Water has been the hot topic in the Town of Apple Valley for years now. Specifically, water rates charged by first Apple Valley Ranchos, now Liberty Utilities. When residents pay the highest water rates in the region it’s no surprise that will cause unhappiness, especially when the provider continues to seek higher and higher rates, for whatever the reason.
Perhaps the straw that broke many voters’ backs were the surcharges implemented on customers during the drought. Even though most were using less water than ever before, Ranchos/Liberty sought relief from the California Public Utilities Commission to make up for declining profits (caused by that falling usage).
While it may be fine for some to have their cake and eat it too, a majority of customers — at least as interpreted by Tuesday's election results — weren’t too keen on paying more for using less. While Ranchos/Liberty may only have been protecting their shareholders, it still didn’t sit well with many customers.
So now the voters have spoken. The Town Council has a mandate to continue its eminent domain action in the courts against Liberty, a battle that likely will get nastier and costlier and take a couple more years to settle.
When the dust settles, if the court rules in the Council’s favor, it is now authorized to spend up to $150 million to purchase Liberty Utilities’ water system (the exact price to be determined by the court).
Those voters who cast Yes ballots on Tuesday have taken the Councilmembers at their word that rates will be stabilized or reduced under town ownership. We encourage the Council to do everything in its power to: 1) Ensure that is true; 2) Be as efficient as possible in running the water system if it wins the right to purchase it; and 3) Be more transparent than ever before in showing residents how and why their money is being spent. And that applies to every purchase, expenditure or program, not just the water system.
Last, we hope residents who opposed Measure F will accept the will of their fellow residents and work to heal the wounds that have developed over time. We don’t want to see Apple Valley subjected to the kind of divisiveness we see throughout much of the nation over the presidential election.
Let all Apple Valley residents come together to work for the common good. That is the spirit that has made the town the most envied of all communities in the High Desert. That spirit will continue to make it Apple Valley the example it has always been.
Let the water war play out in court, but in Apple Valley’s neighborhoods and on these opinion pages, let acceptance and congeniality reign.