Election: North Tahoe PUD candidates square off | SierraSun.com

Election: North Tahoe PUD candidates square off

Margaret Moran

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — The Kings Beach State Recreation Area, Dollar Creek Shared-Use Trail and North Tahoe Event Center were among topics discussed by the two candidates running for Seat 3 on the North Tahoe Public Utility District board at a political forum Tuesday in Tahoe City.

Sue Daniels (incumbent) and Sarah Coolidge are vying for the four-year seat in the Nov. 4 election.

Below is a sampling of some of their comments on larger issues, presented in random order:

On the state taking over the Kings Beach State Recreation Area …

Daniels: "… I think the PUD did a great job managing it over the last few years, and it really wasn't the PUD's fault that it was taken away. The process really stemmed from the fact that the state parks (was) not happy with the Kings Beach Commercial Core and the design as the parking lot was going to be changed. … Placer County came and made a deal to help with the water easements for the groundwater that they were putting through and to have a staging area. Once they made the deal, they just said, 'OK, thank you very much North Tahoe PUD, but we now have another deal, we're going to move on,' so that is how they took it."

Coolidge: "What I see that entire incident about is an example of the inability to work together for a solution for all of us that fits all of our community. I feel as though the state and the PUD could have come up with something that did not involve taking away that. … If we could have simply worked together in a more collaborative way to begin with, I think we could have prevented it completely."

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On moving the Dollar Creek Shared-Use Trail forward …

Coolidge: "I definitely do think we should take steps to build the trail, and I think it's unfortunate that it's taken 26 years for us to be having this conversation right now. It has been that long since we originally got that land and were given the grants … to build the trail. I know (the California Tahoe Conservancy is) asking for us to come up with a plan before Dec. 1, which is a pretty short timeframe when you consider we've already had 26 years to work on it, but I do believe that they are saying this in an effort to get us moving … This is a great recreational asset that we want in our community. In my opinion, … people that come here come for recreation, (so) why would we not want it and build it as soon as we can."

Daniels: "Many things had been done by the North Tahoe PUD (for the trail). We had channeled financing throughout the CTC to get the EIRs done and to get land acquisitions and easements. The process was stopped (in) a couple of different places mostly because the CTC had run out of funding when the state lost its funding ability. Lisa O'Daly came to several of our meetings telling us that they could not fund the future development of it, so at that point we did turn over simply the development stages, the permitting stages to the CTC to return back to the PUD for construction. The CTC then turned over to Placer County and asked them to do the construction, so they are the ones that took it and moved it on. Placer County has been able to do a first segment because they are able to get grant funding for two miles. We were trying to do eight miles, but we did do a lot of the work toward that. I think it's an amenity that everybody wants and can happen whether we build it or not."

On Making the North Tahoe Event Center more profitable …

Daniels: … "Placer County has been hoping to find centers that would enable more performing arts, and they've got a lot of wishes and a lot of hopeful money coming, but I would love to see the North Tahoe Event Center turn into a partial performing arts center, too. It's a beautiful venue for that. The building would probably also need to be remodeled to some point to allow for bigger rooms … and we could have larger wedding parties and things like that. I love art shows, and I would love to have art venues where artists can come in and show their work. … But it is a community center … I think our center should be supported by our local government and our North Tahoe Resort Association."

Coolidge: "One of the challenges that I see with the event center is if you wanted to run conventions there, you would have to have a place that people could sleep. … We don't have enough beds in Kings Beach, Tahoe Vista area, and some of them are not up to the quality that people would expect, and that's unfortunate because we could certainly do more if addressed. I don't see any reason to make big plans to remodel a convention center if we are losing money on it now. Why would we spend more money in it until we can make sure that we can have viable programs that do earn money. Some of the things I would like to see is turning from a focus of weddings, which most of us only get married once or maybe twice, (to) looking at something that we could have repeated annually but every month. During our slower (months) — September, October, November — some kind of a signature event that we can have here that's fun, that's different. … The kinds of things that you see in the AAA magazine, bringing people to our area for that."

On the NTPUD's role …

Daniels: "… I do believe more in a smaller government. I don't feel that the North Tahoe PUD is our main government to the area. Placer County is our main government. I would like to think that what we are trying to do is offer good, clean water and get the sewer out of the basin, but recreation is something that's dear to my heart. … I would try to enhance the recreation much more than it is right now. It does seem like the little stepchild and it has a hard time, but … we do not have the tax revenue like Tahoe does."

Coolidge: "I disagree. I think that the North Tahoe Public Utility District is our local government. It may not be the only government we have, but it's our local government. It's right here, and it's ours, and so I feel as though we could do a way better job of leading the people in our area even if it is just water, sewer and recreation. Recreation is also important to me, but I don't want to settle for raising taxes in order to get more money for recreation. I know that it is easier to get money for sewer and water because you can raise the rates and recreation is always a challenge, but to me recreation is why we all live here. … I know there are other, more creative ways to partner with other recreation providers, increase services."

On the idea of merging with Tahoe City PUD …

Coolidge: "The last I heard this was studied about 20 years ago, and I don't think that kind of study is relevant now. To be honest, unless we had a study of what the current interest is with people in our community about that, I certainly cannot say what I would do one way or the other because I believe that has to have community input. I would encourage that kind of study to be done, if people want it, but I couldn't make a decision based on that kind of old material."

Daniels: "Yes, the study had been done years ago. Basically, most of what the study said is that we would see an increase in cost to the people in the North Tahoe PUD. The reason is that the Tahoe City PUD generally has a better wage for the workers, and while we would still need all of our Indians, we might lose a few chiefs in the process. … Currently, our water rates are at about the same as the Tahoe City PUD, but they are planning to raise their rates and North Tahoe is not at this point, so I think water rates would go up for the people of the North Tahoe side. … So by merging we might have increased costs, however I would love to merge recreation programs … sharing facilities and sharing programs."

On Future issues for the NTPUD …

Daniels: "We need to maintain the integrity of the water and sewer systems. We have done a great start at replacing and bringing ourself into the 21st century. … The piping that we're putting in now is supposed to last another 50 years, and I feel really good about what we are doing. The second would be to enhance recreation."

Coolidge: "… No. 1 to maintain the stability that we have in water and sewer. This is fabulous what we've built, and what we've got going on there, and I would not do anything to undermine that, so that would be No. 1. No. 2 I would work to increase collaboration. … (No. 3) Finding ways to build funds besides taxing."