Support is growing among Apple Valley Ranchos ratepayers for Town acquisition of the water system, with seven of 10 now saying they endorse the idea after hearing both sides of the argument.
A new telephone survey of 400 rate payers by True North Research showed overall support increasing by 3 percentage points since a similar survey was conducted in August 2014. In addition to the 70 percent who now say they are in favor of the Town acquiring the water system, 53 percent said they “definitely support” the idea.
The survey also showed the percentage of respondents with an unfavorable opinion of AVR (37 percent) now more than double those with a favorable opinion (18 percent).
The updated survey was initiated to track public opinion in Apple Valley over potential acquisition of AVR in the face of intense negative campaigning by the company and its parent. The support is widespread, with more than 60% approving of the Town’s efforts across every subgroup of age, political affiliation and length of time in Apple Valley.
“This confirms the overwhelming support for acquisition in our community, even with the misinformation that’s being spread by Apple Valley Ranchos,” said Apple Valley Mayor Pro Tem Barb Stanton. “People are fed up with having to pay higher rates in order to feed corporate profits. They believe water is a public asset that should be owned by the community.”
Survey respondents were asked multiple times if they support or oppose the Town purchasing the AVR water system. Asked at first, without any pro or con arguments, supporters outnumbered opponents by nearly 4 to 1. Among the reasons cited by supporters were better service, rates and control if the water system were publicly owned, a general affinity for publicly-owned utilities, and concern over water rates being too high.
When the question was posed using positive arguments for the purchase, 73 percent of respondents said they supported acquisition, with 56 percent “definitely” supporting it. Even after the negative arguments AVR has been using were posed to respondents, only 19 percent of respondents opposed acquisition, with 11 percent unsure or unwilling to share their position.
“These tracking results clearly show significant, and growing, support for acquisition,” said Timothy McLarney, President of Encinitas-based True North Research. “Even when asked about the Town forcing a sale, a significant majority of voters – 59 percent – supported the idea.”
The Town is considering acquisition after years of excessive rate increases and surcharges by Apple Valley Ranchos, including a proposed 31.55 percent increase over the next three years. Last month, the Town announced that it has made an offer of just compensation totaling $50.3 million – an amount determined by the Town’s valuation expert to represent the fair market value of the water system.
“Apple Valley Ranchos supporters claim we are acting against a growing tide of opposition, but there is no evidence to support their claim,” said Stanton. “Our research indicates we are on the right track.”
At this time, the Town Council has not decided to proceed with any eminent domain action and may only do so at a hearing on a resolution of necessity.