Guest article submitted by Bill Hamilton, a concerned citizen and volunteer member of the Transportation 20/20 Committee For The Record-Courier’s information, my address is 2775 Kayne Avenue,
Minden, and my phone is 267.4468.
Between now and the Nov. 5 general election, you will see posters and publicity about voting “Yes 1-2-3.”
These Douglas County measures pertain to road safety and transportation improvements. What are the origins of these county initiatives?
What are they about? And why do they deserve the support of Douglas County voters?
Origins of “Yes 1-2-3,” Douglas County officials often cite a shortfall of $1 million per year for prudent and basic road maintenance that includes chip sealing, crack sealing, snow plowing, resurfacing, striping and other items. In 1993 Douglas County commissioners, as permitted by state law, imposed an optional five cent per gallon tax on motor vehicle fuel to remedy that deficit.
In 1994, several business owners led a ballot initiative that resulted in voters barely overturning (51 percent to 49 percent) the commissioners’ action. The owners’ main concern was that Carson City and neighboring counties (Lyon and Washoe) had not levied the 5-cent tax, and Douglas County residents would drive to out-of-town stations to purchase fuel.
Nevada Department of Taxation records for gallons sold show that this did not happen. By 1997, Carson City, Lyon and Washoe counties had imposed the 5-cent tax.
Given Douglas County’s loss of the $1 million per year and absence of revenue for transportation improvements cited in the 1996 Douglas County Master Plan, many community members believed this was a problem rapidly worsening. They learned that miles driven on our roads in the 1990s increased well over 200 percent, far exceeding the rate of population growth during the decade. A series of public meetings was held.
Participants included private citizens, businessmen, gasoline station owners, and representatives from the Nevada Department of Transportation, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and East Fork Fire Department, Douglas County’s various town boards and the Douglas County manager.
From the meetings and from work with consultants and Douglas County, a road safety and transportation improvements priorities list through the year 2020 was created.
The cost was estimated initially as $100 million. Some of that cost would be paid from ongoing revenues for maintenance and from new development. However, many projects, already outlined in the Master Plan, would require new revenue streams.
The Transportation 20/20 Committee was also a product of the meetings. The committee is spearheading the county 1-2-3 ballot measures and is working to achieve the objectives of safety, quality of life, equitable treatment and better county control over roads and transportation.
What are Measures No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3?
Measure No. 1 seeks voter approval of the 5-cent per gallon motor vehicle fuel tax to construct, maintain and repair Douglas County roads.
Three cents would be added July 1, 2003 and two cents on July 1, 2005. One cent is for the more than a dozen general improvement districts with road responsibilities (e.g., Topaz Ranch Estates, Kingsbury and Indian Hills) and the towns of Genoa, Minden and Gardnerville. If the full 5 cents had been in effect this year, about $1.2 million would be generated.
“Yes” on Measure No. 2 authorizes the county to collect 50 cents per square foot on new construction of non-residential buildings for county road projects.
Revenue from this source is linked to how much new commercial building space is constructed. An average of $100,000D$200,000 per year might be expected.
“Yes” on Measure #3 will allow the county to construct and repair roads, issue road bonds, or both, by increasing the county’s sales tax by .25 percent (one-quarter of one percent).
Revenue from this source in 2002 would approximate $1.4 million.
Why do the measures deserve the support of voters?
First, if voters share the Transportation 20/20 Committee’s concern for safety improvements and better maintained roads, passage of the ballot measures is crucial.
New revenue is needed for a long-term capital improvements plan that includes intersection improvements, new and widened roads, road resurfacing and restoration, bike and turn lanes, traffic signals and signs, and purchase of right of way.
New revenue also is essential for improvements that must be done in partnership with the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT). NDOT makes clear that little or no state support will materialize for projects lacking substantial county matching funds.
Second, residents each day experience the problems associated with our traffic. What once was a casual drive on Highway 395 through Gardnerville-Minden and from north valley to Carson City is now a trying experience. At Lake Tahoe, there are traffic bottlenecks along sections of Highway 50.
Yes on 1-2-3 will provide funds to enable construction of auxiliary roads and loop roads as alternative routes. Moreover, vehicles are more fuel efficient and emit less pollution when traffic moves smoothly versus stop and go conditions. Additionally, a “yes” vote will provide revenue that can be used for senior transportation and bike lanes.
The third reason for voting “yes” on county measures 1-2-3 involves sharing of costs by all users of our roads. Douglas County taxpayers should not have to pay the full cost of road and transportation improvements.
Through measures No. 1 and No. 3, non-residents and visitors buying motor vehicle fuel and other taxable products will be contributing more than at present. With Measure No. 2, new commercial development will be assessed a fee for road maintenance and improvement projects, as new residential homes already pay.
Fourth, support of 1-2-3 will help Douglas County officials fund and implement the transportation element of the Douglas County Master Plan.
Until revenues are available, the county cannot plan and carry out a quality, integrated road system.
In the course of its work and outreach to people in the community, the Transportation 20/20 Committee has received questions about proper expenditure of revenue collected from measures 1-2-3.
Nevada Revised Statutes prohibits transportation-related revenues from being used for non-transportation activities.
Douglas County has distinct budget accounts for distinct purposes, including roads and transportation. Reports are sent to the State of Nevada, which also audits county and local government records.
Another question asked is will the revenues from measures 1-2-3 be necessary if Douglas County population rowth is restrained. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Even if population growth is capped, the backlog of maintenance projects, the problems of traffic congestion, and the need for alternative routes through Carson Valley are today’s problem.
Voters are encouraged to learn more about “Yes on 1-2-3″ by obtaining a copy of the informative publication Transportation 20/20.” It provides a historical background, discusses ballot measures 1-2-3, identifies Nevada Revised Statutes in association with accountability, addresses specific projects that might be accomplished, and more.
To receive the document, call 775-790-1058 or write to the Transportation 20/20 Committee, P.O. Box 2037, Gardnerville, Nev. 89410.
The publication is also available by calling the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and by sending an e-mail to the committee at: email@example.com