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Water Agency Bids for Saugus Parcel : L.A. Offered $15.8 Million for Site of Proposed Treatment Plant

Staff Writer

The Castaic Lake Water Agency, trying to push forward a public-works project that has been stalled for months, has offered Los Angeles $15.8 million for the defunct Saugus Rehabilitation Center, which has 520 acres.

The water agency wants 65 to 80 acres for a treatment plant it says is needed to serve the rapidly growing Santa Clarita Valley by 1992.

The Santa Clarita City Council wants the rest of the property for a city hall, a park and perhaps an arts complex. The city and water agency agreed to work together to buy the property, which is southeast of the conjunction of Bouquet Canyon and Seco Canyon roads.

The agency has been waiting for months for Los Angeles to release an appraisal of the property. Los Angeles officials have completed their appraisal but have refused to release it, said Robert C. Sagehorn, the water agency’s general manager.

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Sagehorn predicted that Los Angeles’ appraisal will put a higher value on the property than the water agency’s estimate.

“I guess we’re a little apart,” he said. The agency’s appraisal was performed by Verne Cox, a private appraiser from Orange County.

Los Angeles officials familiar with the bid could not be reached for comment Friday.

The agency directors have said they are prepared to condemn the Saugus property for the public good if necessary and have retained an attorney specializing in condemnations. But in its bid submitted to Los Angeles Tuesday, the agency promised not to start condemnation proceedings for at least 60 days to give the city and agency time to negotiate.

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In a related development, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) announced the death of a bill that included the Saugus Rehabilitation Center in a complicated land swap that would preserve Elsmere Canyon outside Santa Clarita as a dump site. Berman said the bill was dead for this congressional session but would probably be revived later. (See story, page 10.)

To entice Santa Clarita not to oppose a dump in Elsmere Canyon, the bill suggested deeding the rehabilitation center to Santa Clarita. Santa Clarita officials repeatedly said they have not been included in negotiations over the bill.

Sagehorn said the water agency also has been excluded from the negotiations. “That’s always been a rather confusing activity that we have never been part of,” Sagehorn said.

Sagehorn said he could not predict whether the bill’s demise would affect the agency’s plans to buy the rehabilitation center.

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