County approves bond sale for Kahle Park improvements
If there’s any attempt to politically split off the Douglas County portion of Lake Tahoe at the 1999 Nevada Legislature, officials want to be better prepared.
That was the theme Thursday as Douglas County commissioners dealt with a proposed bond sale to finance improvements at Kahle Park in Stateline and later met in a joint session with the school district board of trustees.
After a lengthy discussion on the bond sale, the board conceded to one concern of the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority and agreed to a 15-year life of the bonds, emphasizing, however, that the deal would be better financially for the county than a 20-year agreement.
The TDVA, made up of casino executives, hinted at a lawsuit against which could seriously impair the county’s financial standing and affect the success of the bond sale as well as the rate.
“Even if you win the lawsuit, you don’t win,” said District Attorney Scott Doyle. “This is not a situation you want to be in.”
Commissioner Steve Weissinger forwarded to County Manager Dan Holler a voice mail message he received from TDVA executive director Steve Teshara asking the county to delay the bond sale or face the possibility of legal action.
Weissinger is the county’s representative to the TDVA.
“Am I wrong, or is the county’s bonding capacity being held hostage?” asked Commissioner Kelly Kite. “If they do this and the bond sale doesn’t go through, we won’t have a park that is wanted by the people.”
Holler told the board that proposed improvements at the Stateline park wouldn’t go through without the bond issue.
The county’s bond counsel advised that the 20-year agreement would mean a better cash flow for the county. The 15-year deal would involve less money spent on interest.
“I can’t believe the county can govern by intimidation and I won’t stand for it,” Kite said.
Doyle told commissioners in a 4-page memo that he is required by law to advise the financial community of the controversy surrounding the bond sale.
Teshara said after Thursday’s meeting he couldn’t predict what the TDVA board would do. The agency is scheduled to meet Monday night.
“Our agenda is broad enough to allow discussion Monday night,” Teshara said. “The board could possibly say, ‘Yes, we like what the county did,’, or, ‘No, we don’t.'”
In a 3-2 vote, county commissioners agreed to a 15-year life span for $2.2 million in bonds.
Commissioners Kite and Bernie Curtis voted against the 15-year terms.
“I have to hang in there with Kelly,” said Curtis. “The 20-year process makes things more comfortable for the county.”
Holler told the board that the county will proceed with issuing bonds.
“This may impact the way we write the disclosure statement,” he said. “That depends on the action of the TDVA.”
Doyle said if the 15-year schedule “finds favor” with the TDVA, “I can write a cleaner opinion. Can I unring the bell on what happened today? No.”
n Same concerns echoed. In meeting with school district trustees a couple of hours later, Weissinger said the bond sale “reopened the wounds” inflicted 18 months ago with the passage of state legislation that rerouted tourism-generated funds more favorably to promotion at the Lake.
“There are some wounds here that are obviously not healed,” agreed school board trustee George Echan. “It’s really important that we try to avoid ‘we’ and ‘they.’ I hope we can be a good, positive voice for some mending. It doesn’t mean there aren’t some people who are pushing their own agenda.”
Both boards agreed to present a united front to the Legislature if attempts are revived to create a separate county or school district.
Commissioner Curtis said he was concerned by former Assemblyman Pete Ernaut’s role as chief of staff for incoming Gov. Kenny Guinn.
“I heard again that ugly rumor of splitting part of the school district. I’m concerned with the dynamics of Ernaut in Guinn’s office,” Curtis said.
Ernaut was the author of a bill to create a Lake Tahoe school district which was vetoed by Gov. Bob Miller.
School board Trustee Don Forrester said he felt improvements at the Douglas County schools at Lake Tahoe and changes in management had satisfied residents who were agitating for their own district.
“My feeling is that there were some problems at the Lake in management and with the facilities, and we’ve taken care of that,” Forrester said.
“I’m urging vigilance,” Curtis said. “The last session was not a pleasant one.”
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