San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Donald Alvarez On May 7 made a tentative ruling scheduled to become final on May 22 that shuts the door on the Town of Apple Valley’s effort to use eminent domain to seize ownership of the city’s primary water utility.
The town had asserted in litigation first filed more than five years ago and propounded during a 67-day trial that began in October 2019 and which was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic from March 2020 until June 2020 before testimony and the presentation of evidence concluded in July 2020, that the town taking possession of the local water supply and the means of delivering it to Apple Valley’s 73,000-plus residents and its businesses was both necessary and in the public interest. Judge Alvarez rejected that assertion, noting dryly and in some detail that the town repeatedly engaged in misstatements of fact to make its case.
At stake in the matter was the successor to the Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company, which was created by Newt Bass and B.J. Westland in 1945 when they founded the town on 6,500 acres they had acquired from the Southern Pacific Railroad. The town’s ultimately unsuccessful bid is only the second such effort in California history where the matter was decided in the forum of a trial by which a court served as the arbiter of whether a local government can use condemnation procedure to take possession of a water utility.
Apple Valley’s use of the eminent domain option came after what were two previously missed opportunities – one in 1988 and another in 2011 – to make a public takeover of the water system at costs that would have been far below what the town would have needed to pay had Judge Alvarez ruled that the eminent domain request should be granted.
In 1945, Bass and Westlund created the Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company, which was in part constructed using salvaged oil pipelines from a nearby failed petroleum mining operation. The water system expanded in fits and starts as the town grew and its population swelled in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, by which time Apple Valley Ranchos was owned and operated by the Wheeler Family.
In 1988, the town was incorporated. Shortly after the town was established as a municipal entity, the Wheelers offered to sell the Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company – then consisting of 18 medium and deep wells, pipes, reservoirs, pumping units and appurtenances – to Town Hall for $2.5 million. The maiden town council – consisting of Nick DePrisco, Heidi Larkin, Dick Pearson, Carl Coleman and Jack Collingsworth – spurned that offer. Town officials thought the cost of maintaining the wells, reservoirs, pipes and hookups to be beyond the town’s means.
In 2011, the Carlyle Group, an American/multinational private equity and asset management corporation, acquired from the Wheeler Family at a cost of $102.2 million the Park Water Company, which in addition to its water system assets in Apple Valley included the water system serving Compton, Downey and Bellflower in Los Angeles County, as well as the Mountain Water Company, serving Missoula, Montana. Upon the Carlyle Group assuming ownership of Park Water, the town of Apple Valley impaneled a so-called blue ribbon committee to consider acquiring Apple Valley Ranchos. That committee advised against the acquisition.
In 2012, Park Water, at the direction of the Carlyle Group, obtained from the California Public Utilities Commission permission to institute 19 percent rate increases on Apple Valley Ranchos customers to carry out what was said to be necessary upgrades to the aging equipment and facilities that delivered water to the then-74.99-square mile town’s then-70,000 residents.
In 2010, Park Water made $2.4 million in upgrades to Apple Valley’s water system. In 2011 the Carlyle Group undertook and completed $3.4 million in capital improvements to the Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company; another $5.7 million in work on the system in 2012; $7.5 million in upgrades in 2013; $8.1 million in improvements in 2014; and $7.8 million in maintenance and additions in 2015. The Carlyle Group obtained from the California Public Utilities Commission clearance to institute another 30 percent rate hike on Apple Valley Ranchos customers to be implemented from 2015 until 2017. The previous 19 percent hike followed by the 30 percent increase caught the attention of town officials, who radically changed their collective position with regard to the advisability of the town taking possession of the utility.
Simultaneously, the City of Claremont in Los Angeles County was attempting to utilize the eminent domain process to wrest from the Golden State Water Company the water system that supplied water to that city.
Some 1,128 miles away, in Missoula, Montana, city officials there, who were likewise chaffing under the higher rates that Park had imposed on the Mountain Water Company’s customers, had initiated what in time would prove to be a successful effort to take possession of the water utility from its private owner by means of an eminent domain proceeding.
Apple Valley’s town attorney was and is an associate with the same law firm, Best Best & Krieger, with which the City of Claremont’s city attorney at that time is a partner. A discussion of the potential efficacy of the town using the eminent domain process to commandeer the Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company ensued at that point, together with Apple Valley town officials trading notes with Missoula city officials.
