Question 1 opponents call process flawed |

Question 1 opponents call process flawed

Susie Vasquez
Shannon Litz / Tribune News Service / Carson Valley residents pack the CVIC Hall in Minden for the Community Town Hall Debate last week to hear a debate on Question 1 and candidates for county commission.

MINDEN – Opponents of a plan to build a senior center in Carson Valley and a library and senior center at Stateline say they don’t oppose the idea, but the chosen process is flawed.

“The county commissioners opted for pork barrel politics, piling one project on top of another,” Rick Campbell said Wednesday at a debate in Minden. “They know people will vote for the senior center, so the rest of the projects are a shoo-in. Each (commissioner) should be profoundly ashamed.”

The $30 million project includes a recreation center, performing arts center in the Carson Valley, and a senior center and library in Stateline. The issue will go before Douglas County voters on Sept. 7.

Campbell and Faff debated the issue before a full house at the CVIC Hall Wednesday, pitted against proponents Sue Slocum and Margaret Colescott.

Question 1 is an advisory vote, so a “yes” vote would urge Douglas County commissioners to approve the project. Construction would be financed through bonds and paid for by an increase in Douglas County’s utility operator fees, which would amount to an increase of about $5.77 a month.

“Once approved, the commissioners can take the $30 million and spend it in any way they please,” Faff said. “I have problems with the numbers, not the projects.”

The estimated $6.5 million for a senior center could balloon for this long-term project, much like the Carson Valley Swim Center, which costs taxpayers over $700,000 to maintain, he said.

“Right now, the senior center costs $450,000 to maintain, but costs for the new 32,000-square-foot (facility) is projected as less than double,” Faff said. “I’m having difficulty with the numbers and the facts.”

County Manager Dan Holler said Question 1 is the product of extensive research involving 63 public hearings since February of 2001.

“We looked at property, sales and room taxes, but we have no authority by state law to levy them,” Holler said.

Grants and donations are not a stable source of funding for projects of this scope, leading to the decision to impose utility fees, Holler said.

The project would be initiated in phases over four years. The first 1 percent utility fee increase would be imposed in 2005, another in 2007 and the third and last, in 2009. After construction, the fees would remain in place for maintenance and operation costs and should drop to 2 percent by the year 2020.

“After years of looking at all the possibilities, we’ve decided on a long-term approach,” Colescott said. “Everyone will share in the cost of building this long-term project.”

Slocum said the new senior center would provide additional services, like senior day care for senior citizens and Alzheimer’s patients.

“With skyrocketing health care costs, this is one of the most affordable ways of meeting the needs of our senior citizens,” she said. “Douglas County pays $2,500 monthly for the nursing home patients who qualify for Medicare and $5,000 for those who don’t.

Campbell said he is solidly opposed to a performing arts center even though he grew up in the motion picture and television industry and majored in theater arts.

Colescott said the performing arts center would serve the four dance studios and 800 students in the Carson Valley, in addition to the violin school and Pops orchestra. Schools could use the venue for concerts, and the community theater is returning after a 10-year hiatus.

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