Pioche wrestles with utility decisions

The Pioche Town Board held a public hearing on June 21 at the Town Hall. Discussion was regarding an analysis of the financial impact on the Pioche Public Utilities and town budgets if the electrical system is transferred to Lincoln County Power District and the water and sewer systems are transferred to the Lincoln County Water District.

Phyllis Robistow, Charman, started by asking board member John Christian to explain to the public what is going on. Christian started by telling the people that he wants them to talk. This is what this meeting is for. This started about 18 months ago. The town’s electrical system is in need of a lot of work to be done, so the town board approached the power district and asked them to take a look at our electrical system and do a study regarding what it would take if they took it over.

Since the power district was asked, the water district was also asked the same regarding the water and sewer systems. Robistow explained that, with the help of Dan McArthur, the board was able to come up with three different options with pros and cons for each. The first option is for the town to keep all systems. The second option is for the power district to take over the power and the town to keep the water and the sewer. The third option is for the power district to take over the power and the water district to take over the water and the sewer.

Resident Charles Reifsnyder stated that he understands a need for this study. However the issue goes back decades. He stated that it is the prior town board’s fault and the commissioners’ fault for not making the changes and keeping up with the maintenance. He can see a realistic reason to transfer the power, seeing the poor state that the system is in. He said the cost will go up no matter what happens. If the power district takes over, the cost for the whole county will go up when they start making the changes here.

He stated, given the situation with water in the Western United States today, that it would be foolish to give up the water. He said if the systems transfer, everyone will pay more, plus the town will lose the pool, the parks, Labor Day and even Little League. Robistow stated that the question regarding who gets the water rights has been asked to her many times. She has been told that it will be negotiated.

Resident Carol White stated that the water district study states that they will take over the water rights. These studies were based on 2015.

Christian wanted to inform the sewer customers that liners for the sewer pond are $300,000, and they are only good for so many years. Resident Pat Kelley asked how they are paid for now. Christian stated that they are paid for with grant money, he just wants everyone to understand that there are many costs involved.

Resident Mike Fogliani made a statement to Reifsnyder that his comment about this being an issue for decades was not true. He said maintenance was done. He then said that the last thing he wants to do is lay somebody off, but that is what the town needs to do, and it might also be time to get new town board members. Robistow stated she would resign tonight, but the problem is that no one shows any interest.

Lincoln County Water District General Manager Wade Poulsen commented that this has been going on for almost two years. Regarding the water rights, he stated that if the water district does not have the water rights, then they can not pump the water so that is why the water would need to go as well. He made a comment that the Town of Pioche has water that is not being used. If there is water that is not being used, the water rights can be taken away. He stated that if everything transfers, the water district will keep the manager, utility worker and office clerk. It is true that they currently have no rate payers, but they do have roughly $5,000,000 for capital improvement. He came up with the number that rates will be raised with the help of Dan McArthur.

Reifsnyder stated that the county commissioners are also the water district board. He thinks that it is a conflict of interest. Cameron Boyce asked if Poulsen would consider leasing water to the town. Poulsen stated that would raise costs. Resident Sharron Faehling expressed concerns about trusting the county water district with the town’s water and sewer systems

Fogliani asked what the town’s budget is without the utilities. Dan McArthur answered with $110,000. Resident Peggy Hone stated that if the water district takes over, then the town’s equipment will not be in Pioche. She added the other towns had the smarts to say no.

Faehling added she would like to have copies of this information at the library for people to look at. She stated that the people need to stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about their children.

Dave Lutrell from the Power District stated that they are not proposing anything. They did a study. If they took over the power, he stated it would take about 10 to 11 years to make all the upgrades needed. Kelley asked him what our biggest issue is. There are many issues such as voltage issues and deterioration of infrastructure. Vice Chairman Tom Brown stated that he had some concerns about the future of the power in our country, and he wanted to know how it will affect this issue. Lutrell stated that in roughly two years, people will be able to choose where they get their power from so everyone will be affected by it. Resident Lee Hone stated that he thinks it is good that the power district is willing to help out Pioche Public Utilities currently and wanted to thank them for that.

Fogliani asked if the town would be able to afford to water the park and keep the pool if the systems go away. Christian stated no. It was brought up that on the pros and cons sheet that the town might have to hire a journeyman if all systems were kept. White stated that in Town Manager Nathan Adam’s contract from 2001, that in four years he would be required to complete lineman school, and he failed to do so. Adams is no longer under that contract.

Resident Suzanne Reifsnyder wanted to thank the board for taking time as a volunteer board to deal with this issue.

The meeting adjourned with no action taken. Another hearing on the topic occurred on July 6.

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Comments

  1. There are definitely some tough choices to be made here.

    In my opinion, a proactive approach regarding the power makes the most sense. With a deteriorating infrastructure and voltage issues that have been observed, can the town SURVIVE the cost of repairing a catastrophic power failure? My next thought goes to is has the town been able to take care of its own power anyways? The survey appears to say no.

    The water issue is even trickier, especially with the loss of the few luxuries the town has. The pool Is obviously not of critical importance to the town, but it IS something that makes home feel a little bit sweeter. Is privatization possible? Absolutely. Is it likely, I think not.

    In my opinion, John Christian and has family has always held the towns best interests at heart, and I do feel like that counts for something.

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