Utility board rejects a Kings Beach vote
In a divided vote Tuesday, the North Tahoe Public Utility District board of directors rejected conducting an advisory vote of its ratepayers on the Kings Beach Commercial Core Improvement project.
With a 3-2 vote at its regular meeting, the board chose not to plunge into the controversy over whether the project should include two or four lanes of traffic, or roundabouts versus traffic signals.
But deeper issues concerning the district’s involvement in the project surfaced during the discussion.
Director Sue Daniels requested the item be placed on the agenda, saying “our community has been asking for help.” She and Director Jeff Lanini supported the advisory vote, while the other directors voted against it.
In the absence of a municipal government in Kings Beach, the district’s authority and role in the community becomes blurred, Lanini said.
The district’s jurisdiction, as defined by the state, is water, sewer and parks, but many constituents look to the district as a local authority, he said.
“We will have to look at [the commercial core project] because in reality we’re the only agency that can,” Lanini said afterward in a phone interview. “De facto, we’re the municipality. We’re aware of the responsibility.”
Concerns over the district’s role in sidewalk maintenance further complicates its involvement.
“We are sitting patiently, waiting for someone to ask us if we would be involved in the long-term maintenance,” Lanini said.
And if the district is asked, he said, then they would have to determine how to pay for ongoing maintenance.
In turning down the advisory vote, the directors maintained a neutral position on the proposed lane alternatives, although some involvement in the process was encouraged.
“I think we should not have a role in expediting the political process. I think we should have a role in participating,” said Director John Bergman.
A lack of funding also dissuaded several members from voting in favor of the advisory vote, which would have likely cost the district $6,500.
“I cannot honestly take any [district] money [for the advisory vote],” said board President Lane Lewis. “That money should remain there because that’s what people paid for.”
A motion was passed to clarify the boundaries of the district’s participation in the commercial core project.
General Manager Steve Rogers, who has been involved in the Main Street design committee, was directed to continue participating and provide reports to the committee, but not to vote for a preferred outcome.
“Staff is free to pursue their own political desires,” Lanini said. “But, they have to do it on their own time, without compensation from the rest of the public.”