Editorial: Vote to dissolve Fraser Sanitation District
October 27, 2009
Among the issues facing voters in Grand County between now and the Tuesday, Nov. 3, deadline to cast ballots is whether the Fraser Sanitation District should be dissolved and its functions assumed by the Town of Fraser.
Opponents of dissolution are fond of citing the district’s fiscal responsibility and quiet, behind-the-scenes efficiency. Too our knowledge, no one is questioning those assertions.
However, backers of the dissolution make a strong case that the town already handles a considerable amount of the district’s business. For instance, the district administrator is a town employee, and the town keeps district records, does its mapping, furnishes easements and holds bonds to ensure public improvements are completed.
“If the district is dependent on the town for all these different services, why do we even have a district?” asks Steve Sumrall, who serves on both the district board and the Town of Fraser board.
Good question, that. No matter how efficient the district per se may be, duplication of equipment and services inherent in its existence is not efficient in the least.
Enhancing efficiency is only part of what’s at stake here. There are the matters of whether the town or the district is better suited to cope with growth issues and also which one, ultimately, is more publicly accountable.
Fraser Sanitation District Chairman Drew Matteson, speaking strictly for himself, told a Sky-Hi Daily News reporter that special districts provide services such as schools, fire protection, sewer and water because they are an “excellent product for a cheap bottom line, and taxpayers don’t have to worry about them being a pawn in a greater game.”
Utilities such as sewer and water should be operated separately from a government that also deals with “development, sign codes and dog issues,” he asserts.
While such a notion may have superficial populist appeal, it wilts under scrutiny. For our money, taxpayers should be worried when vital services such as water and sewer are not part of the “greater game.”
The Town of Fraser and its citizens have a vested interest in how, where and when sewer service is provided in and around the town. The adage that growth follows utilities certainly applies here.
So, which is better suited to cope with and make decisions about growth, the town or the district?
No contest. The last time we checked, the sanitation district didn’t have a planning commission and staff. Nor does it have to concern itself with messy issues such as annexation or providing a host of municipal services like police protection.
The town, of course, does, which is why it should control the extension of utilities such as sewer. It is the town, after all, that will foot the bill for consequences of the growth that follows sewer service.
Moreover, if the town were to take over the district, it is likely sanitation issues would be handled in a more visible manner.
It’s not that the district isn’t responsive to citizens or operates behind closed doors; it’s a matter of the politically obscure district being out of sight and out of mind.
Public attendance at Fraser Town Board meetings scarcely can be said to be impressive, but most folks know how to find their way there when the need arises.
On the other hand, we’d wager that outside of public officials, the number of people in the Fraser Valley who know when and where the Sanitation District board meets could be counted on one hand.
When the district was formed, it served a valuable function. But the Town of Fraser has long since grown to the point where it is fully capable of taking care of the district’s business with minimal fuss.
Voters should recognize that with a “yes” vote on Initiated Measure 500.