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Commission debates tax Thursday

by Susie Vasquez

Commissioners could approve a 1.5 percent utility operator tax to fund a new Douglas County Senior Center on Thursday. The tax would be subject to a sunset provision in 15 years.

This is the second reading for the proposal, which was approved by a 3-2 vote on Jan. 5.

County Manager Dan Holler said he feels approval is far from assured and there are other options for funding a new center, which is at the heart of the debate.

“The key issues at the Feb. 2 meeting will be whether we move forward, have additional dialogue or look at ballot questions,” he said.

“The utility fee can be legally upheld by the commissioners,” Holler said. “But if they want to look at a sales tax, there’s a timing issue because it would have to go through the ballot process. Same thing with a property tax.”

The tax, which could be levied as soon as July, would cost each household an estimated $48.30 per year by July 2008, according to a study by the Senior Services Advisory Council.

If recommendations from the advisory council are approved, the fees would be generated by Sierra Pacific Power, Southwest Gas and different types of telephone services, including cell phones. Revenues would total about $470,000 from Sierra Pacific, $285,000 from Southwest Gas and $95,000 from telephone services for a yearly total of $850,000.

Due to the controversy surrounding this issue, commissioners will make every effort to delay the discussion until after 5 p.m. so residents who work can attend the meeting, according the commission chairman Jim Baushke.

Designed to accommodate Douglas County’s burgeoning senior population, the new 24,800-square-foot center would be located on 25 acres known as the Bently Depot Yard, northeast of Highway 395 in Minden.

The proposed facility would include a large commercial kitchen to accommodate Meals on Wheels and an expanded lunch program in addition to a large dining room and senior daycare facility, deemed crucial by the Senior Advisory Committee.

In other business:

n Commissioners are considering raising the weight limit at Minden-Tahoe Airport and could approve putting it on the upcoming November ballot. The proposal could also be delayed for two years, until the airport master plan is complete.

Concerns for county officials with respect to weight limits came after Hutt Aviation, a local airport-based business, filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration in September 2004.

The complaint charges the airport’s weight ordinance, 30,000 pounds for single-wheel and 50,000 pounds for dual-wheel aircraft, is antiquated and unreasonable. The limits violated Federal Aviation Administration regulations, which require the airport to be available for public use without unjust discrimination, when local officials accept federal funding for maintenance.

An engineering report by Applied Research Associates completed in the fall of 2005 states the main runway will support aircraft weighing 110,000 pounds.

n Commissioners could approve spending $105,000 to consulting firm Design Workshop for the 10-year update to Douglas County’s master plan.

n Commissioners could approve using $200,000 from Douglas County’s general fund to pay for the New Year’s flood event, to include costs related to overtime, materials and equipment and future repair and maintenance.

n Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.

BREAKOUT

What: Douglas County Commissioner meeting

When: 1 p.m. Thursday

Where: Douglas County Administration Building, 1616 Eighth St., Minden