Line break reminder of gravel pit proposal |

Line break reminder of gravel pit proposal

The recent failure of a pipeline carrying treated sewage from the Lake Tahoe-based Douglas County Sewer Improvement District to a storage pond re-ignited a slow burning fuse in the minds of many East Valley residents.

The powder keg at the end of that fuse is a proposal by DCSID to establish a commercial Article Six of gravel pit on a parcel it owns in the East Valley Community Area, and sell the mined aggregates to offset the cost of lining a winter effluent storage pond.

Area residents have objected on grounds that this commercial operation, with its noise, dust and large trucks, has no place in their neighborhood, and that the damage to their property values, local roads and safety is not in keeping with the Douglas County Master Plan.

This is not a new proposal, but one that has been rejected twice in the past decade. Furthermore, at a public meeting last May Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson, presented evidence that DCSID had violated Nevada open meeting laws, election laws, and attempted to influence a vote by commissioners on the project through devious means.

Jackson showed that the DCSID board had, through their contract engineer Rob Anderson, paid $1,000 to former commissioner Don Miner, to file an unfounded ethics complaint against Planning Manager Hope Sullivan. This they thought, would sway commissioners to approve their proposal. That ethics complaint has since been rejected by the State Ethics Commission.

During Jackson’s presentation, several snippets of recorded DCSID board meetings were played. They showed a total arrogance by DCSID board members toward people from the valley who object to a project that would lower their quality of life while those board members enjoy their life at the Lake.

Anyone who has listened to those tapes in their entirety, knows that Jackson didn’t play the worst parts. You can hear them talking in a public meeting about how they are going to “pick off” various County Commissioners to support their project, how there’s no leadership “down there,” how some Commissioners are “loose cannons” or “can’t be trusted,” and that those who object to their proposal, myself included by name, are “Wackos.”

Well if we’re Wackos for wanting the county to uphold the master plan, enforce its ordinances, preserve its roads and protect the value of our properties, then aren’t most Douglas County residents Wackos? I can’t help but wonder if DCSIC board members would be the Wackos if we wanted to build a gravel pit in their neighborhood?

Shortly after Jackson’s presentation, commissioners asked the Secretary of State to investigate and report to them if DCSID has violated election laws. However, there’s been no response, even though Commissioner McDermid said recently that a finding letter was imminent. As of Jan. 6 there has been no letter made public. Not for the first time, I smell politics. The State Attorney General’s office was asked in July to investigate if there had been open meeting law violations, and we all read in The Record-Courier that yes, there had been on numerous occasions.

Last fall, a committee of the State Legislature that oversees agencies at the Lake, debated what to do about the DCSID situation. Both Sen. Settlemeyer and Assemblyman Wheeler serve on that committee. The committee’s deliberations resulted in a proposal that would reconfigure DCSID into a new General Improvement District with an elected board of directors representing the entire area, not just the lakeside casinos. The proposal will go to the full Legislature this year.

In the meantime, the residents of the valley are left to wonder if justice will ever be served on those who allegedly broke the law. Yes, a grand jury is being seated and may consider complaints by residents regarding DCSID’s actions, but there’s no guarantee. No one denies that DCSID needs to have a place to store its winter effluent. However, there are ways to resolve the problem other than to create a commercial aggregates and processing plant in our East Valley neighborhood. They just need to line their existing ponds and move on. As far as a flood control basin goes, that’s a “red herring” if I ever saw one.

Bottom line is that DCSID started a Valley vs. Lake war by trying to resolve its storage problem by imposing a life-changing project on the residents of the valley. it did so to keep its rates for the casinos and Lake residents the lowest of any district in the county. Valley residents are not happy about it, and I’m sure that any attempt to move this project forward as currently proposed will be vigorously opposed.

Bob Ballou is an East Valley resident