Minden works toward serving water to subdivision
Minden Town Board members focused on water Wednesday, discussing the best ways to protect their precious resource and benefit from the good fortune of having such an abundant supply.
The board is taking tentative steps to make the town’s groundwater available to other areas in the Carson Valley. Members discussed the mechanics of supplying water to the 182-unit Grandview Estates subdivision planned for 861 acres in the East Valley area northeast of the town.
Developer Steve Mothersell is considering individual wells and septic tanks for each unit or working with Minden to provide water and Bently Agrowdynamics – the nearest neighbor – to create a sewer system. Officials agree a community system is preferable to drilling nearly 200 new wells and septic tanks, which would add about $13,500 to the cost of each house.
The subdivision meets all state and county requirements to be served by wells and septic tanks, which concerns officials who are worried about adverse effects on the water table.
“From the town’s perspective, there are some positives for this to happen,” said town engineer Bruce Scott. “It’s a reach, but it’s what we do. We have a block of water and we have said that water is for the future of Carson Valley.”
One of the questions from the board is the level of commitment from developer Steve Mothersell. Last month, he told board members that his upfront costs for the first phase of the development were so high, he wouldn’t be able to contribute until he starts recouping costs from the sale of homes and lots.
Bently representatives are discussing acting as the bank for the project. The town would be reimbursed through connection fees and monthly water service.
If Mothersell buys water rights from Minden, the town would make $730,000; if he supplies his own water, the community would make about half that.
n Prefers money upfront. “My concern is he says he can’t pay until the second or third phase,” said town board member Ray Wilson. “What happens if these phases don’t happen? I’d like to see him pay the first phase.”
Board member Ross Chichester compared the project to an investment.
“We will have 182 new customers paying monthly out-of-district fees,” Chichester said.
“It also sends a message to the water engineer that we are delivering water in the Valley from our infrastructure rather than selling it out of the area,” Scott said.
Town officials also pointed out that having the Minden water system serve the area paves the way for a linkage by the town to the North County water system, close to the town’s proposed tank site and meets the master plan goal of keeping agricultural land green.
Scott said Bently officials are waiting for a proposal “that makes business sense” before making a financial commitment to the project.
“The irony here is that everybody agrees that a central water and sewer system is the best alternative,” said Scott. “But until we all step up, it won’t happen.”
Scott said Douglas County commissioners were supportive of the central system, but didn’t offer any financial assistance for the project.
Scott raised a concern with a Carson Water Subconservancy District representative that the town had been excluded from the district’s watershed planning process.
With the town’s abundant supply, board members believe Minden is a significant player in any joint effort to coordinate a water system.
“I’ve seen some publicity on the watershed planning process and a lot more on the water system, but we haven’t seen much about what’s going on,” Scott said. “We need some feedback on the integrated system.”
“As far as the integrated water plan is concerned, we’re major purveyors of water but nobody has been to our board to discuss plans,” Chichester said.
Watershed coordinator Meg Getty said she would arrange with subconservancy district general manager Ed James to address the Minden board.
The board members conditionally approved a list of 11 “rules to live by” for all users of the Carson River as long as the principles don’t come with a high price tag and more government regulations.
“In concept, we can agree with the watershed planning process and the guiding principles,” said Ross Chichester. “To fully come on board, we have to have much more information about cost factors, what we can afford to pay for.”
Getty presented the 11 guiding principles developed under the umbrella of the subconservancy district. She emphasized that while the state agency has no regulatory authority, directors hoped that river users up and down the Carson would agree to incorporate the principles in their planning and permit processes.
“What happens if somebody who has the authority could take these and say to us, ‘You all agreed you wanted this,’ and them come at us with something that would further restrict our abilities to get something done?” Chichester asked.
Getty said it would be up to each entity along the river how the principles would be enforced.
n Rate hike. In other water issues, the board will bring back discussion at its next meeting on a proposal to raise water rates for the first time since 1996.
“A rate increase enables us to offer property maintenance and operation of the system,” Chichester said. “Connection fees pay for expansion, not a rate increase. Everybody sees an increase as being another tax. You can’t look at water, sewer and trash collection as tax. It’s a service provided to residents. It’s the cost of doing business.”
Single family homes are charged $19 per month and patio homes $16.80. The town serves 1,091 residential customers and 187 commercial users. The board plans to bring the issue back following a Feb. 22 budget workshop.
No figure has been set for the increase.