The town was a bit tardy in moving toward the eminent domain solution, as the Carlyle Group in the summer of 2015 purchased for $300,000 the water system serving some 900 residents in the desert community of Yermo, which lies roughly 36 miles from Apple Valley. The Carlyle Group then packaged a sale of the entirety of the water utilities it owned in California and Montana, which it labeled Western Water Holdings, to a Canadian company, Algonquin Power/Liberty Utilities, for $327 million.
While Algonquin/Liberty was before the California Public Utilities Commission in 2015 to get permission to proceed with the Apple Valley Ranchos acquisition, Apple Valley officials voiced opposition to the sale in an effort to block it. An element of that protest was that the town was interested in acquiring the water company, if necessary by condemnation.
Simultaneously, the town obtained from what it referred to as “an independent appraisal firm” the rather wishful “fair purchase price” of $45.54 million for Apple Valley Ranchos, and thereafter indicated it would be wiling to pay Park Water the somewhat unrealistic figure of $50.3 million for the Apple Valley Ranchos water system lock, stock and barrel.
A more pragmatic assessment was that the Apple Valley Rancho Water Company, representing roughly one third of the entirety of Western Water’s assets at the time of Algonquin/Liberty’s $327 million purchase, was worth, roughly, $109 million. Another calculation, one in which the $88.6 million fair market value for Mountain Water Company component upheld by the Missouri District Court in Missoula in June 2015 was subtracted from $327 million purchase price for Western Water, indicated that the Bellflower-Compton-Downey and the Apple Valley components of Western Water were worth $238.4 million in 2016 dollars. Assuming Apple Valley Ranchos, with its 24 deep wells throughout Apple Valley and three wells in Yermo, represented roughly one half of the remaining Western Water assets now in the possession of Algonquin/Liberty, its fair market value would have been, in 2016 dollars, approximately $119 million.
With California in the 203rd week of the 376-week drought that began on December 27, 2011, and ended on March 5, 2019, the town council on November 17, 2015 adopted two resolutions of necessity, precursors to an eminent domain action, declaring that the town takeover of the water system was both necessary and in the public interest.
Ultimately, the California Public Utilities Commission in December 2015 voted to allow Liberty to proceed with the acquisition of Park Water Company.
With Apple Valley unwilling to offer anything approaching $109 or $119 million for the water system, and Liberty disinclined to sell its Apple Valley holdings in any event, Apple Valley officials moved forward with the eminent domain action aimed at seizing the water company, filing its eminent domain action in San Bernardino Superior Court on January 7, 2016. After more than three years and nine months of legal sparring, the matter came to trial before Judge Donald Alvarez on October 23, 2019.
After the 67-day trial, the parties engaged in an extensive post trial briefing schedule followed by closing oral arguments. The matter was taken under submission, and on Friday, May 7, Judge Alvarez entered his tentative decision. Unless the town manages to convince him to reverse himself, the decision will be locked in on May 22.
The town was seeking by its action to “provide water to the town and some areas outside its borders,” Judge Alvarez wrote in that decision. “The assets the town seeks to acquire from Liberty include such things as water wells, water rights, reservoirs, tanks, pumps, underground pipelines, other infrastructure, real property and systems used to deliver water. If the town is successful in acquiring the Liberty water assets, it intends to use the assets to operate a municipally-owned water system to sell water from the same sources and infrastructure to subscribers in the same service area. The town itself does not have any experience in operating a water system and would initially seek to hire the same Liberty employees to continue to operate the system, assuming such employees would be willing to stay on with a new owner, which at best is uncertain and speculative at this time.
“The town alleges it began exploring acquisition in response to a number of factors including but not limited to such things as public concern about escalating water rates and the lack of local control and decision-making over water rates, service and expenditures, although curiously, at trial, the town’s own evidence acknowledged it was unlikely water rates would be reduced even if the taking was successful,” Judge Alvarez’s analysis of the case continued. “Under the applicable eminent domain statutes, the court must decide four issues to determine whether the town is permitted to take the water system: First. Do the public interest and necessity require the town’s project? Second. Is the town’s project planned in the manner that will be most compatible with the greatest public good and the least private injury? Third. Is the property sought to be acquired by the town necessary for the town’s project? Fourth. Is the use for which the town seeks to take Liberty’s property a more necessary public use than the use to which Liberty’s property is presently devoted?”
