple recycled water pipes,’” said Dispenza. Board Vice President Dizmang stated, “I am extremely pleased that we have ended the lawsuits and am looking forward to good working relations with the City of Palmdale. This is what the new board promised the people and we have delivered.”
The new agreement comes after a three-year span in which the City and the District have been involved in multiple lawsuits and various cross claims over right-of- way permits, potable water rates and control of recycled water. “In 2011, the parties settled the right-of-way case and I think that broke the ice a little,” said Palmdale City Attorney Matt Ditzhazy. “The attorneys on both sides established a good working relationship on that case and through the Groundwater Adjudication, which also upped the trust level as both our clients saw we could work together for some common goals.”
Late last year, the District approached the City regarding possible mediation. The two parties agreed to have subcommittees of their respective boards engage in settlement talks along with the attorneys. The District appointed President Gordon Dexter and Vice President Gloria Dizmang. The City appointed Mayor Jim Ledford, and Councilmember Mike Dispenza. The parties sat down with a retired judge acting as a go-between for the mediation, but soon realized that face-to-face negotiations worked much better.
The settlement negotiation committee members from Palmdale City staff included Director of Public Works Mike Mischel and City Attorney Ditzhazy and for the District, General Manager Dennis LaMoreaux and Matt Knudson, Engineering Manager.
Together, the parties reached a settlement agreement that has the following points:
- Settles two lawsuits entitled City of Palmdale v. Palmdale Water District (the invalidation action and the water rate case).
- Settles the lawsuit entitled Palmdale Water District v. City of Palmdale (the recycled water case).
- Agreement to continue working together cooperatively in the Antelope Valley Groundwater Adjudication litigation.
- The parties are to consider the formation of a joint powers authority (“JPA”) to be known as the Palmdale Recycled Water Authority (“Authority”). Both agencies must hold public hearings on the formation. The basics of the Authority are encompassed in the draft joint powers authority attached as Exhibit A to the Settlement Agreement. Under the JPA the District and the City become the joint purveyors of recycled water within the boundaries of the District. First customer of the Authority will be the City to provide irrigation to McAdam Park on 30th Street East.
- The District will revise its rate structure to accommodate a 10% larger base water allowance.
- The District will provide a larger allowance for its turf buy-back program and establish other changes to the program.
- The City will reallocate its allotments of recycled water to the JPA.
- The Parties will obtain as much recycled water as possible on behalf of
- the Authority.
- The Parties will commit themselves to support all uses of recycled
- water (direct use, recharge & exchange) and agree that all available recycled water should be put to beneficial use as soon as practicable.