Utility fee will fund construction | RecordCourier.com

Utility fee will fund construction

by Susie Vasquez

Douglas County commissioners narrowly approved a plan to build a new senior center on Thursday.

A 1.5 percent utility fee to build the $11.9 million center was approved, with Kelly Kite, Jim Baushke and Tim Smith voting in favor and Dave Brady and Doug Johnson voting against.

The fee is to be phased in with 1 percent effective in July and an additional half-percent effective July 1, 2008. The issue must be approved a second time by commissioners before it goes into effect.

The utility fee is estimated to cost the average Douglas County household an additional $27.60 per year beginning in July increasing to $48.30 per year in July 2008, according to figures provided by the Senior Services Advisory Council.

“I was here as a commissioner last year before the election when we had the debate on Question 1 that contained all the facilities and a lot more money then they are talking about now,” said Baushke, who took over as commission chairman.

“I think there’s still a lot of support for a senior center by itself. All senior centers in Nevada are government-funded, either by the federal or local government. No senior center here or elsewhere is privately funded, because they don’t make money. They must be funded by the public.”

Smith said the decision to approve the tax was difficult.

“This was a hard decision, but one I’m willing to make,” he said. “I think the voters expect us to make these types of decisions.”

Brady said he felt the issue should be put to a vote.

“Based on today’s comments, we need to take this issue back to the voters,” he said. “We need a clear mandate.”

Designed to accommodate Douglas County’s burgeoning senior population, the new 24,800-square-foot center would be located on 25 acres known as the Bently Depot Yard, northeast of Highway 395 in Minden.

The proposed facility would include a large commercial kitchen to accommodate Meals on Wheels and a much-needed expanded lunch program in addition to a large dining room and a senior daycare facility, deemed crucial by the Senior Advisory Committee.

Additional amenities would be added during the next two phases of the project.

Annual operation and maintenance costs for the first phase are estimated at $560,000.

Douglas County voters rejected Question 1, a proposal to fund a new senior center, community center and fine arts facility using the same funding source when it came before the voters in 2004. The tentative schedule calls for design contracts to be awarded this summer with construction to begin a year later.

County officials hope the facility will be open in July 2008.

n Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.