By project, Judge Alvarez was referring to the town’s takeover of the entirety of the water company.
“In its opening post-trial brief, Liberty stated that it does not contest the third item; only the first, second, and fourth issues are contested,” Judge Alvarez wrote. “Liberty challenges the first and second issues by objections under Code of Civil Procedure §§1250.370(b) and (c), and it challenges the fourth issue by objection under Code of Civil Procedure presumption in Code of Civil Procedure §1250.360(f).”
Judge Alvarez then noted that prior to 1992, the town could have essentially used its own authority to declare and thereby establish both the necessity and public benefit of its takeover of a local utility.
“On the three public necessity elements that must be established under Section 1240.030, the presumption in Code of Civil Procedure §1245.250(a) usually applies: ‘Except as otherwise provided by statute, a resolution of necessity adopted by the governing body of the public entity pursuant to this article conclusively establishes the matters referred to in Section 1240.030.’ On the ‘more necessary public use’ question, the presumption in Code of Civil Procedure §1240.650(a) usually applies: ‘Where property has been appropriated to public use by any person other than a public entity, the use thereof by a public entity for the same use or any other public use is a more necessary use than the use to which such property has already been appropriated.’”
Since 1992, however, Judge Alvarez said, municipalities, agencies and governmental entities can no longer presume that their authority is paramount and that they will automatically prevail over the interests of the private sector.
“However, these ordinary presumptions do not apply in this case,” Judge Alvarez wrote. “Senate Bill 1757, which was signed into law by Governor Pete Wilson on September 21,1992, amended the prior versions of both Section 1245.250 and Section 1240.650. SB 1757 changed the law by granting the owner of ‘electric, gas or water public utility property’ (Code of Civil Procedure §1235.193) the right to rebut the presumptions that formerly were ‘conclusively established’ in favor of the public entity. Here, Liberty’s property is ‘water public utility property’ because it is appropriated to a public use by a water corporation as defined in Public Utility Code §241.”
There is no doubt, Judge Alvarez said, that “Liberty’s property is appropriated to public use,” but the judge said, that does not alone make the town eligible to seize the company and its assets.
“The town cites authority on what constitutes a public use, which would be relevant if public use were contested,” Judge Alvarez wrote. “Here, however, there is no dispute that providing water to Apple Valley’s customers is a public use, regardless of whether the water were to be provided by Liberty or by the town. The question is not the existence of a public use, but whether provision by the town is a ‘more necessary public use’ than continued provision by Liberty. Where property which has been appropriated to a public use is electric, gas, or water public utility property which the public entity intends to put to the same use, the presumption of a more necessary use… is a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of proof, unless the acquiring public entity is a sanitary district exercising the powers of a county water district pursuant to Section 6512.7 of the Health and Safety Code. As the court previously explained in its October 31, 2018 ruling: ‘As a result of the 1992 amendments to sections 1240.650 and 1245.250, in an eminent domain proceeding initiated by a public entity to obtain a public utility from a non-public utility, such as here, the conclusion that the use by a public entity is a more necessary use is rebuttable. Similarly, the resolution of necessity creates a rebuttable presumption that the three necessity elements of section 1240.030 are true.”
Judge Alvarez said that the town misrepresented elements of Liberty’s case in its post trial brief, and that it changed its position as the trial progressed.
