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February 20, 2013
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Tahoe water plan before county today

Proposals to contract out operation of Douglas County's Lake Tahoe water systems won't save much money.

Both the Tahoe Douglas District and the Kingsbury General Improvement District responded to a county request for proposals to run the three county owned water companies at the Lake.

Last year, county commissioners expanded the Tahoe Douglas District's list of services in anticipation of the proposal.

In a report to commissioners, Public Works Director Carl Ruschmeyer said that the best of the proposals would save customers $6 a month while cutting the staffing by a fraction.

"Overall, an evaluation of the proposals determined that only a marginal cost savings could possibly be recognized by contracting out the operation and maintenance services," Ruschmeyer wrote.

He said the risks and uncertainties of contracting out the services combined with the marginal cost savings prompted the recommendation.

Today, Ruschmeyer is asking county commissioners to direct staff to set water rates for the Cave Rock-Uppaway, Skyland and Zephyr Water companies.

The current water rates were set in October 2010. A typical water customer at Cave Rock pays $202 a month, Skyland customers are paying $114 a month and Zephyr Water is paying $79.95.

During 2012, the county subsidized Cave Rock $27,500 and Zephyr $15,000 to keep their water rates at their current level.

An effort to consolidate all the county water companies was rejected by commissioners in 2010. It has been a year since a panel of Lake Tahoe water users issued a list of 14 recommendations, including contracting out management and separating the systems' debt from their operation and maintenance.

In his report, Ruschmeyer points out that future capital investments in the water systems will be financed separately from monthly rates.

"At this time, county staff and the workgroup do not necessarily agree on the future capital improvements and their timing," he said.

Under two of the options presented to commissioners, the county could form special assessment districts to address future capital improvements or separate capital costs from the monthly water rate.

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The Record Courier Updated Feb 21, 2013 03:38PM Published Feb 20, 2013 11:08AM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.