Tahoe sewer district gets state’s attention
November 18, 2016
While saying he didn't believe Douglas County Sewer District No. 1 had broken the law, Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, proposed a bill that would make the district similar to those in the rest of the state.
The district is currently governed by administrators from the Stateline casino properties, something District Attorney Mark Jackson said violates Nevada election law.
Members of the Legislative Committee for the Review and Oversight of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the Marlette Lake Water System, which includes Settelmeyer and Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, approved seeking a bill draft to fix the issue.
"There's no way, shape or form where they've done anything wrong," Settlemeyer said. "This law is drafted horribly."
The sewer district is the only one in the state remaining formed under Nevada Revised Statutes 309, which affected utilities and irrigation districts.
The bill would convert it to a 318 district and give it an elected five-member board.
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Committee members estimated there are slightly more than 730 registered voters in the district.
Under established election law, board members would have to live in the district, not something that's happening now.
On Wednesday, Douglas County Commission Vice Chairwoman Nancy McDermid said she'd heard that Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske would be issuing a letter regarding the sewer district's status.
McDermid said she doesn't know what's in the letter, but that she expects it to reflect the work of the legislative committee.
More concerning was a proposal by the legislative committee to set up a panel to review general improvement districts.
A bill draft to establish sunset committees to examine whether individual districts should continue was approved.
Settelmeyer said if counties saw fit, the committee would consist of the senator and assemblyman from the region along with county commissioners.
"Districts would come to the committee, present minutes and budgets in order to determine if they should continue as is, potentially merge or go away," he said. He pointed out that county commissioners have the power to dissolve districts under current law.
"Changes could come from county, which can dissolve a GID or go to Legislature," he said.
Douglas County has the highest per capital number of improvement districts in the state with more than two dozen.
McDermid pointed out that there are several issues with dissolving a GID, not least of which is what happens to the district's tax rate should it be eliminated.
The county's largest communities are based around improvement districts, including the Gardnerville Ranchos, Kingsbury Grade, Indian Hills and Topaz Ranch Estates. They all have their own tax rates and receive portions of sales, tobacco and other use taxes, essentially operating as cities.
The issue came to the Legislature's attention after the Sewer District No. 1 board of directors, which serves all of Lake Tahoe, sought a gravel pit in the East Valley to help pay to excavate a new sewer pond.