KINGS BEACH, Calif. — The North Tahoe Public Utility District Board of Directors has decided the district has no obligation to maintain sewer lines and pumps within the private property of the Chinquapin subdivision near Dollar Hill.
In a 5-0 vote, directors agreed the PUD will not accept ownership of Chinquapin’s sewer system — some of which it had agreed to maintain on an interim basis since 1987 — after a four-and-a-half-hour special meeting Wednesday at the North Tahoe Event Center.
The Chinquapin Homeowners Association had requested the meeting to determine if the HOA ever offered dedication of its sewer system to NTPUD, and if the district ever accepted that dedication. About 40 people attended the meeting, most identifying themselves on a sign-in sheet as Chinquapin residents.
Chinquapin, a 172-unit complex located at Dollar Cove, was built in the early 1970s. Despite documents from the early ‘70s showing intent of subdividers to build the sewer system, and with Placer County approval, hand it over to NTPUD for ownership, maintenance and operation, the NTPUD board agreed Wednesday that for whatever reason, the necessary document of resolution to maintain the system was never signed, and without that document, intent is meaningless.
Despite that, Placer County Planning Director Michael Johnson said he believes NTPUD does have the responsibility to maintain Chinquapin sewers.
“This is a very clear obligation,” he said.
After the 5-0 vote, the board voted 4-1 for the PUD to fully transfer responsibility of sewer maintenance to CHOA, effective Nov. 22, 2013.
Director Phil Thompson, the lone dissenter, said he hoped the board would be willing to negotiate a settlement fair to both parties.
“To just cut them off doesn’t seem right to me,” he said.
Attorney Jim Porter, representing CHOA, disagreed with the votes.
“This board is hanging its hat on a missing resolution,” he said.
He said in the early 70s, sewers were new to Tahoe, replacing septic tanks, and that Placer County wanted to ensure the safety of the lake by having sewer maintenance conducted by utility districts.
Porter argued that three other multi-unit complexes at Tahoe have private property sewers maintained by NTPUD. Directors countered, saying that only the common main lines passing through the three complexes were maintained.
Porter also pointed to the fact CHOA has paid NTPUD fees and taxes on their sewer system the past 40 years. NTPUD board members said those fees and taxes were to maintain the main common sewer lines, pump stations and treatment facilities — fees incurred by all PUD subscribers.
According to the district, in 2013 all homeowners serviced by the PUD must maintain their own sewer lines to the point where they join the district’s common line. If the PUD were to absorb the cost of maintenance within Chinquapin, all customers’ charges would increase by about $13 per month.
As part of the second vote, the district would be willing within the next six months to negotiate a maintenance charge as an outside contractor, but there would be no subsidization by other PUD customers, and NTPUD would not be held liable for any issues with the system.
Frank Fisher is a freelance reporter for the Sierra Sun.