Public Comment Meeting Info – Comments & Responses 5/21/19 & 6/11/19

June 11, 2019 Public Comments Received re: Proposed Rate Increase

Public Comment Responses:

Three members of the Board (a quorum) were present: Kymberly Pipkin, Jim Henderson and Larry Anderson.

In attendance:

  • Raif and Kristen Anderson
  • Richard Wilson
  • Jimbo Nicholls
  • Mike Towne
  • Lynda Nestlebush
  • William Bate
  • RJ Smith
  • John Kopchik
  • Lou Biro
  • Dave Westhem
  • Jonathan Sousa
  • Chris Bowman

The floor was opened to public comments. Comments were not made in a particularly orderly fashion, with frequent interruptions and parties speaking over one another. The chairperson apologizes for her inability to control the meeting in a more orderly fashion. What follows is a compilation of the concerns that were voiced.

How was the proposed fee increase calculated?

A 2009 grader was recently purchased at a price of $115,605 plus tax and delivery, with a calculated replacement reserve of 20 years. This worked out to $4.25 per customer per quarter.

The Board anticipates purchasing a new blade for the loader at a total cost of $24,453 (includes tax) with a 10 year replacement reserve; this worked out to $1.68 per customer per quarter.

The Board anticipates purchasing a new blower attachment for the loader at a total cost of $159,080 (includes tax and document preparation fee), with a 30-year replacement reserve. This comes to $3.63 per customer per quarter.

The estimate for the insurance on the new equipment would be $2,933/year, which comes to $2.16 per customer per quarter.

A new blade for the grader is estimated to be around $20,000; the Board had hoped to acquire a used blade from Placer County, but county hand-me-downs were not in good enough condition.

The Board anticipates hiring a second stand-by operator at a set salary of $15,000 for 3 months of on-call work. With payroll tax and workers compensation, this expense comes to $17,731.50, or $13.03 per customer per quarter.

Why does TRID need a blower when the county sends its blower up to cut back the streets?

TRID proposes purchasing a blower attachment for the loader, which would be used in the cul-de-sacs and stub ended streets, and to cut around the fire hydrants, many of which were completely buried this winter. The county’s blower is too large to adequately service these areas.

What happened to our old equipment?

The 1966 and 1971 graders have been sold. The funds received ($4,000) will be put towards the purchase of a new blade for the grader.

Concern was raised by Jimbo throughout the meeting that a second operator would put him out of business as he can’t follow behind two operators.

It was noted that this was one of the concerns raised in a letter received by the Board in an e-mail the night before the meeting from attorney John G. Downing, who represents Jimbo. Jimbo said the letter had nothing to do with the rate increase. He stated that he has no problem with the proposed equipment, but that a second operator was not necessary.

The Board does not currently have a back-up operator should Willi get sick or need to take even a few hours off. Not to put to fine a point on it, but Willi is over 65 and it would be good to have him train someone with an eye toward Willi’s eventual retirement. Willi worked an exhaustive number of hours day after day in February without relief. Also, in an extreme weather event, our goal is to clear the streets as quickly as possible for safety, and we anticipate utilizing the on-call driver during an extreme event.

How would it be determined when to utilize the second driver?

Willi, as the snow manager, would make that call.

Why would we pay someone to sit at home if we don’t need them? Why not just hire someone on an hourly basis?

If TRID was to hire someone on an hourly basis, they most likely would not be available when TRID needs them, especially during an extreme weather event. Being “on call” means that working for TRID, when called, would be that operator’s first priority. Paying standby is common practice in other neighborhoods. In a sense, Willi and all the private driveway plow operators are paid in this fashion, as they get paid whether it snows or not (and conversely, they work for the set fee even when it is a heavy snow year).

Would the part-time operator be paid an hourly wage on top of the $15,000?

No. $15,000 is a flat rate for for three months of on-call service.

How would the private drive-way snow removal operators know where Willi and a second driver are?

Although the new machine is quieter than the old grader, the machines still will be easy to be heard/spotted. Willi plows according to Placer’s Snow Removal Guidelines, copies of which were passed around. The goal will be to clear the main roads, then the lesser-used roads, even with two operators.

Why not require TRID equipment to use GPS devices so that private snow removal operators and TRID customers can tell when their street might be plowed ?

