Business as usual for old utility district hands | SierraSun.com

Business as usual for old utility district hands

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

It’s decades down and four years to go for incumbents Pat Sutton and Ron Hemig, who were re-elected to the Truckee Donner Public Utility District board on Tuesday.

Both Hemig and Sutton voiced pleasure for their wins, but each said that this term would likely be the last go-round.

“If it turns out that I need to stay on, then I am open to talking about that. But right now, four years feels pretty good,” Hemig said. “I think the bigger issue is that the three other board members will be up for re-election in two years. If they all stay on there won’t be any big issue, but if they all leave, that will be bigger.”

The Truckee utility district faces a laundry list of issues to be addressed in the coming years, and at the top, per usual, is the district’s proposed broadband project. Hemig and Sutton both said they want the issue resolved as soon as possible.

“This started out as a way to get faster Internet, and the next thing you know we have to include cable TV and telephone services in order to make it economically feasible. And in the meantime, faster Internet is now available in Truckee,” Sutton said.

She said the district will be getting customer survey results back soon, perhaps in time for the board meeting next week.

“One of the first things necessary will be a re-examination and update of the business plan if the board decides that we want to pursue it,” Sutton said.

Also high on the list of priorities is finalizing a contract with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems to purchase coal-based energy from a plant outside Salt Lake City for 50 years, beginning in 2012.

“I’m quite sure the board is going to approve the contract and I support trying to secure that source of power generation for the district over the next 50 years,” Sutton said. “It would allow us to provide electricity more cheaply than most any other source.”

That takes care of the near future, but four years is a long time and allows for plenty of other projects to come before the board.

Of particular interest to Sutton is the possibility of bottling and selling Truckee’s spring water, an enterprise that she said will offer the district another source of revenue.

“It’s something I suggested about five years ago when bottled water started getting big,” Sutton said. “There are constraints on the exportation of water from the Truckee River Basin but that doesn’t seem to interfere with marketing it [locally].”

Hemig hasn’t voiced an interest in the water-bottling venture, but maintains that his eyes are on the future of the district.

“I think that, generally, I have accomplished quite a bit, but that is always in the eye of the beholder,” Hemig said. “I need to work harder to accomplish more of those specific goals and we’re not quite there yet.”