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Pioneertown Water Dispute Awaits Public Utilities Board Decision

A dispute between Pioneertown-Rimrock residents and Golden Empire over water company rights, has been laid in the lap of the state Public Utilities Commission.

This action was brought by the filing of a complaint by Anthony D. Colby against Pioneertown Utilities Co. Representing a group of resident property owners in Pioneertown, Colby seeks to discover who owns the water company and who owns the water rights.

Following a public hearing last week, Public Utilities Commission Examiner Kent C. Rogers has taken the problem for study. A decision will be made by the PUC board in San Francisco.

Defendants Named

In his complaint, Colby listed as defendants: Pioneertown Utilities Co., Pioneertown Corp., Mt. San Gorgonio Water Co., Golden Empire, Golden Empire Land Development Corp., William Van Wyck, William Murphy, Fletcher Jones, Benton Lefton, Lillian Thompson and Golden Empire Water Co.

Writs commanding the appearance of Murphy and Jones had been returned unclaimed, said Rogers. Lefton, who also was not present, was represented by his attorney.

Examiner Rogers said the three questions to be considered in the case are:

Three Points

1—Is a public utilities water company actually in existence? (A mutual water company cannot be made to function as a public utilities company.)

2-15 the public utilities water company, if there is one, making money? (A public utility cannot be forced to stay in business if it is not making money——after a reasonable test period.)

3—Are demands outside the original water area being made on the water company? (A water company cannot be made to serve areas outside its own limits.)

According to testimony by Russell Hayden, the original water facility at Pioneertown was a well and pipeline. He said the well and pump have been operated as a freewill donation—with property owners contributing funds to pay water and electric expenses. Hayden said no water bills have ever been issued for the service.

Pioneertown and Rimrock were served with water from the original system, Hayden added. He said the original water system was built by Pioneertown Corp. which in 1953 turned over the rights of the original well to Mt, San Gorgonio Water Co. Later. Mt. San Gorgonio turned 0ver its ownership of the well to Jones and Murphy.

The Pioneertown area resident and Golden Empire had a big falling out last August, when Harry Guinan (who had been operating the water company and pump) was allegedly relieved of his duties by Van Wyck. a Golden Empire employee. according to testimony. Mrs. Guinan said
that on Aug. 6 of last year, Van Wyck took the water company books from her and turned them over to Mr. and Mrs. Willian Thompson.

Witnesses

Also appearing as witnesses at the hearing were C. P. Haynle. Edward 0. Hall, Mrs. Lillian Thompson, William Smith, George Elliott and Tim Spencer.

Residents of Pioneertown and Rimrock have expressed fear that there is not sufficient water in the area to serve the original residents and the large residential tracts proposed by the Golden Empire and there is no protection for the local residents.

Smith of Golden Empire said three wells have been drilled in the Pioneertown area, He said these three new wells are to serve Lefton’s proposed residential tracts.

Fears Told

Pioneertown and Rimrock residents expressed fear that the three wells will drain water from the original Pioneertown Well. Smith replied that tests indicate water from the three new well and the original well is different in content.

Early this year. Golden Empire and Pioneertown expressed an interest in annexing to Yucca Valley County Water District. According to the Water District office, the matter has never again been mentioned.