Kicking the water can down road
August 23, 2013
The recent guest opinion by Jobs Peak Ranch resident Virginia Starrett on county responsibility for bad water system decisions hit a lot of nails squarely on the head. The controversies over successive boards of commissioners letting the Jobs Peak Ranch developer "off the hook" are surely sufficient to deserve convening a grand jury to investigate possible corruption or seriously deficient county code.
The newest water fiasco is in Sierra Country Estates of 20 or so homes, a neighbor to the Jobs Peak development, which in turn is a neighbor of Sheridan Acres subdivision, yet another failed water system that became a costly county takeover. Sierra Country Estates is in bankruptcy proceeding, state authorities charge that some water lines locations violate state standards. Most of the homes are on spacious acreage and carry high prices. The least expensive "fix" the county has proposed so far would cost $40,000 per home. A well can be drilled for under $20,000 but water authorities say no, not acceptable. To make matters worse the water system appears to have been mismanaged from the start with no logical method of setting water rates.
With each additional failed private water system, county management probably looks upon them with secret glee. Gradually they are inheriting water lines and wells servicing many buildable areas south of Genoa and Walley's. Perhaps they relish a future wherein the county manages a contiguous water system from the Alpine County border on Foothill Road north to Jacks Valley Road and around to East Valley communities at Stephanie and Johnson Lanes, East Valley Road, and the airport, finally connecting into good Minden water.
All at outlandish cost, mind you, much of which is unfairly carried by East Valley residents who don't take the trouble to complain, partly because county commissioners in anticipation of such complaints arbitrarily blunted them by consolidating all Valley water customers into one system with one rate whether or not physically connected, to spread inefficiency costs like connecting Sierra Country and Jobs Peak, then lowered utility rates for all customers below full true cost thus "kicking the can down the road" to future residents by the simple act of not including in water rates a factor for building up a cash reserve for future infrastructure replacement.
Carson City did the same for decades so the true cost of water and sewer didn't chase away industry, but now are faced with recognizing the future has arrived, infrastructure requires replacement, so they have been holding town hall meetings to tell residents their utility rates are going to radically increase. That day has already arrived for county-owned water systems at the Lake, and will one day occur in Carson Valley. But what the heck, let future commissioners take the heat, right?
Is that the right path? I hold that all development in Carson Valley should recognize the true cost of their utilities, even if that cost might frighten away prospective new residents and businesses. What do you think?
Jack Van Dien