Commentary: Separating fact from fiction in Apple Valley (August 9, 2015)


I am not sure where, or who, Greg Raven is getting his information from for his many letters to the editor supporting Apple Valley Ranchos.

However, I am sure he is either getting the wrong information, or Mr. Raven has his own interpretation of the facts. Either way, I think it is important to set the record straight on a couple issues he has raised. The truth is that the Town of Apple Valley has made every effort to deal in good faith with Apple Valley Ranchos, which has returned the favor by pushing excessive rate increases and surcharges onto ratepayers and cancelling the reduced-cost rate agreement for water delivery for youth sports programs at James Woody Park. Today, the cost of water in Apple Valley is nearly double, or more than it is in neighboring communities where the water systems are owned and operated by public agencies.

Mr. Raven’s contention that the plan is and always has been to seize (AV Ranchos) in a hostile takeover is debunked by his own narrative. It was in 2011, after empaneling a Blue Ribbon Water Committee, that the Town decided not to pursue acquisition. Only after AV Ranchos’ latest proposed increases were announced in 2014 (31.55 percent over three years), did the Town reconsider potential acquisition of AV Ranchos. This came at the insistence of numerous ratepayers, including several former Blue Ribbon Water Committee members who indicated they are fed up with AV Ranchos’ relentless efforts to boost profits at local ratepayer expense.

It was at that point the Town hired an experienced, credentialed valuation expert to determine the fair market value of the water system — a transparent process that has been anything but hostile.

As for Mr. Raven’s history lesson on the Town’s water system in north Apple Valley, he should check his sources. He correctly states the Town was in the water business 15 years ago. However, the formation of the dissolved (not defunct) former Apple Valley Water District actually predates the incorporation of the Town as well as the employment by the Town of Dennis Cron, by many years. The water system around the airport was constructed in 1986, also prior to the Town’s incorporation, which occurred in November 1988.

The preliminary design of the airport water system was prepared by County Water and Sanitation, intended to serve customers around the airport.

The plan was to form an assessment district, sell bonds, build the water system improvements and then deed the facilities to AV Ranchos. However, County staff determined it would constitute a gift of public funds, so they switched to Plan B, approaching the Apple Valley Water District, which at that time was only providing sewer service in Apple Valley, not water.

At the request of affected property owners, the Apple Valley Water District picked up where the County left off. The assessment district design was finalized, creating a back-bone water system design. Contrary to Mr. Raven’s assertion, the system did not lack capacity for growth. It was designed from the beginning as a back-bone system, intended to supply those 4,500 acres of transitionally zoned, residential property with a basic water delivery system. The land owners understood all along that additional infrastructure improvements would be required as development progressed. The affected property owners voted voluntarily to form an assessment district to construct the back-bone water system improvements and the former Water District was simply the municipal financing provider. It was not levied upon them by the Town.

In the late 1980s, on the south end of Town, the developer of Jess Ranch filed with the CPUC to form a public utility over the Jess Ranch service area. Approval was granted by the CPUC over the Town’s strong opposition. Once the developer received CPUC approval, he immediately sold the utility to AV Ranchos, which almost immediately filed an application with the CPUC proposing a compounded 357 percent sewer rate increase on the seniors in Jess Ranch.

Those property owners flooded Town Hall seeking relief.

As a result, in an effort to satisfy all parties, a concurrent sale and purchase agreement was negotiated between the Town, AV Ranchos and the property owners in Jess Ranch. AV Ranchos was no white knight in this process as indicated by Mr. Raven.

As you can see, they did not give us a wastewater system as Raven claims. In fact, AV Ranchos’ ridiculously high rate increase proposal was the reason all of this occurred in the first place.

After system appraisals were completed to determine actual individual system values, the Jess Ranch Sewer Assessment District (#98-1) was successfully formed.

Then, concurrently, in a triple escrow, AV Ranchos purchased the Town’s backbone water system for $2,320,804, the Town purchased the Jess Ranch sewer system from AV Ranchos for $1,459,127 and the Jess Ranch residents encumbered their properties with an assessment district. This is what happened, but you need not take my word for it. Ask any long-term resident of Jess Ranch who was there at the time. They will undoubtedly confirm this as fact. Remaining funds from the concurrent sale were then used to pay off the outstanding bond holders of the original water system assessment district (#86-1).

These are facts. Let’s stick to them.

Scott Nassif is a member of the Apple Valley Town Council.

Source: Daily Press