Friday, March 17, 2006

Carey Water and Sewer District may be joined with city government

Advisory election set for May 22

Express Staff Writer

Residents living in the Carey Water and Sewer District will soon go to the polls to decide whether the district should merge with the city of Carey.

Residents will be able to vote on the proposed merger when they go the polls Tuesday, May 23, for the spring Primary Elections for county, state and congressional candidates. Approval of the merger requires only a simple majority.

Carey is one of the few cities in the unique position of having a separately managed water and sewer taxing district within its city limits.

For supporters of the merger, the basic issue of whether to combine the two entities essentially comes down to a matter of cost and time efficiency.

Unlike most municipalities, the Carey city government and the Carey Water and Sewer District both have their own engineer and attorney at an extra cost to taxpayers within their jurisdictions.

A vote to merge the operations of the district and the city under the auspices of just one entity would be a money-saving move for all, supporters of the merger say.

"We felt that it was going to be in everyone's best interest," said Vonnie Olsen, chair of the water and sewer district board. "It's certainly cost effective."

Merging the two entities would also come as a benefit to developers who now must go before both the district and the Carey City Council when they're proposing a project.

"You're talking a great amount of time," Olsen said.

Much more efficient would be for development applications to be regulated under the city's own set of rules and procedures, she said.

Carey Mayor Rick Baird's opinion on the matter is much the same as Olsen's.

"It's a choice the citizens should have," Baird said.

The matter can be put to a vote through enabling legislation the Idaho Legislature passed in 2005, Baird said.

The legislation allows a water and sewer district to transfer its assets and liabilities under specific guidelines.

A yes vote from residents living in the district wouldn't be the end of the story, however. The matter would still have to go before the City Council for its consideration, Baird said.

"We're interested in investigating it, but nobody has made a decision yet," he said.

Still, all indications are that the merger makes a lot of sense, Baird said. "There is a feeling among many that this will make a more efficient process down there," he said.

If the merger is ultimately approved, the boundaries of the smaller water and sewer district won't be changed or enlarged to match the Carey city limits.

Anyone whose property is located within the Carey city limits but is outside the district boundaries who wished to become a part of the district would have to apply for annexation into the district, said Sara Mecham, Carey's planning and zoning administrator.

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