TOAV’s survey shows support for AVRWC acquisition (July 24, 2015)

Water company official calls study ‘push poll’

APPLE VALLEY — Town officials said Thursday that support is growing for the town’s acquisition of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co., citing a town-commissioned survey that showed seven of 10 ratepayers endorse the idea.

Meanwhile, an AVR official repeatedly called the survey a push poll in a written response issued Thursday, and a citizens group opposed to the takeover was also critical of the study.

The town says the new telephone survey of 400 ratepayers by True North Research showed overall support increasing by 3 percentage points since a similar survey was conducted last August.

In addition to the 70 percent who now say they are in favor of the town acquiring the water system, 53 percent said they ‘definitely support’ the idea, the town said in a written statement.

The survey also showed that the percentage of respondents with an unfavorable opinion of AVR is 37 percent, more than double those with a favorable opinion (18 percent).

This amounts to a push poll designed to arrive at the responses the town government wants and distract voters from the facts, said Chris Schilling, CEO of Park Water Company, which owns AVR. A hostile takeover of Ranchos Water will mean higher taxes, higher rates or both. This effort by the town to seize a private business is already proving to be long, costly and divisive. To commit the Town of Apple Valley to this course of action merits a public vote, not a push poll.

A push poll is a survey that leads respondents’ answers in the researchers’ desired direction — a tactic the town says the researchers did not use. The town claims that respondents were given no pro or con arguments when first asked about the acquisition, and supporters outnumbered opponents by nearly 4 to 1.

When the question was posed using positive arguments for the purchase, 73 percent of respondents said they supported acquisition, with 56 percent ‘definitely’ supporting it,’ the town statement reads. Even after the negative arguments AVR has been using were posed to respondents, only 19 percent of respondents opposed acquisition.

Another 11 percent were unsure or unwilling to share their position.

This confirms the overwhelming support for acquisition in our community, even with the misinformation that’s being spread by Apple Valley Ranchos, Apple Valley Mayor Pro Tem Barb Stanton said in the town’s release. People are fed up with having to pay higher rates in order to feed corporate profits. They believe water is a public asset that should be owned by the community.

The town’s acquisition plan comes on the heels Apple Valley Ranchos’ latest request for a rate hike, a proposed 31.55 percent increase over the next three years. Last month, the town announced that it has made an offer totaling $50.3 million for the company — an offer AVR is unlikely to accept. An eminent domain action may be decided in court if Apple Valley decides to go forward with the acquisition.

AVR says the company is not for sale by itself (though its parent, Park Water, is being acquired by Liberty Utilities). AVR has touted the millions it has spent upgrading the system, and the company has nearly 70 years of providing reliable quality water service to this community as a regulated utility, Schilling said Thursday.

Tamara Alaniz of Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability, a group opposing the takeover, claims the acquisition will cost roughly four times the town’s current offer.

This survey shows only one thing: that the town isn’t telling the public how it wants to borrow up to $200 million, without a vote of the people, Alaniz said, while also speculating that the town will have to raise taxes to pay for the takeover.

Source: Daily Press

Related files: