Consolidation of water companies about community
January 24, 2012
Over the past few months I have received many e-mails questioning the validity of discussing water consolidation again. We, as a county and commission, are always working to find the best solution for the county and its water users. I keep everyone’s comments in mind, but I also felt it was right to look at other valley consolidation options. The last time this was discussed, in 2010, things were different. The commission chose to discuss only one option at that time and it was either vote yes or no.
As I have looked at this issue, the aspect of community came to my mind and caused me to look at what we pay for, along with why and how it impacts different areas of our community differently. I also looked back at one controversy of our new American government under President George Washington.
Washington appointed Alexander Hamilton as our first treasurer. Hamilton proposed “assumption,” which would “assume” the collective debt of each state acquired during the Revolutionary War. There were two oppositions to this. First, was Thomas Jefferson, who didn’t want to saddle the new government with overburdening debt (Later, as our third president, he would cut the federal budget 50 percent and set a plan to pay off the debt in 15 years). The other was from the south which had already paid its debt from the war and didn’t think it was fair to have the government pay off the debts of the north and thus causing them to help pay that off. Despite the opposition, “assumption” was accepted and became the debt of our new nation.
We are in a similar situation right now with water consolidation. Some have a fairly smooth running system, while others have failed water systems and we all have to adopt federally mandated arsenic standards. The county has had to “assume” the debt of both failing water systems and arsenic standards for the greater good of its citizens.
As we discuss consolidation efforts this year we have to look at other options and look at what’s best for the county in light of the current economy. Having outrageous rates for water decreases property value and housing sales in those areas.
When the county provides services to its citizens there are several things to consider.
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If we charged each area for the amount of services they use and divided it up the way some propose, by the amount of debt, it would be devastating to certain areas. We live in a community and in that community, we live, work and play together. We are obligated to offer certain services by NRS and by federal law. Other items and issues are optional and we do the best we can to make it work for the greater good.
While some have called this socialism, I disagree. I am against socialism, but I do believe in community and the sharing of local government through joint services. Could each neighborhood afford their own sheriff’s department? Could each neighborhood afford to pave the road they live on? Should we charge areas that use the fire department more than other areas? Should students who live farther from the school pay more to ride the bus? What services should our citizens expect based on whether all of them participate?
I believe in a free enterprise system and I also believe in the establishment of communities. Communities provide services where needed. Not based on who pays, but on need.
As we work towards finding a solution that will fit our current economic situation in the county I hope you will work with us to find the best answer. We appreciate your comments and thank all of our citizens for their continued support.
Lee Bonner is chairman of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.