Valley Voices: Moved to act on water by our community (May 14, 2017)

I’ve lived in Apple Valley for 30 wonderful years and consider every resident a friend and neighbor. When all five Councilmembers react unanimously to an issue, you know the problem didn’t just bubble to the surface. That’s the case with acquiring our water company from Liberty Utilities, a Canadian-owned corporation.

Your Council can no longer sit on the sidelines while seniors, families and friends suffer as Liberty raises rates every year. When we learned only 49 percent of our water bill is used to supply water to us, and 51 percent is going to Liberty and their parent company, Algonquin, we had to act to protect our “Better Way of Life.”

In Apple Valley, we tell it like it is. No tricks, lies or dirty politics. The bottom line is, we have a proven path to acquire our water rights from this foreign corporation without raising taxes or fees on any residents of our town. Make no mistake, your rates are guaranteed to increase for as long as this global corporation holds the rights to our most basic resource, water.

It wasn’t long after Apple Valley Ranchos and Park Water sold to a global investment firm, The Carlyle Group, that citizens began commenting about increasing water bills.

All of us on the Council attend numerous community events. People take that opportunity to speak about issues they believe we can address.

The sale of Apple Valley Ranchos to Canada’s Algonquin Energy, and their operating company, Liberty Utilities, accelerated bad decisions about surcharges, increased rates and multiple “nickel and dime” fees that angered ratepayers. The complaints came more often and louder.

Liberty continued raising rates and received retroactive surcharges for lost profits approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, which no one understands to this day.

Complaints multiplied. Our green yards are gone, because of the cost of water. We have many residents living on fixed incomes, and Liberty has forced them to choose which bills to pay in order to have water. Pursuing local control of our water is not something any of the Councilmembers undertake lightly.

It’s contrary to our core beliefs in the free market. However, our water rights do not compete in a “free market system” — Liberty is a state government-protected monopoly.

We know surrounding cities have much lower rates because they are public utilities, accountable to their ratepayers.

Liberty hasn’t been transparent in required financial reporting. To date, they’re spending over $360,000 to fight citizens’ organized effort to pass Measure F.

Liberty continues to tell the public their taxes and water costs will rise by $500 annually. Those are straightforward falsehoods and unrealistic projections from Liberty’s paid economist. The fact is, there will be no new taxes of any kind, and water rates will not rise. We can reduce all water rates for every Liberty customer.

The town, by law, must repay the revenue bond out of monies derived from that water system, no other source.

A small percentage of our voters are not serviced by Liberty Utilities. They aren’t even sure if they are voting June 6th. If you live in the town limits, whatever your water provider, you’re entitled to vote in this election.

Residents with Golden State Water, CSA64, or their own well, won’t be affected by the election.

There’s no question why this corporation imposes rates more than 50 percent higher than our surrounding cities, whose water comes from the same source. It is for huge profits. Your entire Town Council is voting YES on Measure F. Join us in stopping corporate greed and rate increases.

Source: Art Bishop (Apple Valley Town Councilman), Daily Press