Cost of water is talk of town in Apple Valley (December 30, 2014)

Rate hike, acquisition of AVRWC drive conversation

APPLE VALLEY — News in town was led most of the year by outrage over a proposed water rate hike of more than 30 percent in the next three years and the town’s movement to acquire its principal private water company.


In April, about 400 residents attended a California Public Utilities Commission hearing before an administrative law judge. About 80 attendees voiced displeasure over the proposed Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co. rate hike.

AVR was requesting a change in its monthly service charge from $22.84 to $23.46 and seeking to increase its Tier 1 charge for residential water from $2.48 to $2.91 for a unit of 748 gallons. But the tier cap is moving down from 13 to 12 units to help meet a state water-conservation goal, then-Assistant General Manager Tony Penna said between sessions. Penna has since been promoted to general manager.

The Office of Ratepayer Advocates, an independent office attached to the CPUC, recommended an increase of half of what was requested.

Touting local control as a driving factor, town officials launched an effort to gain control of the private water company through public relations and administrative actions.

The town conducted public-opinion surveys, attended planning sessions with counterparts in Missoula, Montana — who are trying to acquire by condemnation an affiliated water company — commissioned a feasibility study and issued a request for bids for an appraisal of the water company.

Apple Valley’s effort to establish a fair-offer or market price for the water company was bolstered by outgoing state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Lancaster, to have the State Auditor conduct a comparison survey of rates charged by Apple Valley Ranchos and Golden State Water Co., both private companies operating in the town, and the Hesperia and Victorville municipally operated water departments. The audit is expected to be completed early next year.

AVR responded with its own reasons for establishing operational fees, stating that competing local water rates do not include those kind of charges. AVR also insisted parent company Park Water Co. is being sold only as a cohesive unit and warned that the costs of taking over a private company by a municipality are always much higher than expected.

A spokesman for ORA said this week a settlement has been reached with AVR in its three-year rate request, but the case is not expected to be settled until early January.

In a related development in mid-December, the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority announced it awarded a 28-month construction contract for subregional wastewater treatment plants in Apple Valley and Hesperia. The plants will supply the municipalities with non-potable water for landscaping, irrigation and construction uses.

The town heralded the step forward in a 22-year planning process, but AVR has threatened to sue Apple Valley over wastewater distribution because it claims to be the resource’s authorized retailer.

In other top Apple Valley news for the year, three council members were re-elected to their seats Nov. 4 amid a challenge from four other candidates.

Scott Nassif and Barb Stanton won handily over challengers but incumbent Curt Emick had to hold off the strong bid of former mayor Rick Roelle.

Council candidate Richard Bunck denied allegations that he retained neo-Nazi inclinations, but he was ultimately not much of a factor in the race, finishing fifth with about 10 percent of the Nov. 4 vote. He was followed by outspoken marijuana advocate Tom Piper, who made headlines when his multiple signs spelling out a single message near Mojave Narrows were temporarily taken down for an alleged violation of town code. Salvador Ortiz-Lopez finished seventh.


Source: Daily Press