TOAV ownership of AVRWC is for the best (October 4, 2015)

My family has lived here for 70 years; it has changed a lot to be sure.

Apple Valley Ranchos Water has been here almost that long. Newt Bass and Bud Westlund, modern day co-founders of our town, created AVR as a way to control a key ingredient in their Apple Valley development plan. Years later they sold it to Park Water, but it continued to be a very important part of our community. Under the leadership of Jack Clarke, AVR was a major sponsor of community programs, a corporate citizen, and pillar of life in our then small but growing community.

AVR was a major sponsor of the Police Activities League and many other youth-oriented programs. Many of the same employees still are strongly engaged in the town’s success.

In 2010, Park Water, including AVR, was sold to the Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset manager with over $193 billion in assets. I think it is important when we talk about AVR today, that we remember it’s not our grandparents’ water company anymore. It is owned by investors, including foreign investors in the Carlyle Group who benefit when AVR profits.

In 2011 I was appointed to the town’s Blue Ribbon Water Committee, studying a potential town takeover of the water system. Admittedly I came to the table with a real prejudice. I am a capitalist. I believe in the free market and small government, and that private enterprise can do a better job than government running almost anything.

At one of the first meetings we were told that Carlyle was not willing to provide any of the information we asked for so we could make an informed decision. So much for transparency.

However, we had other materials that were in the public domain, including a list of past and current investors. One name that jumped off the page was bin Laden. I pointed out the name and laughingly asked, As in Osama bin Laden? An attorney answered seriously, Yes, his family.

That is the moment this issue became very real to me.

I learned that Carlyle guarantees its investors a 9.7 percent return along with the profits the company takes. Then I learned disturbing information about the CPUC and how it works hand in hand with private utilities to ensure a rate of return.

Step 1: The utility asks for a totally unreasonable rate increase.

Step 2: The CPUC holds a public participation hearing, sometimes in the community, sometimes in San Francisco, and approves an amount less than the original increase, but still extreme.

Step 3: The CPUC pats themselves on the back for protecting us.

As irritating as that corrupt practice is, it was the realization that our water company is owned by foreign investors, who have no regard for the well-being of our community or our country, which has been the catalyst for me to support the takeover of AVR by us, the citizens of Apple Valley.

After all, we are the stockholders and investors in our community; shouldn’t we be in charge of the most important natural resource we have?

AVR has many fine, dedicated and knowledgeable employees who can keep doing their jobs. The town has said it will hire most of them. The cost of doing business will go up, the town has been upfront with that, but the town has said it will stabilize rates. It has shown us in plain English how it will pay for the purchase without raising rates. Not sending almost 10 percent of your bill to investors sure seems like one way to keep costs down.

We the people of Apple Valley will own our water company, and will be able to confront, toss out, and elect the Town Council if we do not like what they are doing. That’s a lot more than we can do with the CPUC or the investors in the Carlyle Group.

Rick Piercy is an Apple Valley who was appointed to the town’s Blue Ribbon Water Committee in 2011.

Source: Daily Press