Residents petition commissioners to take over south county district

Sandstone in Topaz Ranch Estates is a rough stretch of road.

Sandstone in Topaz Ranch Estates is a rough stretch of road.

A petition signed by 325 registered Topaz Ranch Estates voters has been determined to be valid and to represent the 20 percent required to seek a remedy from Douglas County commissioners.

Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the issue at their meeting on Thursday.

The district was having trouble maintaining its roads before it got socked last winter starting with a Tonopah Low that dumped multiple feet of snow in the south Douglas community.

“The district’s substantial infrastructure needs pose an immediate health and safety threat to the residents,” according to the county.

District trustees voted to ask that the district be taken over in September, but after mixed public comment, commissioners took no action.

District trustees approved appointing a fifth member to replace former Chairman Brandon Taylor, but residents were already working on a petition that garnered 380 signatures.

The petition was file stamped Oct. 30 by the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office which verified the number of registered voters who signed exceeded the required 268.

Under state law, if a fifth of the district’s qualified voters sign a petition that the district is not being managed properly commissioners have to hold a hearing to consider the petition.

Commissioners could take over the district, merge, consolidate or dissolve the district, file a petition for a receivership in district court or resolve that management and organization of the district remain unchanged.

The district has been overwhelmed by an estimated $7.3 million in damage to its roads over the winter, according to both the county and the Topaz Ranch Estates General Improvement District trustee Dave Akola.

The district raises around $217,000 a year in taxes to cover maintenance of its 26 miles of roads.

Just a 25-percent match for potential Federal Emergency Management Administration funds could amount to more than eight times the district’s annual tax revenue.

Formed Sept. 7, 1971, the district has its own taxing authority and operates a water system and is responsible for roads within its boundaries. The five trustees are elected from within its boundaries. According to the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office the tax rate dedicated to the district is 85.46 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

Another special district at the other end of Douglas County is also facing issues with its governance.

County commissioners are being asked to replace three trustees on the Elk Point Sanitation District because they don’t actually live in Douglas County.

According to the county, none of the five have ever been elected and were appointed over time by the board as others dropped off.

Trustees Martin Bibb, Timothy Gilbert and Catherine Oyster are not registered to vote in the county and another trustee, Bradley Oneto was appointed in 2018, but didn’t register to vote until March 2020.

A fifth member, Anne Harry, has been registered to vote since 2019 and was appointed by the other trustees in 2021.

Since a majority of the board wasn’t qualified to serve or select new district trustees, the county will have to do something, which could include taking over the district board, merge, consolidate or dissolve the district.

According to the county, the Elk Point Country Club Homeowners Association has provided the names of residents willing to serve on the board.

Elk Point is one of several small districts at Lake Tahoe that have had trouble drawing candidates during elections.


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