The Board explored equipping our vehicles with GPS several years ago, but learned that given our rural nature, it is not full-proof to track a vehicle in all areas of our neighborhood, especially during a storm. The Board is willing to re-look at this possibility, however, as perhaps equipment has improved in the interim. A GPS device would tell the current location, not the route.

The private snow removal operators should also have GPS devices so that the homeowner can tell when they’ll be able to leave their homes.

TRID would be transparent with whatever system it might purchase, but TRID has no authority to require private snow removal operators to purchase such equipment.

Jimbo raised the concern that if there are two operators clearing the roads, he won’t be able to clear the berms for half of his customers, as he’ll only be able to follow one operator; he’ll get complaints and therefore lose business; his customers could be endangered by having to remove their own berm to get out while waiting for him.

TRID’s mandate is to clear the roads, not driveways. TRID is responsible for clearing the roads not just for the homeowners but for anyone who might use these county roads. This is a public safety issue, as we want the streets cleared as expeditiously as possible for emergency equipment such as fire and ambulance.

All private snow removal operators will be in the same boat, on those occasions when two TRID drivers will be working simultaneously. It poses no more of a risk to a homeowner than it would for them to wait until the one TRID operator plows their street.

Why are we being assessed again? Don’t we already pay an assessment?

This is a rate increase, not an assessment.

Everyone pays a quarterly system replacement fee, which is an assessment and goes into our reserves for emergencies, capital improvements, and system replacements. Most of our reserves are earmarked and utilized to ensure that our WATER SYSTEM is operational and planning for the future of the system, rather than for snow removal.

How much is in the system replacement reserve?

Unfortunately, Howard Perry, our Board president, was not able to attend today, but the chairperson believes TRID to have approximately $1,000,000 in reserves. The capital improvement plan gets reviewed and revised on an annual basis. The Board initially hired an outside consultant who surveyed all TRID equipment, its age and condition, estimated what it would cost to upgrade and/or replace those equipment (water lines, generators, etc.), and made recommendations for capital improvements and suggested a $10,000,000 reserve for emergencies and capital improvements. This is a bit off topic from the proposed rate increase, but the Board will be happy to share its plans for capital improvements at the annual meeting.

How come new buyers aren’t charged a fee to buy in to TRID? The customer recently purchased another home and had to pay several thousand dollars to buy into the HOA.

First, TRID is a special district, which is a quasi-governmental agency, not a Home Owners’ Association. Right now, we collect a $350 fee in escrow for the change in ownership. Consideration will be given, however, to charging a higher fee in the future, the next time that we amend our ordinance.

Will this increase be put to a vote of the TRID customers?

No. The Board is responsible for setting the rates, so the rate increase is not put to a vote of TRID members. The Board solicits and listen to public comments to decide whether to go forward with the proposed rate increase in whole or in part.

By a show of hands at the public comment session, attendees were in favor of the rate increase.

[As an aside, TRID does have an upcoming vacancy on the five-person Board of Directors, as Leigh Ann Cullen is resigning once her house closes escrow. Anyone who is a registered voter at their Talmont address is eligible to be considered to fill out the remainder of Leigh Ann’s term.]

One customer stated that he could not afford any increase in fees, as he is retired and lives on a fixed income.

Unfortunately, our expenses continue to go up. We do not have a large enough customer base to offer a discounted rate based upon income.

May 21, 2019 Public Comments Received re: Proposed Rate Increase

At the hearing, oral comments were received from John Pang and Raf Anderson. In addition, a written comment was received from Jimbo Nichols, which was read at the meeting and is attached. Jim Fullerton wrote a note that was received after the meeting, but is included in this summary of public comments. What follows is a summary of each comment and the response from TRID.

Comments from Jimbo Nicholls

1. Jimbo feels that the expense for a new snow blower is not necessary as we already pay taxes for this service to the county, which did a fine job of servicing Talmont this past season.

TRID’s response: The district is proposing to purchase a blower attachment for our loader. While the county brings its blower up periodically to cut back the streets, it is too big to effectively function in the six cul-de-sacs in our neighborhood or the tight curves on Talmont Circle. The blower attachment will also make it easier to cut around the dozens of fire hydrants.

