BLUE RIBBON COMMITTEE SEATED
(Apple Valley)– The Apple Valley Town Council has appointed fifteen citizens to the Blue Ribbon Water Committee. With Apple Valley residents facing record high water rates, the group is tasked with evaluating feasible alternatives for public ownership of the privately held water company currently serving Apple Valley citizens.
Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company recently filed for rate increase as well as a merger with Carlyle Infrastructure Partners, L.P., a multi-national investment company. The Town has filed protests with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in both cases.
“We pay the highest water rates in the Valley already,” said Apple Valley Mayor Scott Nassif. “The High Desert has suffered debilitating blows in this economy, and we cannot expect our citizens to absorb another 27% increase over the next three years.”
Apple Valley is the only municipality in the High Desert served only by a private water purveyor. Like any for-profit business, the bottom line objective of a private utility is to create a positive rate of return for investors. With a private water company, none of the protections and accountability provided by local control and locally elected officials is generally present.
CPUC HEARING TO BE HELD IN APPLE VALLEY
The CPUC regulates private companies and holds hearings for rate increases. They are usually held in Sacramento, creating an unrealistic burden to the average customer. However, Apple Valley has been successful in lobbying for an Administrative Law Judge hearing on both the merger and the rate case to be held in Apple Valley, May 3 on the merger and June 1 on the rate case.
“We’ve had many citizens come to Council meetings to protest the rate hikes,” said Nassif. “But the CPUC is the agency that makes that decision. We hope our citizens will let them know what a hardship this rate increase will create.”
The CPUC granted a substantial rate increase to Ranchos in September 2008. According to the application filed by Ranchos at that time, the reason for the increase was in part due to successful conservation efforts which had resulted in a reduction in water use and, thus, revenue. When compared to neighboring cities, Apple Valley Ranchos Water customers pay at least 33% more for water.
The effect can be felt by existing residential and business customers, but also impacts the Town’s ability to attract new businesses to Town.
The first meeting of the Blue Ribbon Committee will be scheduled immediately. The group will be briefed on the history and nature of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company, the pending rate increase and merger and the CPUC process. They will also discuss Golden State Water, a second private company that serves a small area of Apple Valley. At a second meeting, the committee will review a feasibility report prepared by Bartle Wells, as well as hear from specialists in eminent domain and bond financing.
“We have a very engaged citizenry, and received dozens of applications,” said Nassif. “The Town Council appreciates that so many people are willing to step forward and assist in this important process.”