Douglas OKs Minden water rate agreement

An agreement covering the cost of Minden water during the next five years was narrowly approved by Douglas County commissioners on Thursday.

Commissioners Barry Penzel and Nancy McDermid sought a shorter-term agreement that could be revised after two years.

Minden’s largest wholesale customer is Carson City, whose public works director expressed frustration at the process on Thursday.

Carson City Public Works Director Darren Schulz told commissioners he was involved when the plan to run a pipeline from Minden was first proposed.

“We are the envy of many other parts of the state,” he said. “It was a win-win-win the way it was modeled back then.”

Schulz agreed the water rates should be based on a rate study.

“We are, as the city, frustrated with the process,” he said. “We agree 100 percent that there should be a rate study to look at actual costs. Our dismay has been with the process.”

Schulz said capital representatives didn’t feel like they were a full partner in discussions over the new rates.

“Our comments were generally left unheard,” Schulz said. “We appreciate that when it came down to the wire the county was able to negotiate and bring it down.”

Minden resident Bob Pohlman said the town has had to change its operations because of the wholesale water system.

“They only put a tank in because of the water system,” he said. “It’s amazing what you expect from Minden.”

One Minden water customer expressed dissatisfaction with what comes out of his tap when he turns it.

Ranch at Gardnerville resident Harry Ernst pointed out the water he gets from the town is emerald green with bacteria.

Because the Ranch is built across the two towns, it’s served by Minden instead of the Gardnerville Water Co., which provides water to neighboring Chichester Estates.

Gardnerville Ranchos resident Terry Faff continued his campaign to get the county to take over the Ranchos general improvement district.

Faff, who owns three-quarters of an acre near Carson Valley Golf Course and has a large lawn, is opposed to the implementation of meters in Douglas County’s largest community.

He claims his water rate is going to triple when the meter is installed, though it’s more likely his bill is going to be what triples.

Neighboring Gardnerville Water Co. requires meters, as does the county.

Commissioner Steve Thaler, a former Minden Town Board member, said the pipeline to Carson City saved a lot of money.

“Actual Minden customers are going to see their rates go up more than the county is going to get billed,” he said. “They’re going in the hole $220,000 based on the old rate that we guessed on. People are making the argument Minden is getting rich on the water. You don’t get rich on enterprise funds.”

Douglas County Public Works Director Carl Ruschmeyer estimated the increase would cost 71 percent per meter equivalent for the first fiscal year.

He said eventually the county will have to debate water rates for its customers, just as Carson City and Indian Hills may.

McDermid expressed concern about a U.S. Geological Survey study done for the Carson Water Subconservancy that was inconclusive as to whether Minden would face an increase in arsenic.

It was the federal lowering of the arsenic standard to a fifth of its previous level near the turn of the century that forced Indian Hills and East Valley to find cleaner water sources.

Penzel said he was concerned arsenic levels would be further reduced. He also expressed concern about pharmaceuticals getting into the water table after being flushed down the toilet.

The previous agreement was also for five years. The rate for 1,000 gallons went up from 69.4 cents to 77.9 cents effective July 1. That means an increase of $27.69 an acre foot.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average family uses 400 gallons a day in their home.


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