Proposed water hike structure draws mixed reactions

Douglas County's water consolidation study was greeted Thursday with mixed reviews by residents, depending on whether their rates would go up or down.

After listening to a one-hour presentation by Karyn Johnson of the FCS Group, commissioner took an hour of public comment.

"Why would I want to subsidize other people?" asked Walt Aster. "I don't think anybody would want to."

Susan Troche of Saratoga Springs said she and her husband - like many of their neighbors - were retirees .

"We're looking at double rates," she said. "We're on fixed incomes and we're not working because we're seniors. It's not fair. If your house burns down, do you think everybody should pay for it?"

The county has proposed consolidation for eight water companies to reduce costs for customers of the smallest of them without increasing rates too much for the largest.

In the past few years, the county has taken over three water systems at Lake Tahoe and five in Carson Valley.

The public hearing allowed residents to air a number of grievances including whether the county should have taken over faulty water systems in the first place. Also at issue is the fact that Valley residents will be metered while those at the Lake now pay a flat rate.

"My name is Stuart Posselt and I am an East Valley resident, not the name of charity that subsidizes utilities of those who live in million dollar homes," he said.

Jack McQuirk of the Marla Bay General Improvement District said he didn't have a million-dollar house, drove an old car and faced a water bill increase of 345 percent.

John McCall of Cave Rock said he favored the consolidation.

"Our systems are in danger of whatever the equivalent of bankruptcy would be," McCall said.

Todd Taricco commended the county for working closely with his Lake neighbors.

"We consider water similarly to police and fire. It's a function of the community. What is the county's responsibilities to its constituents? Consolidation really is the right thing to do."

What gets lost is what crates the numbers in the first place," said Commissioner Doug Johnson.

"The Environmental Protection Agency tightened up arsenic levels in water, that's a huge expense public systems have to follow. Sheridan Acres was in receivership, the county took over the system, it was our obligation," Johnson said.

The largest water system, located in the East Valley, serves 1,570 homes. The smallest is at the Fairgrounds and serves about 35 homes.

A combination of costs for infrastructure and water treatment has required the county to increase rates for all of its water systems.

Another contributing factor is the lack of new construction and anticipated connection fees.

Without consolidating the water systems' accounting, water costs for some of the companies will skyrocket by 2014, with Job's Peak Ranch residents paying $577 a month for water; fairgrounds residents would pay $404 and residents of Cave Rock would have $303 a month bills.

Residents served by the East Valley water system are paying $54 a month now, and their rates would increase to $66 a month without consolidation. With consolidation, their water bills would double by 2014 to $108. West Valley residents would also experience an increase in their rates from a projected rate of $85 per month in 2014 without consolidation to $108 a month with it.

"When your ox is getting gored, you're the least happy ox," said Commissioner Greg Lynn.

He pointed out that the north Valley pipeline will take the place of a $6 million water treatment plant.

"Anyone who believes we enjoy sitting up here raising the cost of living in Carson Valley is sadly mistaken," Lynn said.

Commissioner Nancy McDermid said the federal changes in water standards are unfunded mandates, left up to county taxpayers to fund.

"We do not know what the future might hold as far as standards are concerned. We do know they won't go down," she said.

The county plans to implement the consolidation July 1. Final results are to be presented to the board at June commissioner meetings.


Water Consolidation Study

Douglas County Web Site


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