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Boil-water order points up need for regional water system

by Sharon Carter

Until tests of her subdivision’s water show it remains uncontaminated from recent troubles with the county-owned system, Marilyn Prestigiacomo of Genoa Lakes said she’ll use bottled water for drinking and cooking.

“We have the boil order because there were electrical problems Saturday – it (the well pump) didn’t pump and the water tank went low,” Prestigiacomo said Monday. “They fixed it Sunday and they’re supposed to test the water today. It’s probably fine, but we use a lot of bottled water anyway so we’ll wait.”

Douglas County planners say the order directing residents of Genoa Lakes and neighboring Sierra Shadows to boil their drinking water points out one of several reasons officials are seriously considering adopting the county’s first redevelopment area Thursday.

The proposed area is, ironically, one Prestigiacomo’s husband, Tony, helped to lay out when he served as chairman of the Douglas County Redevelopment Citizens Advisory Panel. He disqualified himself from the vote to include Genoa Lakes in the redevelopment area.

The proposed solution. “We wouldn’t be at this point if we had a regionalized (water) system with built-in redundancies,” John Doughty, the county’s planning and economic development manager, said Monday. “We don’t yet have the 100-plus homes that will be at Genoa Lakes at build-out, so the problem could be worse. But it also illustrates our point, that with a large system with back-ups built in, the meltdown of one small pump and well system could be compensated for.”

Doughty’s boss, Community Development Director Bob Nunes, noted that there are half a dozen small county-owned and operated water systems scattered throughout the Carson Valley. Interconnecting the systems to form a single larger one would take money the county doesn’t have – money which county consultants say would be more readily available in the form of low-interest loans to a redevelopment area.

And money which consultants say could be paid back comfortably by taking the growth amounts of property tax revenue that are assessed over 1998 levels as the improvements cause property values to rise.

Other governmental agencies who use the tax increments to support their own rising growth costs would have other new income generated by increased sales tax revenues, permits and impact fees spurred by commercial growth at the county’s Carson City border.

Over its 30-year legal life, such a district would also address drainage, road and other infrastructure improvements.

Make a decision. These are likely part of the argument in favor of redevelopment county staff will make to county commissioners when they consider approving the county’s Redevelopment Plan for Project Area 1 Thursday.

At last week’s meeting, the commission, which sat as the county’s redevelopment agency, approved new, smaller boundaries for the first project area.

At that meeting, there were questions asked, but no objections were brought forward. Thursday’s meeting will likely be more contentious.

Strong objections. Douglas County schools Superintendent Pendery Clark said Tuesday she and members of the school board plan to attend the meeting and formally present the school board’s resolution protesting the acceptance of the redevelopment plan.

“Our position is pretty clear and it hasn’t changed since we first became aware of what could happen if the school district is stripped of a major source of operating revenue,” Clark said.

Clark said redevelopment in other states she’s worked in usually has a mechanism that requires the redevelopment agency to negotiate with other agencies affected by redevelopment. She said that has not been the case in Douglas.

“We’ve had no offer from the county to engage in discussions to mitigate the impacts,” she said.

Willing to listen. County commission chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen said the commission looked forward to the meeting. He said he and the others were keeping open minds so they could look at the question objectively.

“For one thing, the impacts – particularly to the schools – need to be nailed down by project proponents,” he said.

“Because redevelopment is a new way of looking at things, it makes it more difficult,” he said. “We also plan to explore other financing alternatives and we’ll likely go forward with (applying for) water and sewer grants and pursue cost-sharing applications with state and federal groups whether we go with redevelopment or not.”

Etchegoyhen said he thought it possible that added development activity could make up for what the school district and the others agencies might lose.

Other areas. That thought sustains local governmental agencies and school districts in other areas of the state that have embraced redevelopment.

“We have to hope that what’s good for the area is good for the schools,” said Walt Rulffes, the Clark County School District’s assistant superintendent for business and finance.

“In our county, we know we lose money in the short term,” Rulffes said. “We have had to weigh the potential positive tradeoffs against our short term losses, hold our nose and look to the long run.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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