Douglas County ballot question seeks money for new senior center and library at Stateline |

Douglas County ballot question seeks money for new senior center and library at Stateline

Susie Vasquez

Douglas County officials want to develop a senior citizen center, community recreation center and cultural performing arts center in the Carson Valley. At Lake Tahoe, the county wants to build a senior citizen center and library.

Funding could come through the proposed Question 1, an estimated $27 million to $30 million and if approved, they would be funded through bonds and paid by an increase in Douglas County’s utility operator utility fees. The fee would be $5.61 a month, or $67.32 per year, according to ballot information.

The election will be held on Sept. 7.

Question 1 is an advisory vote. Douglas County commissioners will be making the decision and a “yes” vote urges them to approve the project.

Opponents say the plan is too expensive, ambiguous and grand. The private sector should have a chance to raise funds before committing tax dollars.

While those who oppose the ballot question haven’t gone on the record saying so, Valida McMichael, who is running for an open Douglas County Commission seat, says she opposes the plan because it puts the tax increase on the back of the seniors it is trying to serve.

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“I believe it is arrogant to tell a senior on a fixed income what they can or cannot afford,” McMichael says on her campaign Web site which lays out the case against Question 1. When contacted, McMichael declined to be interviewed, referring to her Web site.

“Should we risk those most vulnerable for building or in this case buildings? We have school space that we could rent out and use (which is) cheaper than construction of a new building,” McMichael said. “We have park buildings we could expand and/or use, (which is cheaper than a new building. There are gym/exercise businesses around the towns that will have to compete with government competition.”

Paul Lockwood, chairman of the Douglas County Senior Services Advisory Board, said they have tried to raise the money, but were only able to raise $50,000 of the $5 million needed for a new senior center.

“We appreciate the donations and we’ll use the money for furnishings, but for this type of public building, donations don’t make it,” he said.

The Nevada Legislature approved utility fees 10 years ago, a vehicle Douglas County has never used for infrastructure improvements, Lockwood said.

“The Legislature authorized counties to go as high as 5 percent, but we’re levying 3 percent,” Lockwood said. “We’ve laid out exactly which facilities will be built and when. The one thing we’ve tried not to be is ambiguous.”

The bonds will be issued in three phases, 24 months apart. The first bond for $10 million over 20 years, the second for $6 million over 10 years and the third, $14 million over 30 years.

The county would pay those costs through utility fees levied by one percent every 24 months, starting in January of 2005. Each 1-percent increment would generate an estimated $700,000 per year, sufficient to pay the debt on the bonds for the operation and maintenance of the facilities.

Plans also include a multi-use recreational center and performing arts center. A new public library and senior center at Stateline would be built in a two-story structure near Kahle Community Center .

Proponents argue the tax will fall more heavily on those households with fixed incomes, but Lockwood contends the burden will fall heaviest on casinos and businesses.

“They use a lot of electricity and they will be taxed the most,” Lockwood said. “People on fixed incomes would be using the least utilities.

“Any tax can create a hardship, but for a family of four, it won’t be that much money,” he said.

Question 1 provides funding for facilities that will benefit people of all ages, but the movement started with the need for a new senior center, Lockwood said.

The average cost to Douglas County taxpayers is $2,500 per month for each senior who can’t pay after placement in a nursing home. The cost of providing senior services and alternative service options like senior day care is very small compared to long-term care, the primary ballot said.

“A high priority in Douglas County is to help keep seniors in their homes where they can enjoy a vibrant lifestyle and contribute to our community,” the ballot said.