2. Jimbo feels that the blower would be a liability to the district for potential human and property damages.

TRID’s response: TRID carries liability insurance on all its equipment, and the blower attachment would likewise be covered. Any operator employed by TRID will be trained on the equipment. It poses no more risk than the other pieces of heavy equipment that we own and operate.

3. Jimbo agrees that it is appropriate to replace the old grader at this time.

TRID’s response: We agree.

4. Jimbo believes that adding a second TRID snow removal operator would jeopardize his ability to service his customer base effectively. Several followup concerns are why are we adding another operator? what will the procedure be?

TRID’s response: We have been fortunate that Willi Dodge, our snow removal manager, has been healthy and very rarely has needed to take time off. We need a back-up driver, however! We envision that the back-up driver would be on-call for those situations. Also, during massive and protracted storms, having just one plow operator means that residents may have to wait hours before their road is cleared, to say nothing of the wear and tear on our one operator. A second on-call operator will greatly cut the time needed to clear the streets.

Clearing the roads in our subdivision in a safe and timely manner is our paramount concern. While we appreciate the driveway clearing services provided by the independent contractors in our neighborhood, removing the berms in front of driveways cannot always be done within minutes of TRID’s plow. Yes, having two TRID operators during a massive storm will make it more difficult for a private operator who will not be able to follow Willi to clear a berm right away. However, clearing the roads is a higher safety priority than clearing anyone’s berm. We trust that our residents and guests see the wisdom of that and have shovels ready to remove a berm should an emergency arrive—at least they’ll be able to navigate on plowed roads after they’ve left their driveway.

Comments from John Pang

5. John Pang affirmed his support for using the right tools for the job and said that our current graders aren’t meeting the needs of the district. He asked whether the county could contribute a little towards the new equipment since TRID does their job of snow removal.

TRID’s response: The county was willing to contribute a used blade for the loader (a new one would cost TRID approximately $20,000), but after inspecting the two that were being offered, neither is suitable for our equipment. In the past, Placer County was happy to give away it old equipment. Now, however, the county wants the tax credits for retiring the equipment. Even could we persuade the county to provide us with a hand-me-down, the equipment the county retires uses outdated technology, is not fuel efficient, and does not meet current environmental or pollution standards.

6. Did the board consider contracting out for a private blower to assist in servicing the area when needed, which could alleviate a large capital investment and wouldn’t take Willi out of another machine to putz around at a slow rate of speed.

TRID’s response: Yes, we did consider that, but believe hiring a back-up operator and a blower attachment is more cost efficient in the long run and gives TRID more flexibility to address the needs of the district.

7. Is snow removal equipment exempt from the CARB diesel regulations?

TRID’s response: Yes. Our equipment is only used for snow removal.

8. Will the Board have some policies in place to govern when and where the part-time relief operator will be used?

TRID’s response: Yes. The Board, in conjunction with our snow removal manager, will determine when and where the part-time relief operator will be used.

9. Will the part-time relief operator work in tandem or on opposite sides of the subdivision, thus creating longer times for private plow services to get to the berms?

TRID’s response: When our snow removal manager is unable to plow, the relief operator will be working alone. When it is deemed safer to have two operators clearing the streets during a prolonged storm, where the operators work at any given point in time will depend upon need. The width of our streets varies greatly; having two pieces of heavy equipment work on some of the streets at the same time is not feasible. Working on opposite sides of the subdivision might be appropriate in some instances, while working in the same general area before moving to an opposite area might work best in other instances. Again, our first concern will be road safety.

10. Can the board consider a GPS on the TRID equipment so that people can track the plows to plan their travel times? This would also help the private plow services.

TRID’s response: This is something that the board explored several years ago. Besides the expense, the functionality in our neighborhoods, especially during heaving storms, was deemed impractical.

11. There are now more rentals in the neighborhood. TRID shouldn’t necessarily be adding a lot of new equipment merely to appease the increase in rentals. Are the rental owners helping to pay for the need for additional snow removal? Shouldn’t the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) that goes to the county from these rentals kick in more funds for snow removal?

TRID’s response: The need for new equipment is not being driven solely by the increase in rentals in the neighborhood.

