Town’s takeover attempt irresponsible decision (December 7, 2015)

Tony Penna, General Manager of AVRWC

On Tuesday, Nov. 17 the Town government of Apple Valley had a public hearing and voted to keep spending millions more of our tax dollars on lawyers and consultants to condemn, through eminent domain, Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company.

We want to reassure our customers and voters that this irresponsible decision by Apple Valley’s Town government doesn’t change anything at Ranchos Water. Today we still own and operate the water system that reliably provides clean, safe water service to more than 60,000 people.

However, this decision to condemn Ranchos Water puts our community on a slippery slope that leads to higher taxes, rates, and fees. This decision does not serve the greatest public good. If the Town government takes over Ranchos, our children and their children will pay the price for this unnecessary and wasteful government decision.

Nov. 17 was called a public hearing but it was clear this Town Council had no intention but to move forward with eminent domain regardless of the public outcry. This seemed more like government serving itself, rather than the people it’s sworn to represent. From the start we made it clear this was a bad idea and that the Town had every intention to use eminent domain to forcibly take over Ranchos. Sadly, we were right.

On the sole basis of Ranchos’ rates for water service the Town government is going to spend millions upon millions of our tax dollars, even though they publicly admit they cannot lower the rates. Ranchos’ water rates, even after the proposed increase authorized by the CPUC, will be slightly more than $2 a day for the average household using 9,500 gallons a month.

The Town’s attack on Ranchos has never really been about rates for water service. This is about expanding government and new sources of revenue and spending millions of our tax dollars to get it. The Town’s campaign of misinformation to smear the reputation of Ranchos Water is egregious.

The Town government has now voted to put the entire cost of this multi-year legal attack on the backs of its taxpayers without a public vote! The implications of this decision by the Town government could obligate generations of voters to years of higher rates, taxes and fees. A decision like this with such far-reaching impact on the community should have had the transparent and public consent of the community.

In an eminent domain trial that reaches the valuation stage the Town government does not set the price to acquire Ranchos, but rather a jury will ultimately decide the value of the water system — if this hostile takeover attempt gets all the way through the legal process. This will be a long (multiple years), very expensive (millions of dollars and thousands of hours) and divisive process.

Voters also need to know the severe financial implications facing this community if the Town government loses the legal fight.

We would all do well to remember this when our councilmembers start asking for our votes and our money during next year’s election.

— Tony Penna, is vice president and general manager of Apple Valley Ranchos

Source: Daily Press