50 Years Later: KSL expansion, water issues on Squaw district’s radar
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a three-part series on the history of the Squaw Valley Public Service District, which was officially formed by Placer County on March 24, 1964. Parts one and two are written by Pete Bansen, chief of the Squaw Valley Fire Department. Read part on here, and part two here.
OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — With inches of snow piling up by the hour and less help than anticipated, Squaw Valley Public Service District’s move into its current building was less than ideal.
Despite that, the January 2005 transition from two buildings at 1810 Squaw Valley Road to one facility at 305 Squaw Valley Road had its benefits.
“It afforded so much more of a professional air to the operation,” said Pete Bansen, chief of the Squaw Valley Fire Department. “Everyone had enough space. … It was a huge improvement in the life of the organization.”
This Monday marks SVPSD’s 50th anniversary. It officially formed March 24, 1964, after the Placer County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution establishing the district and its boundaries.
It started as a water service district, acquiring several small water companies that had formed in response to subdivision development in the valley. Over the years it added sewer service in 1977 and fire operations in 1985.
“I think we’re the stewards of that tradition of where the valley was growing and developing and there was a need for a local organization to provide a level of service … (and) that’s exactly what we’re doing now,” Bansen said.
Today, the district serves the Olympic Valley community by providing water service, maintaining sewer lines, overseeing fire protection and emergency medical services, and contracting solid waste service.
“Our district doesn’t only serve our homeowners and our renters in the valley, but we take care of visitors who are skiing and staying here,” said Eric Poulsen, a SVPSD board director, whose parents, Wayne and Sandy Poulsen, helped form the district. “So we’re not the normal district that you might see in an urban area where you have all primary homeowners. We’re a little different.”
The fire department runs between 500 to 600 calls a year, with a coverage area extending from Cabin Creek Road to Alpine Meadows, Bansen said. In terms of water, the district serves 1,556 residential units and 39 commercial/institutional entities.
Demands on SVPSD’s water supply, sewer system and emergency services are expected to increase, should KSL’s Squaw Valley village expansion proposal be approved, said Mike Geary, SVPSD general manager.
“We have had at least a half a dozen big time developers come in here that wanted Squaw Valley to be their pie in the sky, so to speak, starting with Mainline back in ‘74 … and now we have KSL,” said Dale Cox, SVPSD board president. “And it’s just been a situation where this district has had to step up to the plate and do what’s needed to be done to provide services for those size of operations.”
Helping the district do that is it’s proactive approach to business instead of being reactive, Poulsen said. Other district characteristics include being diligent and researching topics thoroughly, Bansen added.
One issue the district has researched for years is identifying and securing a redundant water source for customers, as it has only one source — a 1-square-mile aquifer that ranges in depth from 75-150 feet, with the district’s five wells located near the village.
Having a secondary water source will provide backup should something happen to the primary, Geary said.
“We’re servants, basically,” he said. “We have a lot of bosses. It’s everyone who lives in this valley that pays property tax, uses water and pays their lift ticket … so we’ve got a lot of bosses, and we want to do a good job for each and everyone of them.”
That commitment will continue in the years to come despite potential changes on the horizon.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve that level of service — that we do so in a very transparent, accountable and financially responsible manner,” Bansen said. “That’s really the way we’ve done things and the way we’ll continue to do things going forward.”