County shouldn’t be in water business
November 3, 2011
The recent guest opinion by 72 unhappy Sheridan Acres water users deserves comment. One Valley, one water system? Why? We share a valley but not water aquifers, it seems, nor pipes. Residential developments were unwisely approved without diligent regard to accessing existing water systems nor the exorbitant expense of small private systems. Nor even access to good water, apparently.
County government should not even be in the water business. Instead they should create independent water districts run by boards of users overseen by the state Public Utility Commission. Like the towns and districts.
Low cost water systems servicing the towns and districts and those of us on private wells should look askance at bailing out residential developments whose developers provided dysfunctional water delivery infrastructure, who structured unsustainably low connection and user fees in order to sell homes, or otherwise mismanaged their private water companies, who took their profits and ran, leaving residents with inadequate excessively-expensive poorly managed water systems without cash reserves for future renovation. The residents should have a beef with the developer first before they come crawling to other county residents to bail them out.
When the county accepted responsibility for Sheridan Acres water, did a cash reserve fund for accumulated depreciation come with it? Apparently not. Unfortunately that is a repetitive scenario for developments in areas governed by the county. Developers win, residents lose.
A past Board of County Commissioners bailed out Sheridan Acres residents with hundreds of thousand dollar gifts and grants from the county and state when their water system failed. That occurred at a BOCC meeting I happened to attend a few years ago. All county residents unfairly paid for that, lake dwellers and private well owners too. Developers win, residents lose.
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County leaders take the position that the county, meaning all residents, have a financial responsibility to assure adequate water and sewer services. That’s peculiar, since they take no such responsibility for the many resident-owned wells.
Sheridan Acres’ water users are a shining example of sins of the past catching up. They didn’t oversee their own water provider, not the way some of us do of county managers. Their guest opinion estimates a cost per month for a single consolidated water system would be $60. County financial statements say otherwise. $80 to $90 is what East Valley users will pay when full depreciation and bond amortization are included. Even without absorbing Sheridan Acres and Jobs Peak Ranch costs. Partly because commissioners subsidize developers by giving them a free ride for water service availability to unsold lots with no standby fee to fund retiring county water bonds and depreciation.
Contrary to the guest opinion, a single Valley water system is not at all beneficial to most county water customers, nor would it prevent the County from bailing out other failed water systems. It would just spread the costs wider to those not benefiting. Developers win, residents lose.
Jack Van Dien