Voters put up road block to snow removal fee hike | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Voters put up road block to snow removal fee hike

Amanda Fehd

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Ron Svetlik, a city heavy equipment mechanic, inspects the hydraulic lines on a 35-year-old snowblower.

Transportation officials are disappointed in the apparent defeat of two measures Tuesday that would have funded the replacement of snow removal equipment.

Measure R, a city of South Lake Tahoe proposal to double a yearly snow removal fee to $40, with a 3 percent increase per year, failed with 54 percent “no” votes.

Measure S would have increased county fees from $20 to $50. It failed with 52 percent of voters voting “yes.” Both measures needed two-thirds approval to pass.

City transportation officials have said their equipment is so outdated that when parts fail, they’ve had to forge their own.

Streets superintendent Scott Rogers empathized with a public that seems constantly called upon to pay more taxes, whether for schools, libraries or police and fire departments.

“I can certainly understand people that don’t want to pay more taxes out there,” Rogers said. “It’s kind of the mood of the public. We all feel that way.”

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The only way to move forward was through the “politicians,” he said, who could vote to use money from the general fund to pay for newer equipment.

City Councilmember Mike Weber said Rogers’ department got $700,000 more this year than last in street maintenance money from the city’s funds and wondered if some could be used for buying equipment.

“It’s going to be up to the council to figure out what else we can do, if anything,” Weber said. “If there’s something else we can do, why did we propose it in the first place?”

Older equipment means higher maintenance costs, said Richard Shepard, El Dorado County transportation director. The county does use other tax money to pay for equipment, but there are many services competing for funds.

“Just because the measure didn’t pass, doesn’t mean the existing equipment will fail,” Shepard said. “What it does do is cause a tighter pinch and makes everyone tighten up the belt and figure out how we are going to prioritize.”

Councilman John Upton said he’s disappointed but not surprised. “I think the council did the right thing in trying to come forward with a measure that had long-term stability,” he said, adding that he would like to see the measure return in June.

But Councilman Hal Cole said Measure R might have been more successful without the 3 percent increase.

“I would have rather have asked for just what we need,” he said.

Voter Ty Baldwin said he was happy with the outcome because he was offended by the 3 percent increase.

– Tribune staff writer Susan Wood contributed to this report.

Results

Measure S: city snow removal

YES 1128 52.1 percent

NO 1035 47.8 percent

Measure R: county measure

YES 1278 45.7 percent

NO 1515 54.2 percent

Both required a two-thirds vote to pass.

Source: El Dorado County Elections Office, final results not yet certified.