YERMO • The Yermo Community Services District may be completing the purchase of the Yermo Water Company within the next two months after receiving approval this month from two different state agencies.

Yermo CSD began negotiating for the purchase of the water company in 2008 after experiencing problems with its water system, including a period of three days where the community was without water.

The water company purchase has taken about two years to complete, and it has been nearly a year since the CSD signed a $259,000 purchase contract with former owner Don Walker.

The CSD has received two separate grants for $150,000 each from the Mojave Water Agency as well as discretionary funds from San Bernardino County First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt.

Both the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Department of Public Health had to approve the water company purchase in order for it to be completed. The CPUC approved the water company purchase earlier this month, and the  board of directors was notified Wednesday that the purchase had been approved by the DPH as well, said Bob Smith, Yermo CSD Board President. He hopes that the purchase will be completed in about a month, but a spokesperson for the CPUC estimates it will take about two months to complete because of various liens and debts that the water company has.

Part of the purchase agreement stated that the CSD would be able to purchase the water company free from any liens or debts. Because of this agreement, the CSD will withhold part of the purchase price through an escrow for up to one year in order to cover any liens or debts in case the current owner does not pay them, said Christopher Chow, public information officer for the CPUC. If the current owner pays the liens and debts himself, then the withheld potion will be given to him, but the escrow money will be used to pay off the liens and debts if he does not pay them.

Walker could not be reached by phone Friday afternoon.

Smith was happy that the board of directors will finally be in charge of the water company and said it would have a big impact on the community.

"The most important thing is that it's going to get this community a better water system with better accountability," said Smith. "It's going to give this community its life."

Beverly Lowry, Division 6 Director for the Mojave Water Agency, said she was also happy that the purchase went through.

"I want them to have a dependable, sustainable water supply," said Lowry Friday. "This is wonderful. It's what I've wanted for a long time."

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(760) 256-4122 or kjonas@desertdispatch.com