Guest Column: Protest " it is your right

Ron Treabess
Tahoe City

Do you really believe we are mis-spending capital improvement reserve dollars that you have entrusted us to manage? Some are circulating a form protest letter that states exactly that ” with no back-up information or evidence.

As one of your Tahoe City Public Utility District elected representatives, I have held back from reacting to the misinformation I am seeing in posters, form letters, e-mails and blogs. But some of you are now asking that I respond in this forum.

As any of you who know me understand, engaging in a confrontation is absolutely not my style. This District was formed 70 years ago locally, to be run here locally, and accountable here locally. So please ask for, and demand the facts from us. E-mail any of us, come to a meeting, ask us to come to your meeting, stop us and ask for the answers and explanations.

Don’t be uncomfortable with challenging us. Ask for proof. You deserve it.

We certainly don’t run for the Board to make enemies or cause harm in our community. We serve because we believe that the foundation of local government is truly the community coming together to solve problems that can’t be solved individually.

The proposed rate increases are for projects ” and only the highest priority projects. In the last 70 years your District leaders have a proven and undeniable record of not asking for funds from you that weren’t needed.

Rate increases have always received serious debate and consideration and have been kept as low as possible. Please see the rate history from the last 23 years that appears on the website (

The proposed rates are our recommendation on how to equitably and fairly fund the projects that must be undertaken to meet current mandates and infrastructure needs. After 18 months of public hearings and intense scrutiny, the Board made the difficult decision to move forward with the proposed rates. These rates are much lower than those initially recommended as necessary to fund the required projects.

But we knew we couldn’t do it all. Only those that are most critical to your health and safety are proposed to be funded through these rate increases.

Here are some quick facts that are documented, led to the proposed rate increases, and that can be fully substantiated:

– Our water wells are declining.

– Recent State mandates have cost you millions.

– Fire danger is a growing factor in our region, and some areas in our district don’t have adequate fire flows or hydrants.

– Your current TCPUD rates are lower, and will remain lower than many other water and sewer rates in and around our very own community.

– Our operating costs are managed closely and carefully.

– We have not hired additional staff in more than 20 years. We have fewer staff per customer than our neighboring districts.

– We have capped benefits, instituted $1 million in budget reductions, have directed staff to prepare quarterly reports for additional budget reductions, and continue to pursue all potential grant funding.

– Monthly, the Finance Committee of the Board reviews each and every check written and any of you can attend and ask detailed questions.

Keep asking your questions and demanding answers ” we will provide the information.

I can assure you of one more thing. When we started this process several years ago, and even during the final decision making process, the economy had not hit this low point. The Board and you can and will work together to make sure that the rates that are implemented in future years are not at the maximum level permitted ” just what is proven to be necessary as we move forward.

Check our website. Look through the documents that analyze this District. Read our Frequently Asked Questions which specifically address some of the misleading statements being made. Ask more questions. Challenge statements that just don’t seem to make sense. It is the responsibility of each of us to really check out the facts rather than automatically accepting one person’s interpretation of the issues.

I encourage everyone to attend TCPUD’s next open house to review your water bills and consumption data, water conservation information, the district’s operations, and the list of capital projects to be accomplished with the proposed rates.

The open house will be Wednesday, Feb. 18, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. You can stop by at anytime during that day and staff will be available to answer questions and provide additional information. If this isn’t convenient please call the Tahoe City Public Utility District (583-3796) to make an appointment with staff or one of your Board Directors.

You elected us to represent you and we need your assistance in order to do so.

Protest the rates because you believe that is the best course of action for our community ” it is your right. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the outcome won’t have impacts.

Whose homes shouldn’t have adequate fire protection? What happens if the wells decline to the point they no longer provide adequate water? And just where were those many capital improvement reserve dollars spent that some are saying the Board misspent?

Was it the replacement of water lines along Marlette Drive and Observation Drive or the McKinney water line replacement? How about the new 1.2 million gallon water tank and pump station in the Highlands, or the new sewer pump station at Harbor Master? Then there was the needed fire-resistant pump houses and generators, the replacement of the water line on Edgewater Drive caused by the County’s erosion control project, and the new residential water meters mandated by the State.

I think you agree that these have all been very necessary capital improvement projects.

I would be the first to sign the protest form letter ” if any of it were true. These tactics shouldn’t work amongst us, in our small community. You can get the audits, the reports, the facts, and you can make your own decision. I ask you to do so. You should want to do so. Thanks for your consideration.

Ron Treabess is the director of the Tahoe City PUD.

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