“At trial, the town introduced extensive expert testimony by Craig Close about the condition of the water system,” Judge Alvarez wrote. “Mr. Close inspected the system over Labor Day weekend 2019 – less than two months before the start of trial – and presented a series of ‘inspection reports’ and testimony highly critical of the water system. By way of example, according to Mr. Close, the Bell Mountain Tank is ‘in poor/severe condition’ and needs to be rehabilitated or replaced; Wells 7R, 34, and 25 are all in ‘poor condition’ and should be replaced; and the Jess Ranch Booster Station is also in ‘extremely poor condition and needs to be replaced.’ Mr. Close also showed a multitude of photographs of peeling paint and criticized the appearance of several components of the water system. Mr. Close’s opinions regarding supposed defects or shortcomings in the system are diametrically opposed to the town’s project as reviewed above – to acquire the water system and make no changes to it. Not only was Mr. Close’s testimony inconsistent with the town’s project, he also made no effort to determine how much it would cost the town to make any of the changes he opined were needed. The town argues that Mr. Close’s testimony may be considered to rebut Liberty’s evidence that the system is well-run operationally. The court agrees, and has considered Mr. Close’s testimony for this purpose. However, Mr. Close’s myriad criticisms of the water system cannot be used to affirmatively support the town’s right to take the system because the town’s project does not include any changes to the system or its operation, and the town cannot modify its project based on Mr. Close’s eve-of-trial system inspection. The town could have undertaken a thorough inspection of the Apple Valley water system and compiled a list of any system changes it believed were needed before it filed this action. The eminent domain law includes extensive procedures for a condemnor like the town to ‘enter upon property to make photographs, studies, surveys, examinations, tests, soundings, borings, samplings, or appraisals or to engage in similar activities’ before filing an eminent domain lawsuit. See Code of Civil Procedure §§1245.010 et sequitur. The town did retain an engineering consulting firm before it adopted its resolutions of necessity in November 2015. Everything Mr. Close did over Labor Day weekend 2019 could have been done by the town before it filed its complaint more than three years earlier. Then, if it chose to, the town could have included the repair of any alleged system deficiencies in its ‘project’ and analyzed them in its environmental impact report. Having eschewed that opportunity, the town cannot engage in a post-hoc attempt to change its project. The town also cannot justify its right to take the system based on the possibility of a future plan to modify the system or its operations.”
According to Judge Alvarez, “Liberty has rebutted the presumptions that the public interest and necessity require the project and that the project is a more necessary public use of liberty’s property. The court sustains Liberty’s objections. The preponderant evidence at trial shows that the public interest and necessity do not ‘require’ the town’s project – i.e., the acquisition and operation of the Apple Valley Water System, with no changes to it.”
Judge Alvarez said, “The nonexistence of the first public necessity element is demonstrated by evidence in three broad areas: (1) Liberty has operated a safe and reliable water system, while the town has no experience, but only a hope, of doing so; (2) the regulatory oversight provided by the California Public Utilities Commission is more stringent than the oversight that would apply to town ownership of the system; and (3) there is a substantial risk that the water system will be imperiled and the ratepayers will be harmed if the town were permitted to take over the system and supplant regulation by the Public Utilities Commission.”
To this end, Judge Alvarez said, “Liberty has operated a safe and reliable water system; allowing the town to acquire it would create substantial risks to continued effective operations. Liberty has a highly skilled work force that has operated the system with a perfect water quality record. Over the past 30 years, the Apple Valley Water System has had zero water quality violations. This achievement differs markedly from many of the water systems that serve adjacent communities.”
Furthermore, according to Judge Alvarez, “The town’s plan for operating the water system presents potential risks to public health and safety. Town Manager [Doug] Robertson conceded that he ‘can’t imagine’ that anyone could run the system better than the Liberty employees are currently operating it. The town tacitly concedes the high quality of the system’s current operations by its ‘plan’ to hire all of Liberty’s current staff to run the system. But there is a substantial risk that the town’s plan will not be successful, which creates a consequent risk to public health and safety and to the ongoing reliable delivery of water to the system’s customers. Mr. [Michael] Molinari, a 14½ year employee in the town’s public works department, acknowledged there is no one at the town competent to operate a water system, and Mr. Robertson admitted that it is ‘undetermined’ who would run the system if the town were to acquire it. Mr. Close, the town’s expert, prepared a document that actually listed Liberty’s Greg Miles as ‘town engineer,’ but Mr. Miles testified he ‘would not work for the town.’
Judge Alvarez continued, “In sum, the court finds that a skilled and experienced workforce has operated the water system in a manner that has protected public health and safety for many decades. Liberty proved that the town has no in-house capability to run a complex water system, and is banking on the unlikely scenario that it will be able to hire nearly all of Liberty’s Apple Valley employees to continue to run the system successfully. Liberty has operated and maintained the system effectively and efficiently. The town’s proposed acquisition is not ‘required’ by public interest and necessity and would not be a ‘more necessary’ public use than the use to which Liberty’s property is appropriated. The evidence has revealed no substantial problems with the operation or maintenance of the Apple Valley water system.” This included, Judge Alvarez said, the “ability to meet or exceed critical conservation goals established by the State [of California].”
The town engaged in a disingenuous/intellectually dishonest effort to discredit Liberty, Judge Alvarez indicated. Indeed, Alvarez determined, the irresponsibility that the town said Liberty had engaged in was in actuality an irresponsible land use decision made by the town.
