Millenium countdown: 1970
Paper: Nevada Appeal – 29 days to the millennium – Sunday, Aug. 2, 1970
Owner: Donald W. Reynolds
General Manager: Jack D. King
Editor: Zane Miles
Advertising Manager: James Collins
Circulation Manager: Robert Goertz
Production Manager: Paul W. Stuke
Published daily except Saturday at 102 S. Division St.
A Nevada owned member Donrey Media Group.
Water deal, negotiations under fire
By Kelli Du Fresne
The Nevada Appeal in its weekend edition for Sunday, Aug. 2, 1970, on its editorial page published local government reporter Tom Wixon’s program of players surrounding the complaints and the city’s early trials to purchase the Carson Water Co.
The purchase didn’t take place for another two years, and the company continued for a time after the city’s purchase as somewhat of a comedy of errors, with field personnel making repairs with bailing wire and innertubes, but has since reformed into a more professional operation.
Today, Carson residents enjoy lower water rates than those in nearby communities. However, in 1970, some water company customers were hit with increases of more than 100 percent.
Carson City Finance Director Dave Heath said the city will evaluate the city’s current water rate structure in January. There have been no increases in water rates since 1993. However, the installation of new meters may have increased residents’ bills by about 10 percent as the older meters were off about that far on their readings.
Heath said he thinks it will be difficult to go back to the public and ask for more money in light of the increases due to the meters.
Residential water rates for Carson residents are based on the amount of water used.
The base charge is $8.10 for a five-eighth size meter.
Monthly service charge is $4.50.
Residents pay 40 cents per thousand gallons for the first 5,000 gallons.
For the next 10,000 gallons, residents are billed at 60 cents per thousand gallons.
Those using more than 35,000 gallons pay 83 cents per thousand gallons.
Those who use more than 50,000 gallons pay $1.30 per 1,000 gallons
Sewer is billed at $1.82 per 1,000 gallons and is based on the average amount of water used during four winter months.
In 1970, the Appeal was keeping track of the complaints being lodged by residents.
Under the headline:
– Sometimes clear (see seldom)
– sometimes murky (see often)
– sometimes babbling (see politicians)
Wixon wrote: “You can’t tell the players without a program,” goes an old saying, so here’s a program designed to acquaint the conscientious water hassle-watcher with a complete listing of the characters and the parts they play.
The program is necessary because two meetings held last week to clear up the argument did nothing but cloud the issue.
(Characters listed alphabetically).
Carson Water Co. -Home of ear-worn officials (see Sullivan, Tom), a smelly well, and a rate table nobody seems to be able to figure out with any regularity. Hoping to sell out to city (see Etchemendy, Henry) before angry citizens march on office, for purposes of liberation and shut down the well.
Collins, Mary – Housewife who initiated protest against quality and price of city water. Circulating petition to defeat other bond issues until water is made palatable and inexpensive. Delivers rousing speeches, says water is “lousy,” known as pain in the neck to officials.
Etchemendy, Henry -City manager, involved in negotiations with water company on proposed purchase. Refuses to divulge asking price, says it would jeopardize talks. Said city purchase would not necessarily mean rates get lowered.
Gottschalk, George -City supervisor, blasted Public Service Commission for granting substantial rate increase two months after it happened. Called increase “highly unjust.” Was called “off base” for same remarks by John Bullis, candidate for his seat, who asked where Gottschalk was when hearings were held. Has maintained low profile ever since.
Hobart – State owned reservoir which supplies state facilities in Carson City and has abundance of dirty water. Hailed as answer to city’s water problems (see Homer, John) if and when city buys water company.
Homer, John – Republican state assemblyman who will be happy to tell you he’s been fighting water company, PSC and everybody else for four years on behalf of the people. “I’m glad to see somebody joining me,” he’s quick to say. Specializes in off the cuff remarks, refers to PSC as “Public Suffocation Commission.” Got into picture early. Not one to lose ground, called public meeting day after first meeting called (see Meder, John) for day after first meeting held.
