Most everyone takes for granted they can turn on the tap and get water from their well or local utility company.
But for the last six homeowners who were sitting high and dry in Ishani Ridge, a local subdivision, they can give thanks this Thanksgiving they are finally getting water and sewer service from Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada, after a three-year wait.
The stalemate began when UICN disconnected water and sewer service in a dispute with developer Pahrump 88, which failed to make infrastructure improvements promised in a 2006 development agreement. That included a well and storage tank. That came after Nye County issued occupancy permits for several residents.
Then came the bust in the local housing industry that halted building plans for the subdivision planned near Wilson Avenue and West Street.
The late James Riggs, a homeowner on the other side of the subdivision on Kachina Moon Court, was the first to get hooked up by UICN, before the bankruptcy court agreement was signed in August 2011. Riggs had filed a complaint with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission in April 2010. The hearing process dragged out for months. Riggs committed suicide in November 2012, one month after his wife died of pancreatic cancer.
When the PUC ordered Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada to provide water and sewer service to Riggs and the other homeowners, Pahrump 88 declined to sign, notarize and return documents allowing the utility company to accept the infrastructure.
Last May, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved a plan filed by Pahrump 88 that called for the dedication of utility lines installed by the developers to UICN.
The utility company was given 10 days to repair a sewer line to six homes on Ishani Ridge Court, homeowners of which shared the cost.
Pahrump 88 attorney Thomas Beckom said Pahrump 88 LLC wanted to mitigate its liability to make the property more attractive to creditors.
Melvin Peet said he was one of the first residents to move into the subdivision three years ago. He bought a four-bedroom, three-bath home across the subdivision on Ishani Ridge Court in August 2010 for only $105,000, less than the developer paid for the lot alone, but it lacked water and sewer service. A retiree who formerly did plumbing and electrical work, Peet improvised.
“I just put a couple water tanks in the garage and had them filled,” Peet said. “It was a little inconvenient, but then hey, we didn’t have a water bill for three years and we’re very frugal.”
Peet said a local contractor, The Rain Man, filled up his two, 300-gallon water tanks regularly.
“We got it for nothing. Some people just felt bad for us. We were living in the desert with water right in the street and UICN wouldn’t supply it to us. It ought to be against the law, especially here in the desert to deny people water,” he said.
Peet said he installed water tanks and a pump for his sister-in-law, who moved in with her husband across the street as well as his daughter and son-in-law who bought a house next door.
“It’s not rocket science, it’s put in a pump and a tank to hold water and have someone come out and fill your water tank for you. They do it just outside of Kingman, Arizona,” he said.
When the bankruptcy agreement was signed, the remaining six homeowners on Ishani Ridge Court were told they would each have to pay $10,000 up front as part of the bankruptcy agreement. But Peet said they were later reimbursed about $2,400 when the costs turned out to be less.
UICN Regional Director Wendy Barnett said each homeowner paid a tap fee of $3,475, they also paid for video inspections of the sewer lines and some repairs to the sewer line and manholes.
She said homes were hooked up in mid-July, but the Peets wanted to wait to begin paying until they returned from vacation.
Peet said the water and sewer lines were already hooked up in 2007 when the subdivision was built.
“They issued occupancy permits, otherwise we couldn’t have been living here. Everything was working fine until UICN cut the water off. All they had to do was come out, put meters on the homes and start charging everybody. That’s what they did in essence at the end after spending half a million dollars on lawyers’ fees,” Peet said.
Model homes down the street from the Riggs residence on Kachina Moon Court had previously been connected to UICN service and have been sold. Homeowner Mike Castillo, who owned two houses on Ishani Ridge Court and attended PUC meetings on the subject, swapped them out with an investor and they have since been sold, Peet said.
“So now every house in here is sold and about to be occupied. The two across from me I’m told they were going to be moving in before Thanksgiving,” Peet said.
Riggs kept a port-a-pottie in the garage and used his motor home toilet while he awaited water and sewer service. Peet said he used the toilet in his home, with water out of his tank, but Barnett said the effluent wasn’t processed properly through their system. Barnett said the sewer infrastructure was installed by the developer but not inspected until after the bankruptcy court agreement.
“We had to do those inspections on the sewer ties, then we had some repairs to do. Then we had to get Pahrump 88 to dedicate the sewer infrastructure. It took a long time for Pahrump 88 to declare bankruptcy and dedicate the infrastructure,” Barnett said. “As the developer they had to build those and dedicate those to us in order to legally serve them.”
On behalf of UICN, Barnett said, “we’re really pleased. The utility always wanted to provide service and always had to have the mains dedicated in order to do so. We’re really happy the homeowners are all getting service now.”
Stub-outs for water and sewer lines are installed at vacant lots, Peet said. “If you go out and turn a little handle on the end of the stub, water comes right out of there.”
But now, Peet said he doesn’t have to worry about filling up his water and sewer tanks any more.
“As long as the power stays on. The power went out yesterday for a short period of time. I still have my little pump, so in case the water doesn’t come through their lines, I can turn on my generator and fire up my pump and I could still have water,” he said.