YERMO • Since taking guardianship of the town's water company, Yermo Community Services District officials say they've already invested $30,000 in repairs.
"We inherited one heck of a mess," said Bob Smith, president of the Yermo Community Services District. "It's a very old dilapidated, unkempt system."
A Superior Court Receiver granted receivership of the troubled Yermo Water Company to the Community Services District in November after the California Public Utilities Commission filed to take control of it last summer, according to San Bernardino County court records.
Attorney John Richardson of the California Public Utilities Commission was named Receiver and said all customers within the area were notified of the changes.
Smith said it would have cost a private company $2 million to replace the whole system, which would have meant a rate hike for customers. It is beneficial for the municipal body to run the services because they can receive government grants to help cover up to 80 percent of the repairs, he said.
"If the CSD buys the system, they can get grants that would not turn Yermo into a ghost town," he said.
In the past, water services were run by a private company called Yermo Water, which was once under investigation and charged by the state utilities commission for consistently violating commission and California Department of Health orders, according to commission records. Yermo Water was unwilling or unable to adequately serve its ratepayers, one commission record stated.
Since the switchover, a few Yermo residents contacted said they were satisfied with their water services. One said she had not been properly notified.
"I received notification and, so far, so good. And they billed me correctly; I've got no complaints," said Joe Zarling, a Yermo resident for 25 years.
Charyl Johnson, manager of the local thrift shop, said she was also notified of the changes and was happy with her services.
"I got a letter in the mail saying the CSD took it over," she said. "I have no complaints."
But Barbbette Nelson said she refuses to pay her water bill that is currently past due because the court order she received in the mail does not mention the Yermo Community Services District as a party to the Receiver.
"There is no mention of the Yermo CSD unless the courts consider them the 'local government entity,'" she wrote in a letter to the Desert Dispatch. "But then the order states no individual, person or entity may take any action against or involving the assets of Yermo Water without approval from the Court, CPUC and the Receiver."
Nelson admitted she has seen notices outside the old Yermo Water building and the Community Services District offices stating the district now runs the services.
Both Richardson and Smith said that residents have been appropriately contacted and notified.
"I think she should contact me or the CSD," Richardson said of Nelson.
Contact the writer: BSelf@DesertDispatch.com or (760) 256-4123.