Thank you, Apple Valley Ranchos (January 25, 2016)

Thank you, Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company (AVRWC) for continuing to invest in our community even as you are under attack for your success (Ranchos invested millions into water system in 2015, Daily Press, January 25, 2016).

One of those attacking Ranchos is Marc Puckett, who is in a position to know better. Puckett wants to know why Ranchos is investing now? He certainly must know that it’s because the previous owners — the Wheeler family — were forced to delay maintenance and upgrades due to financial constraints. Thanks to The Carlyle Group purchasing our water system and then investing millions in our community, Ranchos has been able to get back on track with maintenance. None of this is a secret, because before doing anything Ranchos must apply to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for permission. Not only is all this documentation in the public record, but the Town of Apple Valley has been bragging about spending hundreds of thousands just for dealing with the CPUC maintenance and upgrade requests. As the Assistant Town Manager of Finance and Administration, there is no way Puckett could not have known about this.

Keep in mind that these criticisms come from the same source that thought it would be a good idea to buy the Apple Valley Country Club because it had a well on it, only to have the well fail within about a month, and then stay out of commission for an extended period of time. (Thank goodness Ranchos was there to bail them out of that one!) This is also the same source that — while ostensibly pursuing the hostile takeover of Ranchos — thought it might be a good idea to spend millions on a well at James Woody Park, right next to an existing Ranchos well. This is also the same source that cannot understand why AVRWC would not jump for joy when the Mojave Water Agency spent millions to dig a well right next to Ranchos’ highest-producing well.

Puckett also finds it suspicious that Mountain Water Company in Missoula is running its business much the way AVRWC is. Seeing as how the Town has boasted about following the Missoula case closely, how could Puckett have missed the fact that each has the same parent corporation? How could he have missed the fact that Mountain Water was accused of allowing the water system to fall into disrepair? Talk about ungrateful: Maintain the system, and you’re accused of some mysterious perfidy. Fail to maintain the system, and you’re a horrible company that doesn’t care about your customers.

But even though Puckett doesn’t think there’s any necessity to maintain our water system, he professes he’s ready to spend just as much as Ranchos doing it. What a guy! Something he should have mentioned, though, was the Town’s own Environmental Impact Report says that maintenance and upgrades will be funded with additional bonds, not — as Puckett implies — out of the proceeds from running the water system.

The Town’ seizure of Ranchos would eliminate some of the tax obligations, but the profit that so horrifies the Town and its sycophants will instead be used for servicing the massive debt for the massive bond that will be needed. And those corporate and administrative costs? Some of those are for mission-critical services rendered by Park Water (now by Liberty Utilities). Because the Town has nothing in place to provide those services, it will be very expensive to acquire and implement them.

The bottom line is that Puckett seems to think that Ranchos is running up the tab. News flash: Ranchos didn’t start this fight; the Town did, in spite of the conclusions of its own Blue Ribbon Water Committee that recommended against it because the cost might be too high. Earth to Puckett: Are you receiving our transmissions?

In To Build a Fire, by Jack London, the main character notices things without realizing their importance, so he fails to draw the correct conclusions. As a result, he persists in a dangerous course of action, and it leads to his death. I’m reminded of this as I watch the slow-motion train wreck that is the Town’s insistance on condemning Ranchos.

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