Carson City board divided on utility connection fee hikes
Hefty utility connection fee increases in Carson City neared passage to a phased-in reality Thursday, but instead returned temporarily to the drawing board over spirited protest.
The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to ask the Utility Finance Oversight Committee to revisit the issue, thus returning the connection fees hike for developers of subdivisions, apartment structures and commercial buildings, including prospective industrial space, to that panel for additional input on the matter.
Both Ande Engleman, who heads the committee, and Darren Schulz, Public Works director, secured guidance on and made points about what the board wants or should expect when the proposal comes to the mayor and supervisors again later. Supervisor Brad Bonkowski, who made the motion, said he wanted more data before deciding,
Schulz indicated the proposed fees recommended by a consultant weren’t likely to change as they were keyed to usage, and Engleman also asked the board desires be clarified.
Supervisor Jim Shirk objected to the delay, calling it “wrong on every level” and saying the board didn’t hesitate when considering boosting rates for water and sewer use on residents.
”These rates have been low since 2009,” he said of the connection fees. “These rates are not bringing anybody here.”
The current low rates would be increased about tenfold in some cases over several years if implemented and thereby returned to near pre-recession levels.
Dorothy Timian-Palmer, a Carson City resident and city government’s utilities director in the 1980s, also urged a quick return to pre-recession hookup fees when she testified.
“I encourage you to raise (developers’) connection fees to the right level right now,” she said. “When they connect, they need to pay their fair share.”
She said Carson City years ago purchased water rights that made the city an attractive development place. She said in other places water rights must be brought along with connection fees paid by developers.
Connection fees are higher in nearby jurisdictions even with the proposed increases, according to the Public Works Department.
But there also was testimony regarding delay to get additional input at the committee level from the Builders Alliance and other commercial interests. Mark Turner, a local developer, testified more input was needed from commercial development interests. He said industries are looking at Carson City.
“This is a very competitive environment right now,” said Turner.
In other action, the board approved on first reading an ordinance to approve the Schulz Ranch Maintenance District Development Agreement for a south Carson City subdivision and approved a recommendation from staff to allow free Aquatic Facility use by Carson City residents who are residents with 100 percent military service-connected disabilities.