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County utility rate meeting next month

Carl Ruschmeyer conducts a utility rate workshop with county customers at the Johnson Lane Volunteer Fire Department on Wednesday.
Kurt Hildebrand |

The fireworks will be a day early in Minden if the reaction to a proposal to raise the county’s sewer and water rates is any indication.

County commissioners are tentatively scheduled to hold a hearing July 3 on a 3.25-percent increase over the next five years for customers of Douglas County’s water and sewer systems.

More than 80 people attended a workshop on the rates of sewer and water in Johnson Lane on Wednesday.

“I can’t predict the economy, or the environment or how people will spend their money. But we’ve started in a hole and we’re trying to catch up,” County Engineer Carl Ruschmeyer told workshop attendees when asked whether rates will continue to rise.

Douglas County commissioners approved the first reading of an ordinance setting new sewer and water rates for their customers in March, but a second public hearing was required.

That gave residents, mostly from northern Carson Valley, an opportunity to organize for the May 1 second public hearing of the ordinance.

Representatives of the Wildhorse, Saratoga Springs and Skyline Ranch neighborhoods brought petitions with the signatures of residents of their neighborhoods.

The rate increase only affects the 2,440 residents served by the county, who live mostly in the Johnson Lane and Genoa Lakes areas.

Most Carson Valley residents who are served by municipal sewer are customers of the Minden-Gardnerville Sanitation District. Most Carson Valley residents with municipal water are customers of the Gardnerville Ranchos, Gardnerville Town Water Co., the Town of Minden and the Indian Hills General Improvement District. The rate increase also doesn’t affect residents who are on their own well or septic system.

While Minden and the Carson Valley Water System are connected, they are different water systems.

The rate increase would cost the average water user outside of Jobs Peak Ranch $65.31 a month starting July 1, and go up each year until it reached $74.22 a month on July 1, 2018.

Residents said their bills often exceeded that average, which is calculated on an average of 16,000 gallons per month. Ruschmeyer said that use goes up in the summer and down in the winter.

The county is also planning to increase the flat rate for sewer by 3.25 percent each year until July 1, 2018.

Ratepayers would see their bill of $61.43 go up to $63.43 on July 1 and continue to increase until it reaches $72.08 on July 1, 2018.

The only county water system not affected under the rate increase is Sierra Country Estates, which was taken over by the county in fall 2013.

Customers in the Foothill gated community pay a $310 base rate per month, with an average monthly water bill of $543.

The system only serves 22 lots, but was declared a failed system by the state, and is in trouble with the State Engineer for exceeding its water allotment.

The water is characterized as very aggressive, according to engineer Nick Charles.

With a pH of 6.5 to 6.6, the water corrodes copper from the pipes causing a state violation.