Apple Valley’s water transparency report reveals price tag at $1.5 million (September 15, 2016)

APPLE VALLEY — A senior staffer presented the Rancho Acquisition Efforts Transparency Report to the Town Council on Tuesday, which revealed a price tag of just over $1.5 million — an amount that’s up from the $1.1 million detailed in January.

Using a slide presentation, Marc Puckett, assistant town manager of finance and administration, presented the third in an on-going series of transparency reports detailing the cost of the town’s acquisition efforts of Liberty Utilities, Apple Valley’s water system.

The 10-page report — first compiled more than a year ago by staff at the Council’s request — illustrates several financial numbers from Jan. 1, 2011, through the end of Aug. 2016, with $974,205 spent on attorney costs and a possible future expenditure estimate of $3.5 million.

One slide included a photo of Greg Sorensen, president of Liberty Utilities California, displaying rate-base increases of 14 percent for an operating profit of $18 million by the year 2020.

The rates in Apple Valley are more than twice of what they are in Hesperia and the surrounding communities of Victorville, Adelanto and Barstow, Puckett said. Our water rates are excessively high. That is a complaint that we have continuously fielded from our residents.

The attorney fees breakdown include $381,562 spent on advice letters and fighting Liberty rate cases, and $165,995 responding to over 80 water-related public record requests.

Over 247,000 documents were provided in response to those requests, which cost the town $277,420. That cost relates to staff work like searching files, gathering and reviewing records, and reproducing documents, according to Puckett.

The transparency report revealed the town paid more than $47,000 for the advice services of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell LLC. The Daily Press previously reported that the services were related to Measure W, the town’s alternative to Measure V, the Liberty Utilities-backed Right to Vote on Debt Act.

The town also paid $63,566 as they coordinate with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority to use recycled water from the treatment plant currently under construction at the Lenny Brewster Sports Center.

The report stated that Liberty has threatened to sue the town if it attempts to use recycled water without giving the water to Liberty and allowing them to sell it back to the town and its residents.

In addition, $47,235 was spent on a Joint Legislative Audit Committee report, which surveyed Liberty, Golden State Water, and the city water departments of Hesperia and Victorville.

Puckett told the Council that to date, Liberty has not released any records to the town.

Source: Rene Ray De La Cruz, Daily Press