Apple Valley residents show they want to vote on water takeover
By: Matthew Cabe
APPLE VALLEY — The campaign behind Measure V celebrated a decisive win Wednesday that will result in a vote prior to the town issuing bond debt to pay for a future selling price of Liberty Utilities’ water system should eminent domain prove successful.
Final unofficial election results released by San Bernardino County show that more than 67 percent of Apple Valley voters approved of Measure V, which will also require a vote of the people before the town issues bond debt in excess of $10 million for any enterprise.
Voters also passed the town-sponsored Measure W, which finished with more than 56 percent approval, but the measure with the most votes was set to prevail, even if the other reached the 50-plus-1 threshold, according to Town Attorney Thomas Rice.
In the wake of Tuesday’s election, the Apple Valley Citizens Right to Vote on Debt committee released a statement that said the vote sent “a clear message demanding fiscal accountability from our local politicians, and rejecting the Town's desire to have a blank check on spending.”
In addition, Right to Vote on Debt Co-Chair Peter Allan said the results showed that town voters “have spoken loudly and clearly.”
“The town attorney,” Allan said, “who is a partner in the private law firm Best Best & Krieger, tried to undermine Measure V by creating and recommending competition with their deceptive Measure W. Voters were not fooled.”
H2OWN - Our Water Now Chairman Rick Piercy saw the results differently, however.
"I don't think it changes the way people feel in Apple Valley," Piercy told the Daily Press. "Our rates continue to raise exponentially, so I think there’s still anger out there ... Having two measures was confusing for people, and we (the Measure W campaign) did get a group of them. We felt like we did pretty well considering it was a David versus Goliath kind of thing."
Liberty Utilities sponsored and funded Measure V's campaign. Financial disclosures show that more than $337,000 in expenditures were made throughout the election season, but Piercy thinks that total will be closer to $500,000 once closure documents are filed.
"I think we spent something like $17,000 total (on the Measure W campaign) when all was said and done," he said. "For only having this little budget, we went up against some pretty big guys and got our message out. I just think they’re going to take all those costs and put them into their ratepayer packages for another increase."
After early results were released Tuesday, Pat Hanson — who proposed Measure V — called for the town to immediately cease acquisition efforts and for John Brown to step down as town attorney.
But Town Manager Frank Robinson said the Town Council “is committed to protecting our community from outrageous water rates, and will continue to pursue the eminent domain action.”
He added that Tuesday’s results “underscore the community’s overwhelming interest in the potential acquisition of the Apple Valley Water System — a process the Town Council began at the request of residents angry over having to pay the highest water rates in the region.”
Meanwhile, Liberty Utilities offered a tempered response as officials reiterated a desire to work with the town moving forward.
President of Liberty Utilities California Greg Sorensen released a short statement Wednesday that didn’t mention Measure V’s triumph, but spoke to Liberty’s possible future in the town.
“We value our customers in Apple Valley,” Sorensen said, “and will give them the best possible water quality and customer service now and for generations to come.”