AVRWC bidding on YWC (July 19, 2013)

YERMO • The fate of Yermo’s rural and antiquated water system is still up in the air as an Apple Valley company vies to purchase it, according to Yermo Community Services District President Bob Smith.

Privately-owned Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co. recently placed a $300,000 bid on the decayed system, according to AVRWC General Manager Scott Weldy. Court-appointed receiver John Richardson said he expects to make a recommendation to the San Bernardino County Superior Court within two weeks.

Currently, Yermo Water is operated by the CSD under the receiver. The water system suffered from neglect for years by a Florida-based owner before the California Public Utilities Commission took control of it and placed it in receivership in July 2012.

The Yermo CSD began managing the system under the receiver in January, according to Smith. Already they have made $25,000 in repairs to five major leaks, he said.

We received a water system that is antiquated back to the 1920s, Smith said, that hasn’t had any upgrades since at least 1985 and is basically coming apart at the seams. We had to come in and get the system stabilized.

Weldy made a similar assessment and said the cost for full system improvements would be in excess of $700,000 in the first year, should the company be awarded the ownership.

Because the Yermo system only services about 300 users in a 2-mile radius, Smith said he is skeptical about the motives of the for-profit water company and its interest in the area. According to Smith, should AVRWC take control of the system, the mostly median-to low-income residents would not be able to afford increased rates.

I’m concerned that the big company is going to maybe have a chance to squash out the little CSD, Smith said. My belief, and the belief of our board, is that the water company should be under local control. It shouldn’t be run by a company that is 60 miles away. That water company will dictate the growth of that community or the community dying if it has to pay $250 a month for water.

In response, Weldy said the CPUC will set the water rates for the area and should either AVRWC take control or the CSD, the rates in Yermo would have to increase.

The system currently isn’t self-sustaining so how could anybody take it over and not adjust the rates? Weldy asked. There has to be something done with the rates. The cost of energy and labor continue to climb and we’re going to have to hire certified operators. There’s a lot to operating a water system.

Source: Brooke Self, Daily Press