“The town argues that the two Desert Knolls tanks overlook numerous homes and ‘the results would be catastrophic’ if the tanks were to rupture,” Judge Alvarez wrote. “But the evidence showed that the tanks were there first: the Desert Knolls tanks were constructed in 1949 and 1988, and most of the homes below the tanks were built after 1994.The town was incorporated in 1988, meaning it was the town that approved the construction of most of the homes built below the tanks after 1994. Having approved the homes below the tanks, the town’s speculative argument of a ‘catastrophe’ if the tanks were to fail is entitled to little weight.”
The town’s witness, Close, was mistaken, disingenuous or outright purposefully misleading when he testified that Liberty was in danger of being unable to meet maximum day demand and peak hour demand, Judge Alvarez opined.
“It appears Mr. Close’s analysis of system capacity and demand was flawed,” according to Judge Alvarez.
In actuality, Judge Alvarez found, it was the town that would be overwhelmed by and not be likely to meet the demands of maintaining the water system at a level that would ensure adequate provision of water service to the town’s residents.
Noting “The Apple Valley water system has 470 miles of underground distribution and transmission mains, which are in constant need of maintenance and replacement” and that the “majority of the capital assets in a water system consists of buried pipe, out of sight to customers but constantly degrading,” Judge Alvarez stated, “There is a substantial risk that the town would fail to commit the needed level of capital improvements and maintenance to the system. While the town does not plan to change the level of investment, there is a substantial risk that it will not be able to match the capital expenditure level made under private ownership. The evidence demonstrated that owners of nearby municipally-owned water systems have invested far less than Liberty in their systems. From 2012 to 2018, capital investment in the Apple Valley system was twice (202 percent) the system’s deprecation. In contrast, the nearby municipally-owned systems (Victorville, Hesperia, Adelanto, and Helendale Community Service District) made capital investments of just 20 percent to 48 percent of the systems’ depreciation. Again, the town itself has no track record of capital expenditure levels on a water system. But the town’s record with its own sewer system shows the same pattern of investment below the rate at which the assets are depreciating, like the water systems in neighboring communities. From 2011 through 2018, the value of the town’s sewer capital assets, net of depreciation, dropped from $32.6 million to $22.5 million.”
Judge Alvarez said concern with regard to “insufficient investment under town ownership is well-founded. If the town were to acquire the water system, there is a risk that its capital investments will not keep up with the system’s depreciation, similar to the performance of the other nearby municipally-owned systems and the town’s own performance with its sewer system. Such under-investment would cause the system to degrade, to the detriment of the system and, ultimately, the detriment of its customers.”
Moreover, according to Judge Alvarez, permitting the town to take ownership of the water company would run the risk of having decisions pertaining to the operation and maintenance of the water system and its assets being politically motivated rather than practical.
“Replacing systematic and skilled regulatory oversight by the Public Utilities Commission [PUC] with politically motivated control by the town council is not in the public interest,” Alvarez wrote. “As an investor-owned utility, Liberty Apple Valley is subject to thorough regulation by the California Public Utilities Commission. If the town’s proposed project were to proceed, the water system would be overseen by the town council rather than the PUC. The parties both presented evidence regarding the comparative merits of PUC regulation and town council oversight. The court finds that Liberty met its burden of proving that the town’s plan to jettison PUC oversight and replace it with town council oversight is not ‘required’ by the public interest and necessity and would not be a ‘more necessary’ public use. On the issue of oversight, the town is really objecting to existing California law. As a ‘Class A’ investor-owned utility, Liberty is subject to thorough and extensive regulatory oversight by the PUC’s Public Advocates Office. The adversary process used to protect ratepayers and set water rates is a strength of the PUC rate-setting system, not a justification to take Liberty’s system, as the town has urged in this case. The loss of such an extensive and skilled system of oversight would not appear to be in the public interest. Control by the town council leaves the water system vulnerable to political pressure to keep rates low, regardless of whether it is prudent in the short run or the long run. Town oversight is inclined toward short-term decision-making because town council members must run for reelection every few years. Naturally, voters want to pay less for water service, not more; and town council regulation is focused more on the short-term interest of voters than the long-term interest of water infrastructure. The pressure to keep rates low increases the likelihood that the water system’s buried capital assets will be run to failure, thereby creating risks to water reliability, water quality, and public safety.”
