County revisits water consolidation |

County revisits water consolidation

by Sheila Gardner

More than a year after county commissioners declined to consolidate the county’s water systems, the board asked staff for a “snapshot” of what creating two systems would look like.

“We’re looking for direction today,” Public Works Director Carl Ruschmeyer told the board Thursday.

“Obviously, we have to meet all the water standards, but we want to do it at an affordable price. At the end of the day, today, for some of our systems, the rates are unsustainable. One of the tools we have is to restructure our costs,” he said.

The board supported staff’s recommendation for separate Valley and Foothill water utilities, and to bring back 2-year rate schedules for consideration in February with an effective date of July 1.

The county’s water systems include approximately 3,500 customers in Johnson Lane, East Valley, Genoa, Sheridan Acres, Sunrise Estates and Jobs Peak in Carson Valley.

At Lake Tahoe, the county operates systems in Zephyr Cove, Cave Rock and Skyland.

The board consolidated Sunrise Estates and East Valley water systems in December.

The county considered consolidation into one system a year ago, but abandoned the plan over strenuous objections of ratepayers whose monthly bills would increase in an effort to balance the system.

Commissioner Lee Bonner asked staff to look at consolidation into one utility.

“I campaigned last year as adamantly opposed to consolidation. Now that I’m on this side of the desk, it’s different. I was wrong. I support two funds, or one fund if we could reduce the rate for everybody,” Bonner said.

Commissioner Doug Johnson strongly supported two funds.

“I’m going to be really adamant that we do two funds and not put staff through all of this again. If we do one fund, I know East Valley would go up, the minority would go down, and this room would be packed again,” Johnson said.

Sheridan Acres resident Tom Dunkelman asked the board to reconsider an all-system consolidation.

“I appreciate the fact you realize the rates are not sustainable,” he said.

He said the $165 monthly rate was too high for “the middle class neighborhood.”

He said Jobs Peak – where the $219 monthly rate is to proposed to jump to $581 in fiscal year 2012-13 – was getting a bigger subsidy.

“All of our systems have received some form of subsidy,” said County Manager Steve Mokrohisky.