TOAV, AVRWC steaming over possible takeover (November 19, 2014)

APPLE VALLEY — Newly re-elected council members and a water company’s managers let some steam rise after fractious claims were aired at a public meeting.

During and after a quarterly update to the Town Council by Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co. managers on Tuesday night — and unexpected public discussion about hiring an appraiser to set a value on the company for possible takeover — Council Members Barb Stanton and Curt Emick expressed chagrin over claims they are helping conduct a misinformation campaign and blaming AVR for impeding economic growth.

Stanton and Emick’s emotions were frayed over AVR General Manager Tony Penna’s comments and how they were distributed, appearing in an insert to the most recent Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce newsletter.

To me, the insert was, yeah, it was nasty but we can exchange information and move along, Emick said Wednesday. I personally don’t believe the chamber should be used for negative things; I think it’s for positive promotion of business purposes.

Penna also weighed in on Wednesday.

My recent article to chamber members was to initiate an informed understanding of (proposed acquisition of the water company) from a private business perspective, he said. I am confident many of my fellow citizens are unaware of both sides of this issue and the inherent consequences to customers and property taxpayers.

We believe the process of a hostile takeover will prove to be divisive, protracted and expensive, and ultimately lead to higher property taxes and an unnecessary expansion of the government.

We did not start this debate. The Town Council did, and now they want to characterize our effort to inform our customers and fellow citizens as mudslinging, which I find disappointing.

Managers at AVR and its parent, Park Water Co., have repeatedly stated the separate parts of Park Water are not for sale. And Park is the subject of a pending purchase by Liberty Utilities, of Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

The importance of the situation for the town’s future was highlighted by Assistant Town Manager for Finance Marc Puckett.

This is a legacy moment for this town, Puckett said during his presentation on why Oceanside-based Hayward Consulting Group should be hired to appraise the water company for potential condemnation. Council members voted 5-0 to approve the contract, which will be billed in hourly increments and for reasonable expenses, with a $10,000 advance.

The town is moving toward condemnation of AVR by eminent domain, having protested years-long and upcoming water rate hikes, commissioned a feasibility study, asked for a state audit and, now, hired an appraiser — the same firm that audited AVR’s sister company, Mountain Water Co., in Missoula, Montana. Missoula is involved in condemnation proceedings to acquire Mountain Water.

Apple Valley Ranchos is being audited by the State Auditor following a legislative request from state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Lancaster. Its rates and costs for providing clean, reliable water will be compared to those of Golden State Water Co., which also serves some town residents, and the Hesperia and Victorville water departments.

So far as I know, Ranchos has been super-cooperative, said spokesman Daniel Outlaw, in Knight’s Sacramento office. He said the audit is in its preliminary stages, will pick up steam in January and may be released in April or May.

Source: Gary Brodeur, Daily Press