IVGID GM’s corner: District provides service – not profits – to the community | SierraSun.com

IVGID GM’s corner: District provides service – not profits – to the community

Steve Pinkerton

A small group of our community members are constantly challenging IVGID staff to run our venues like a “private business.” They believe that if we ran the venues like a private business, there would be no need for a recreation facilities fee.

These same people also accuse me of being a lifelong civil servant who only knows how to tax and spend.

First of all, I don’t feel that I need to apologize for spending the last 37 years of my life serving the public. Second, I’ve also participated in a number of private ventures and have first hand knowledge of how to run a business in the private sector.

Finally, I’d like to reinforce that IVGID is a government entity and in the business of providing service, not profits, to its citizens.

“I’d like to reinforce that IVGID is a government entity and in the business of providing service, not profits, to its citizens.”

As a lifelong civil servant, I’m also well aware of the need to gauge the service we provide at a level that is consistent with the demands of the public, and it is my duty to deliver that service as cost-effectively as possible.

The bundle of services we provide here at IVGID are a combination of must-haves such as water and sewer and nice-to-haves such as parks, open space and recreation. It wasn’t IVGID that requested that we provide those nice-to-haves — it was the community.

When the private sector wanted to sell off our beaches, they convinced IVGID to take on this responsibility. In fact, the original Facilities Fee was created in order to finance and maintain our beaches.

When the private sector was not operating our local golf courses and ski area at a level commensurate with the values of our community, IVGID purchased these venues at the behest of the community. The Facilities Fee became the vehicle to purchase and operate these venues at a level desired by our stakeholders.

When the community had the opportunity to leverage county funds to build a Recreation Center, after considerable public dialogue, IVGID agreed to take on the responsibility.

The ongoing operation of our venues has always been a compromise between running the venues cost-effectively and operating the venues in a manner consistent with the desires of the community.

For example, the 1986 Master Plan for Diamond Peak along with later studies identified the need for an expanded Main Lodge and improved facilities for ski rentals and ski lessons.

If Diamond Peak were a purely for-profit operation, those improvements would have been built in the early 1990s instead of 2008-2010. Instead most of the improvements over that 20-year period were focused on amenities important to the local residents such as new chairlifts and enhanced snowmaking.

The ski area also provides residents with lift ticket rates that are the lowest in the region. Despite these constraints to “operating like a business,” Diamond Peak consistently outperforms every other small ski area in the Pacific West.

For much of the past 20 years, our Championship Golf Course has attempted to balance the desires of our local golfers — who want high service at a low cost — with the need to have adequate tee times for golfers willing to pay market rate for our course. I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve managed to strike a healthy balance between these two competing interests.

With great cooperation from our golf clubs, our course requires nominal support from our Facilities Fee and was recently ranked 19th in the country for customer service and golfer experience. I seriously doubt we would be ranked among the top one percent of golf courses if profit was our sole motive for operation.

Now, I realize that not every community member plays golf, skis/snowboards or goes to the Rec Center. In fact, probably less than half our residents use any single amenity other than our beaches. However, I have met very few citizens who have an issue with paying the Facilities Fee. I’ve had citizens note that they pay well over $1,000 per year, just for one week’s use of their timeshare at the Hyatt. They find the Facilities Fee an incredible bargain.

As one citizen wrote to me this week: “I use our beaches and golf courses, but I think I should support all the other venues, just like I pay taxes to support state and national parks, beaches, etc. It is a quality of life issue.”

I’m a firm believer that the ultimate vote we all make is with our feet — and that the vast majority of our community lives here because of the amenities IVGID was encouraged to provide by its citizenry.

“GM’s Corner” is a recurring column from Incline Village General Improvement Distinct General Manager Steve Pinkerton, who will discuss issues and offer updates regarding various district matters. He may be reached for comment at steve_pinkerton@ivgid.org.