Reliable. Stable. Local. (September 6, 2015)
According to our elected leaders, the Town government can use its powers of eminent domain to condemn and take over Apple Valley Ranchos without affecting our property taxes or increasing water rates since the Town apparently has the fiscal resources and staff expertise to operate the water company and keep rates manageable in the future.
While all of this sounds great, the facts will tell a different story. Governments have a long history of underestimating the true costs to condemn and take over a privately-owned water utility. One such municipality that started and ended the eminent domain process is Peoria, IL, where government leaders estimated the purchase cost at $95 million, but the final cost came in nearly 132 percent higher at $220 million. Another municipality is Montara, CA, where a court-appointed jury valued the water company at $11.2 million, which was 123 percent higher than what the town’s financial experts valued at $5 million. Even Felton. CA undervalued its condemnation costs when the court valued the local water company at $13.4 million, which is 153 percent higher than the $5.3 million that the town’s experts said in their valuation study. So what happens when our Town leaders realize they cannot afford to condemn and take over the water company without passing a significant tax increase, issue revenue bonds or raise water rates? Unfortunately, local taxpayers will pay the bills for all of the outside attorneys and consultants who are making bold projections about the feasibility and cost of an attempted take over. A quick Google search will show stories on this point, like Lexington, KY, where city leaders spent $1.3 million pursing a take over of the local water company, and city leaders in Chattanooga, TN, spent more than $750,000 on legal fees and studies before ending its condemnation efforts.
Now, our Town government has continued to spend our tax dollars on advertisements, web sites, consultants, appraisers, and lawyers in an attempted take over of Ranchos through eminent domain. It’s time for our community to take notice and start asking some questions before it is too late. Yes, we all want low water rates. but a tax-funded government take over of Ranchos is not the answer. Let’s tell the Town government to stop wasting taxpayer funds to pursue something we already have — water service from Ranchos that is reliable, local, and stable.