Utility may add philanthropy to portfolio | SierraSun.com

Utility may add philanthropy to portfolio

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra SunNorth Tahoe Public Utility District directors just approved the parks and recreation master plan, which requires the district to upgrade all the play equipment at North Tahoe Regional Park.
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The North Tahoe Public Utility District’s parks and recreation department has accomplished a lot over the past few years with few resources.

Among its recent successes were the construction of a new synthetic soccer field, a disc golf course and the Tahoe Vista Recreation Area.

Now the district’s parks and recreation department may add philanthropy to its list of accomplishments.

At a meeting Monday in Kings Beach, the district’s board of directors authorized the parks and recreation commission to start raising $10,000 in seed money to open a fund under the umbrella of the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation.

Such a fund would increase the recreation department’s access to private donations and support. It would also provide a mechanism that would allow private foundations, which are restricted from giving to public agencies, to donate to the recreation department.

“There are a lot of grants and foundations that cannot give money to a public entity,” Commissioner John Shuff told the board. “This gets you through that.”

Also on Monday, the board adopted the parks and recreation master plan, a document that will serve as a road map for the district’s parks and recreation department for at least the next five years.

First released in June as a draft planning document, the master plan outlines potential improvements to the district’s recreational opportunities, calling for upgraded playgrounds, a skate park, bike paths and community events.

“The document is a starting point,” Shuff said. “Let’s adopt the starting point.”

But directors stressed that the document is only for planning purposes, and that no project is set in stone, which is why the directors approved the plan without an environmental analysis.

“The master plan is a planning document,” said Neil Eskind, the district’s legal counsel. “It is not an adoption of the ingredients inside.”

Eskind also warned the directors that a fund opened with the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation may undermine the board’s authority and financial oversight.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” Eskind said. “My concern is that the way this is set up, it gives the recreation commission a detailed power over the board.”

Agency documentation indicates the parks and recreation commission would administer the money in the fund, with prior written approval from the district.

“[The recreation commission] has no business telling the board what to do,” Eskind said. “They’re an advisory [body] to the board.”

Director Frank Mooney also said he did not approve of the commission “administering” the fund.

“We’re partners with this Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation,” Mooney said. “Now we just need to have the relationship with the commission.”

The board gave permission to the recreation commission to raise the seed money for the fund, on the condition that Eskind rewrite aspects of the contract.

“If we’ve got to change a few words to make this thing work, let’s do it,” said board President Lane Lewis. “I think this is a great idea.”