TRID recognizes that houses that are rented out by the weekend or week (not snow leases) have a disproportionate share of renters who are inexperienced snow drivers with vehicles that are not AWD or 4WD, do not have snow tires, and sometimes even without a set of chains. If one of these vehicles gets stuck on the hill, that creates a problem for everyone else and hinders our snow removal operation. Owners who do not warn prospective tenants of the grade of the hill and the number of off-street parking provided with the rental compound TRID’s snow removal. A number of groups have met and are continuing to meet with the county to address some of the problems associated with Short Term Rentals (STRs). It’s not possible for TRID to police

The TOT tax gets distributed by a county committee, and is used for infrastructure and development projects. TRID does actively seek grants from the county and other governmental entities whenever our needs fit within the parameters of the grant.

12. John is not opposed to a backup for Willi, so long as the board has a good handle on the who, what, when and how details so it’s done efficiently.

TRID’s response: That is certainly our aim.

Comments from Raf Anderson

12. Raf Anderson commented that he is taking over from Chris Bowman who was a private snow removal contractor, and is looking forward to a harmonious working relationship with TRID. Raf lives in the neighborhood with his wife and child.

Comments from Jim Fullerton

13. Jim Fullerton commented that he was glad to see that TRID proposes to add equipment that will keep the courts and dead end streets open.

TRID’s response: That’s what that blower attachment is for!

Water Rate Increase

We are happy to advise that there will be NO rate increase for water in the coming fiscal year.

Snow Rate Increase

We plan to increase the quarterly fee for snow removal in order to upgrade and replace our equipment and add a part-time additional operator. The rate will increase by $24.72 per quarter to $96.34 per quarter. The current rate is $71.62 per quarter.

Reason for the Snow Removal Rate Increase

This is the second “hundred year” snow fall we have experienced in three years! We have an increasing number of homes being used during the winter with a larger number of homes on AirBnB, VRBO or ski leases. This results in increased traffic, and road safety and access is our primary concern. Willi Dodge, our snow manager, reports that in a normal storm, it takes him between 6 to 7 hours to complete one pass around the entire neighborhood. Some of our wider roads (40’) require two or more passes.

Current Equipment

TRID owns a 1966 and a 1971 Austin Western grader. Both are currently running, but showing their age. TRID also owns a 1950 grader that is nonoperational and has been cannibalized for parts to keep the ‘newer’ graders running. All graders were acquired from Placer County which had retired the machines after many years of service with the county. It is very difficult to get parts and service for such old machines, they have two-cycle engines, antiquated hydraulics, are very loud, must be run at full throttle to attain power, and are much slower compared to modern day graders. They leak oil, pollute, and are not environmentally friendly or efficient.

TRID’s primary piece of snow removal equipment is a 2005 950H Caterpillar loader which currently has 5,300 hours on its engine and is in good shape although the blade needs to be replaced.

TRID does not currently own a blower attachment for the loader. The blower attachment will be extremely useful in cul-de-sacs, dead ends, and on our narrowest roads, and will assist in maintaining access to the hydrants and pump stations. This would add another tool allowing us to keep the roads open and safe.

Updating Equipment

To address our equipment needs, we plan to purchase a 2009 Caterpillar grader ($115,605 + delivery and tax) and a blower attachment for the loader ($148,000 + tax). All of the equipment will be under a master maintenance agreement, as Caterpillar provides excellent service out of Reno. We will sell the existing graders, most likely for scrap value unless a buyer can be found. The equipment will meet current environmental standards and feature wider blades. Willi has welded the existing blade on our loader numerous times, and a new blade for it ($22,800) will be purchased before next winter. Equipment expenditures will paid for by our System Replacement Fund.

Additional Operator

Willi has been a one-man operation and we truly appreciate his willingness to work long hours whether he’s feeling well or not. It is beyond time to recognize that we need an additional part-time on-call equipment operator to fill in when Willi is unable to plow or when the storms hit and we could use a second piece of equipment on the roads.

We will be publishing our rate increase in the local newspaper as required by law. Our first public comment meeting will be Tuesday, May 21 at 8:30 am at the TRID garage. If you are unable to attend the meeting, please submit your comments in writing by May 7 to us at TRID PO Box 1294, Tahoe City CA 96145. A second public comment meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 11 at 8:30 am at the TRID garage. The new rate would take effect July 1, 2019, which means that it will show up in your October 1st billing.

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