TRPA could close Tahoe City office | SierraSun.com

TRPA could close Tahoe City office

Adam Jensen
Sun News Service

TAHOE CITY “-The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency will stop holding meetings at the North Shore and may close its Tahoe City office because of declining revenue and a smaller budget, according to a statement released Thursday.

South Shore-only meetings are part of several strategies to decrease the agency’s costs, including internal restructuring and freezes on hiring, training, travel and raises, according to the statement.

“We are certainly not immune from the effects of the current economic crisis and are facing some of the same dire circumstances as our local government partners,” TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub said in Thursday’s statement. “We are committed to weathering these tough times with minimal impact on our efforts to protect and restore Lake Tahoe.”

North Shore resident and Tahoe Lakefront Owners’ Association Executive Director Jan Brisco expressed concern that South Shore-only meetings could drive down public participation in TRPA decision-making at a critical time when a regional plan update remains unfinished

“It’s going to be especially difficult in winter months,” Brisco said.

The TRPA is also considering giving furloughs to some of the agency’s approximately 85 employees and closing offices one day each month, according to the statement.

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“Additional belt-tightening measures may be taken in coming months, depending on how the continuing economic downturn unfolds,” according to the statement. “Because of project application fee decreases and other budget impacts, the agency is taking a hard look at all expenses and overall operations.”

Closing the agency’s Tahoe City office entirely is also being examined, said TRPA spokesman Dennis Oliver.

“We want people to know were talking about it now so it isn’t a shock,” Oliver said.

The Tahoe City office opened in January 2007 as a way to improve customer service to North Shore residents.

But the office has been more of a drop-off and pick-up point for TRPA documents, rather than a place to have meetings between residents and agency staff, Brisco said.

Meetings between project applicants and planning agency staff at the Tahoe City office were envisioned by some when the Tahoe City office opened, Brisco said.

But those types of meeting were “very rare,” Brisco said.

“It really doesn’t make much economic sense to keep it going, really,” Brisco added.

Ways in which the agency can prevent the potential office closure and cutbacks from affecting customer service are being looked at, Oliver said.

“We hope the community will understand that public service is an integral component of our mission, and we regret any impacts to this area,” Singlaub said in the statement.