Response to Barb Stanton (December 20, 2015)

Many months ago, the attorneys for the Town of Apple Valley hired a public relations consultant, whose sole job appeared to be to engage in a smear campaign of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company. While extraordinarily distasteful and unprofessional, one would have thought such tactics would stop after the long anticipated, no surprise vote to proceed with eminent domain. Yet, the smear campaign continued on December 20, 2015, over the signature of the mayor and a council member in an unwarranted, wasteful attack on Ranchos.

The Town of Apple Valley has no plan of how it will run the water company, and said so in its environmental documents. The opinion of the mayor on December 20th states that without corporate overhead there will be plenty of money for debt service, infrastructure costs, and system expansion. This was just another pie-in-the-sky statement patronizing the ratepayers.

A closer look at the content of the phrase, however, reveals several cost factors of which the ratepayers should be aware. The first clue is the term debt service, which means making payments on the money the Town must borrow to litigate the eminent domain action and pay the purchase price for Ranchos. Second, if the Town has no plan of who will operate the system and how much that will cost, and given that everyone who pays a payroll in today’s private sector (like me) knows that municipal salaries and benefits are double those of the private sector in this Valley, I don’t see any savings. Third, there is no present plan for infrastructure costs or system expansion in the environmental documents. At the public hearing on the eminent domain vote, the staff talked about bonding for this purpose. That means further borrowing and further debt for the Town. No one mentioned money coming from unnecessary corporate overhead.

I have been a council/water district member, sat through bond hearings, voted on rate increases, and have been part of the constant interfund borrowing that occurs when cities and towns want to take revenue from the water fund to pay for other city services. Cities and Towns seek rate increases when they cannot pay for operations, just like the private sector does.

The taking of Ranchos is not about rates; if it were you would have seen the Town’s plan to lower rates. It has none. It is not about local control, because the Ranchos leadership and employees are all vested in this community. This campaign by the Town is about finding new revenue sources in accordance with its objectives in the Vision 2020 Strategic Plan. It is a money grab of a private concern by a public entity.

As for the public relations firm, I say Town, terminate it. The Town has made its decision. Quit badmouthing your victim. If I were in Ranchos shoes, I would fight for my survival too.

— Diana J. Carloni (O’Malley), Attorney at Law

Published: Daily Press, December 27, 2015