Letters for June 27, 2018
District panel not the solution
Congratulations to those County Commissioners who rejected the Grand Jury’s call for a general improvement district review panel. From the start this was an ill-conceived “solution” to what is nonetheless a very real problem, how to better fund and manage infrastructure in the unincorporated area, outside our towns and GIDs.
The irony is that infrastructure management is performed well in our GIDs. County government, on the other hand, struggles with it. It never made sense to transfer infrastructure management from organizations that do it well to one that has difficulty with it.
We’ve wasted a lot of time on this idea. What we need to be doing instead is discussing how to bring the blessings of good infrastructure funding and management to the areas of the county that don’t have it. The key to this, as always, is money.
The simple truth is that the areas with the worst infrastructure problems contribute the least to infrastructure funding. The Johnson Lane area is the poster child for this, with a huge backlog of deferred local road maintenance and now the added question of how to fund badly needed drainage improvements.
Residents of our towns and GIDs pay extra taxes to fund maintenance of their infrastructure. Residents of Johnson Lane and the rest of the unincorporated area do not. Is it any wonder where the problems are?
Had we known then what we know now, I’d like to think that County leaders would have created something like a Johnson Lane GID before the area was developed so intensively. That would have insured an ongoing source of infrastructure funding and local infrastructure management for that area just as we have in the Ranchos, Indian Hills, other GIDs and our towns. As people moved in they would have naturally assumed their share of responsibility for infrastructure funding as a pre-condition of residency.
But the sort of piecemeal development that occurred in Johnson Lane made it hard to see where things were headed until it was too late. Now we have a large population in place that is naturally resistant to new taxes but sorely needs additional infrastructure funding if its problems are to be solved.
What should be under discussion is how to do now what should have been done then. How do we get residents who don’t contribute to infrastructure funding to do so? And how do we structure that to ensure that their money is spent on their infrastructure, not something else? This happens naturally in GIDs, which are solely about infrastructure.
Rather than robbing Peter to pay Paul, the real purpose of the rejected district review panel, Douglas County needs to help unincorporated residents come to grips with their responsibility to fund their infrastructure. Absent that, little will be done.