Obscure Sewer Bonds for South Valleys

Washoe County is supporting a $50 million dollar bond for sewer projects serviced by South Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility — which now is extending further south into Steamboat and Pleasant valleys. This appears to be mostly an effort to get taxpayers to front the cost of extending sewer services to new developments benefiting Reno and well into the south. The apparent beneficiaries include Pleasant Valley Estates and Sierra Reflections, St. James Village, and eventually new development up the Mt. Rose Highway.

The County claims that the cost of the bond will be eventually repaid through sewer hook up fees paid by developers. This is speculative and leaves the real possibility that the taxpayers and current ratepayers will be stuck with some or all of the bill. County Engineer Dwayne Smith claimed that no new developments south of the Geiger Grade area would be supported by this project, but it appears that Pleasant Valley Estates and perhaps others are among intended beneficiaries.

One long-time area resident requested a detailed breakdown of the planned bond expenditures. Among links she received from the county to agendas was information below gleaned from the Debt Management Commission agenda. On the bottom of page 12, there is an item for “South Valleys Meadows Sewer (connection fee)”. This category shows only the following items and totals.

  • South Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility Admin Building Expansion
    and Improvements; $2,500,000
  • South Truckee Meadows WRF Projects; $34,750,000
  • Geiger Lift Station and Interceptor; $11,000,000
  • South West Vista Lift Station Abandonment and Extension; $200,000
  • Steamboat Lift Station Capacity Expansion; $2,400,000
  • Pleasant Valley Sanitary Sewer Collection System; $4,000,000

The county’s bond description is: AgendaItem08

You don’t need to be a forensic accountant to see that most of the bond proceeds will go into the “WRF Projects” category which has no detailed description. This may not be a “slush fund” as has been historically used to cover up corruption and malfeasance, but it certainly appears to be one. Reno and Washoe have a history of using vague bond funds for convenient cash to support arbitrary and unethical disbursements. (A former Reno city manager left her employment after it was discovered she shifted sewer funds to pay city bills. The city of Reno refinanced trench bonds several times and for what?)

One resident requested a high resolution image of the map included in Dwayne Smith’s presentation to the Board of County Commissioners on 2/26/19. His presentation on sewer capacity and infrastructure included a map that was illegible due to the large scale being compressed to fit on his presentation slide. This map file has not been provided. Again, the County is not being transparent on this bond request.

Sewer capacity presentation (Staff Report – Manager – STMWRF Bonds 2019 (1))

In summary …

At best, this bond request is to extend sewer infrastructure to new developments at the expense of current ratepayers and at the risk of all taxpayers in Washoe County. The commissioners want the residents to pay for the developers to despoil the area. At worst, this is a boondoggle to facilitate malfeasance and corruption. Nevada’s Open Meeting Law does not help us if the commissioners will not provide information.

We need a very detailed breakdown of this entire $50 million – which developments benefit, by how much, and how will this money be paid back to the taxpayers of Washoe County.

And while we are at it, we need to know how many water rights are being purchased and be assured that these new developments are paying 100% for their own water lines, too. Existing residents cannot be expected to foot the bill, and jeopardize our water supply, for all this “go go” new growth.

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