Jacobsen, Lawrence – Republican state assemblyman, chairman of legislative committee which produced Marlette Lake study. Says Marlette only feasible water source for Carson. Swung into action late, hasn’t had time to state full position. Put him somewhere next to Homer.
Lamb, William – President of Southwest Gas Corp. and National Republican Committeeman from Nevada. Keeping virtually nonexistent profile, never been heard, often talked about, usually in connection with PSC (for which, see).
Marlette Water System -The whole system, including Marlette Lake and Hobart reservoir. Loses half its watershed annually due to run off. Inadequate facilities for water storage, which could be remedied at fantastic cost, and undoubtably will be. (see Pocketbook).
Meder, John -City supervisor who called first public meeting to get information on nature of complaints from citizens, most of whom live in his district.
Pocketbook – Yours, whimpering in pain.
Public Service Commission (PSC) – three members, appointed by Republican (see Lamb, William) governor for four-year terms. Often called culprits (see Gottschalk, George) and verbally abused (see Homer, John) for granting rate increase which was more than 100 per cent in many cases.
Southwest Gas Corp. -Parent company of Carson Water Co. Probably can’t wait to unload the outfit. Wishes publicity would die down.
Sullivan, Thomas -Beleaguered manager of water company. Just doing his job. Accused of staying away from his phone a lot (see Collins, Mary). Made statement that complaints received by residents have been cleared up to company’s satisfaction; probably wishes he hadn’t.
Supervisors, Board of -Another group keeping relatively low profile. Sometimes criticized for not protesting rate hike back in February with both hands and both feet. Did, however, register weak complaint with heavy emphasis on fire hydrant rental rates. Suffering from lack of authority to solve the problem, which is probably a relief for some of them.
Both ballot questions in 1970 failed. It’s impossible to know if Collins’ petition drive was successful, but the city’s bids for more than $1 million were not approved by voters.
The sewer question asked if the city should sell in $725,000 in sewer bonds and the fire station question asked for the sale of $300,000 in fire station bonds. The sewer question lost 2,951 to 2,110. The fire question lost 2,617 to 2,545.
The next year, voters approved a $5.7 million water acquisition bond in a special election June 8, 1971.
Henry “Hank” Etchemendy, Carson City’s first city manager, said he thinks the city paid about $2 million for the water company and then spent the rest of the bond money on making immediate repairs.
“A lot of immediate repairs were needed,” he said
Etchemendy was born and raised in Elko and served as the city manager for the Elko from 1955 until July 1, 1966, when he came to Carson.
“I was hired as the city manager for Carson City and as county manager for Ormsby County at the same time,” he said. “Both the city council and county commissioners were in favor of consolidation and were going that way. The position was created with the idea of going that way.”
Former City Mayor James Robertson said hiring Etchemendy was a good decision.
“When you hire a city manager for the first time you better get a good one,” Robertson said. “When I met Hank Etchemendy he was city manager in Elko and I knew right away we got a good guy.”
Though the water hassle brought out the ire of Wixon, Etchemendy said the decision was based on common sense.
“The gas company determined they wanted to concentrate forever on natural gas and didn’t want to run the water company,” he said. “They indicated they wanted to sell and it only made sense that a municipality buy it.
“It was absolutely a good decision. Municipalities have access to federal money for water improvements. Only cities and counties can contract for improvements to pay with grants and things that are not built into the rate base. It was good business for the people to buy that water system. They got more than their money’s worth out of it.”
Etchemendy left Carson in April 1978 to take the city manager position for Reno. Two years later, he retired.
Etchemendy said he enjoyed “every minute” of his time as Carson’s city manager.
“It’s a job you don’t do unless you can do it and feel good about it,” he said. Every job has its good and bad moments, but you’ve got to do something. That was as good a job as any.”
Keeping history straight:
The names of Keith Macdonald and Lee Adler were misspelled in Wednesday’s edition.