Town Manager Doug Robertson admits his “experience” in Apple Valley is limited to seven months in office, and it is apparent from his Valley Voices opinion piece (“Water system control crucial for Apple Valley,” Doug Robertson, July 29, 2018) that his knowledge about the eminent domain case is nothing more than a retread of prior false statements fed to the population of Apple Valley by Town Hall and its attorneys. Mr. Robertson has no facts to support his position. Given the fiscal irresponsibility of the Town over the last five years (deficit spending, draining reserves to zero, and now having to obtain credit to survive), the only “crucial” element of the desired water takeover is that Town Hall gets its hands on the water company revenues to avoid insolvency!
Remember the Town’s adamant position that it had to spend hundreds of thousands to obtain an environmental impact report on the proposed takeover? When challenged in court, the Town changed its tune, arguing that there was no need for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which was told to them by many citizens and experts prior to incurring the cost. Read the decision; it is available online at www.sb-court.org (Case Information Online). Not only did it waste money preparing an EIR, the Town wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars of your money defending the lawsuit before reversing its wrongful position after months of defending its actions.
Don’t be fooled about the recycled water issue. Liberty Utilities long ago informed the Town that it welcomes the use of recycled water. But in 1998, the Town agreed in writing that all water — fresh and recycled — must come from Liberty Utilities. Rather than work with Liberty Utilities to make this happen, though, the Town opted to try to circumvent this agreement and attack the water company. So much for developing meaningful partnerships with the private sector, as promoted in Vision 2020.
Think the Town would somehow magically be better at running a water company than Liberty Utilities, or for that matter better than it is with other public works projects? Then explain why the Town has tried to prevent Liberty Utilities from performing necessary water main and well upgrades. Undeterred, Liberty Utilities has spent millions out of pocket so that it can continue to provide the maintenance our water system demands. That’s right: Liberty Utilities is so dedicated to our water supply that it is investing millions in our community against the wishes of Town Hall, and it used its “profits” (in reality, revenues) to do so. Furthermore, not one penny of Apple Valley water revenues was used in any election, so why would Robertson say this? Let that sink in for a minute and then ask, why does Town Hall have to be untruthful in presenting its position?
One particular false claim stands out: The claim that a court case in Missoula, Montana, with very different facts, is more akin to the Town’s eminent domain case than another case virtually next door in Claremont, California. The similarities between the Claremont case and the Town’s case are striking, with the main differences being that the Town’s case is far, far weaker than Claremont’s, both because of the ongoing financial problems in Apple Valley and the seeming inability of the Public Works Department ever to do anything right the first time, if at all. (Ojai was a sale on agreed terms, not a takeover, why talk about it all?)
Lastly, what about the issue of rates? Municipal rates and investor-owned-utility rates are differently set. The Town holds a public hearing, does what it wants, and then gets sued. Think about the recent sewer and trash hikes. However, private water utilities are regulated by two government organizations and must account for their actions. As a result, if you actually compare apples to apples, our water rates are less than those in surrounding municipalities.
What is really crucial in Apple Valley is correcting the lack of fiscal responsibility, starting with a forensic audit. Instead, Mr. Robertson has gone on record rejecting that course of action because he does not want to know where the problems are. Bad answer. Let’s begin with $14,000,000 plus in unfunded pension liabilities! The only greed in evidence is on the part of town officials. Let’s end the sham of a takeover and concentrate on what is really crucial: Balancing our budget and living within our means.
Greg Raven and Diana Carloni
Citizens for Government Accountability