Judge Alvarez gave indication that the town had underestimated by at least $30 million the price of acquiring the water system.
Given the economies of scale that Liberty has in running a multitude of water companies, it will likely be able to deliver water to the residents and businesses of Apple Valley at a lower cost than the town would if it acquires the water system, Judge Alvarez ruled.
“When properly analyzed, Liberty’s water rates compare favorably to water rates charged by nearby municipally-owned water systems,” Judge Alvarez indicated.
In his conclusion, Judge Alvarez ruled “The court finds that Liberty, through evidence introduced during the court’s bench trial, has rebutted the presumptions established by eminent domain law for the taking of its property for use as a municipal water utility. In particular, Liberty has disproved that 1) the public interest and necessity require the town’s project; 2) the town’s project is planned in the manner that will be most compatible with the greatest public good and the least private injury; and 3) the use for which the town seeks to take Liberty’s property is a more necessary public use than the use to which Liberty’s property is presently devoted. Therefore, Liberty’s objections to the town’s right to take the Apple Valley water system are sustained. Finally, the court shall find for Liberty and shall dismiss this action.”
Unclear at this time is whether Liberty, as the prevailing party, will seek from Judge Alvarez a ruling that Apple Valley pay for the legal fees the company sustained in the action. Nor is it clear whether Judge Alvarez will grant such a motion if it is made, what Liberty’s legal bill in defending against the eminent domain action was and what the town’s legal costs in pursuing the action have been. Town officials had not responded by press time to a Sentinel request for a tally of the town’s legal expenses in its effort to force the seizure of the water company’s assets in the town through the condemnation process.
A poorly-informed estimate is that the legal cost on both sides ran from somewhere between $4 million to $6 million, that is, $2 million to $3 million for the town and $2 million to $3 million for Liberty, beginning with preparation for the two resolutions of necessity adopted by the town council in November 2015.
The town is represented by the law firm of Best Best & Krieger. Notably, the ruling by Judge Alvarez was the second time in five years that Best Best & Krieger fell short in a municipal eminent domain takeover effort targeting a water company. In November 2016, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Judge Richard Fruin ruled against the City of Claremont in its eminent domain suit aimed at seizing the Golden State Water Company’s water system that serves the City of Claremont. Best Best & Krieger was legal counsel to the City of Claremont in that case.
Leading Liberty’s legal defense in the suit was real estate litigation attorney George Soneff along with real estate litigation partners Ed Burg and David Moran, and associate Lauren Fried of the Los Angeles-based law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. It was Manatt, Phelps & Phillips which successfully represented the Golden State Water Company in its defense against Claremont’s takeover effort, as well.
According to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, “Evidence at trial showed that the Town of Apple Valley expected to pay $100 million for the water system if it prevailed, while Liberty Utilities pegged the system’s value as high as $243.8 million. Central to the town’s claim was the presumption that municipal ownership would lead to lower water rates and increased transparency.
“Ultimately, Judge Alvarez concluded that Liberty demonstrated Apple Valley residents would be better served if Liberty continued to own and operate the system, and would be worse off if the town were to take ownership of the system,” the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips statement continued. “In his decision, Judge Alvarez looked to Liberty’s spotless water quality record in Apple Valley, its stellar employees and staff (who testified they did not want to work for the town), and record of financial stability and capital investments. The town’s lack of experience operating a water system and failure to show that water prices would indeed go down under municipal ownership also played a role in Judge Alvarez’s decision.”
Greg Sorensen, Liberty’s West Region president, said, “On behalf of our team of dedicated professionals who take great pride in providing safe water and reliable service in Apple Valley, we appreciate the judge’s tentative statement of decision that rejects the town’s attempt to take the water system by eminent domain. The ruling confirms that Liberty has operated transparently and in the best interest of the community, and that the town’s lawsuit will be dismissed.”
Apple Valley Mayor Curt Emick said, “We are extremely disappointed in the court’s tentative decision. We hope the judge considers the town’s arguments and issues his final ruling to support the town’s effort to acquire the system.”
Accompanying Emick’s statement was one from the town leadership that “If the decision against the town’s proposed acquisition is made final, the town council will consider its options, including appeal.”
San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Donald Alvarez On May 7 made a tentative ruling scheduled to become final on May 22 that shuts the door on the Town of Apple Valley’s effort to use eminent domain to seize ownership of the city’s primary water utility.