The fight is for money, not water (October 15, 2015)

Mr. Starkman,

Congratulations on presenting a fairly balanced view of the water situation here in Apple Valley (Cities and private equity firms fight over ownership of water systems, Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2015). What you did not report, which would have been difficult for you to know without living here, is that for the Town of Apple Valley council members and staff, this is not a fight over water, but a mad scramble for cash.

The Town of Apple Valley has RDA loans that are scheduled to come due in 2016, and for the past couple of years has been transferring millions from the waste water and sewer funds into the general fund to hide the insane deficits the Town runs. Paying back all these loans and transfers requires money, but when you’re operating at a deficit, that can’t happen the normal way. Therefore, the Town has identified a profitable local business that has enough cash flow to paper over at least some of the Town’s problems, and is pretending it’s concerned about water rates.

Like most things Town representatives say about this issue, this is a lie.

The Town has had opportunities in the past to purchase our water system, but never pursued it because of the cost involved in repairing and maintaining the original flawed system. The Carlyle Group and Park Water have made it possible for Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company to upgrade and improve the system, so suddenly the Town is interested. And why not? The ratepayers will be paying off the massive bond (estimated to be up to $200 million), while the Town gets to continue its financial escapades with the additional cash flow it hopes to receive as a result of seizing Ranchos.

If the Town were really interested in the water utility as a means of providing a better service at a lower cost to the ratepayers, it would be open and honest about what it’s doing, how much it’s costing, and what it’s plans are. So far, all we’ve gotten for certain is that the Town will not be lowering rates until after the bond(s) are paid off 30 years from now … maybe. Considering that the Town is hanging its hat on how outrageous the water rates are, this is more than just disingenuous.

Regarding Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company, the Town of Apple Valley doesn’t know what it’s buying, it doesn’t know what it’s going to cost, it doesn’t know where the money is coming from, doesn’t know what the money is going to cost, doesn’t know how to run a water utility, doesn’t know who is going to run the system, and has a history of failure where water systems are concerned.

For this and other reasons, a group of Apple Valley residents is fighting this takeover. There’s no sense paying hundreds of millions for a water system we already have.

Greg Raven is Co-Chair of Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability, and is concerned about quality of life issues.