County denies district review panel
A grand jury recommendation that county commissioners form a committee to review the many independent districts was shot down 4-1 on Thursday.
Only Commissioner Barry Penzel supported the plan, saying he felt an obligation under the law to create the committee.
Douglas County is home to a score of districts formed under state law to do a host of things from fighting fires to serving as quasi municipalities.
The largest of the districts, the Gardnerville Ranchos General Improvement District governs the county’s largest single community. It provides a range of services from water and road maintenance to parks.
Similar districts govern Indian Hills, Kingsbury Grade and Topaz Ranch Estates.
In 2017, the Nevada Legislature approved a bill permitting counties to form a committee to review districts in their jurisdictions.
However, under the law, commissioners voting to form the committee would only get to appoint one of the five members. Two of the members would be the state senator and assembly member, and the other two members would be appointed by the senator and the assembly member.
“Right now, we’re fortunate both our assemblyman and senator live in the county,” Commission Dave Nelson said. “But with this committee it’s possible they could live in other counties. I would prefer we didn’t have people who live in other counties reviewing us.”
Commissioner Larry Walsh agreed with him.
“There is a process for this,” he said. “I don’t think we need to go on a witchhunt. If there’s a specific complaint, we should act on it.”
One of the issues County Manager Larry Werner brought up was that the law doesn’t say who is supposed to staff the meetings.
The only district resident who spoke in favor of forming the committee was Ranchos resident Terry Faff, who opposed the requirement he have a water meter.
Under state law, county commissioners have the power to dissolve a district, but must take over the functions of the district.
Penzel said the decision before them was whether to form the committee, not what the committee would do.
“We only populate one person on that committee,” he said. “They control four people on the board. If we don’t want to do this, we should have a meeting to recommend what action should be taken.”
Residents living in the districts and towns pay a tax rate to support them, but also vote on district and town boards.
“I don’t know any entity that is closest to the people they serve than the GID board,” Commissioner Nancy McDermid said. “Residents with a complaint can rectify that at the ballot box or bring it to the board of commissioners.”
She pointed out that dissolving a district doesn’t guarantee the county will receive their tax money, but the county would have to provide the service.