Summary of the October 3rd, 2017 Storey County Commission Meeting




Nicole Barde

You can find the Agenda HERE and County Manager Pat Whitten’s summary HERE. If you want to listen to the meeting you can access the recording HERE.

Commission Chair Marshall McBride opened the meeting by condemning the horrific act of violence that occurred in Las Vegas this past week-end. There were other mentions and condemnations throughout the meeting. Sympathies and prayers to all of the victims and their families.

Much of the Staff update information was covered in Pat Whitten’s online summary so I won’t revisit those items except for the two fundraising events below.

All of our local community organizations and historic “treasures” rely on community support to continue to serve the community and to continue to be preserved for future generations. They rely on a variety of sources of income, not the least of which are contributions and fundraising events to support their operations.  I hope that you feel as strongly as I do that they deserve our full support and that you’ll contribute what you can to your favorite organizations! Here are two that are coming up:

The Fourth Ward School will hold its first annual Steppin’ Back in Time fundraising event this Saturday, October, 14 from 5 to 8 p.m. Hors d’deouvres and beverages will be served. Several artists have created one-of-a-kind artwork out of 1910 school desks. The auction of these items is the highlight of this event. Proceeds go to the support of the Fourth Ward School.

The Community Chest presents the 2nd annual Halloween Benefit Show on October 27 at Piper’s Opera House. This year’s theme is "Alice Through the Looking Glass" and attendees are encouraged to dress as their favorite Alice in Wonderland characters. Tickets are $30 with proceeds going to the Community Library and the Classroom on Wheels mobile rural preschool program.

Bum Hess, the County’s lobbyist, made an appearance to say that the Democrats are in control of the state Legislature and the change in leadership means more lobbying efforts.

Cherie Nevin, Community Services, stated that FEMA funding is on hold due to the competing disasters in Texas, Puerto Rico and Florida. This is money that the County was going after to help defray the expenses associated with the water/snow events of last winter.

Gary Hames, contract ( not)  Community Development Director, gave an update about the efforts to develop an internal “business plan”.  He noted that the team met and looked at their processes and came up with process improvements and efficiency recommendations. One of them was to equip the staff with upgraded computers so that they can work from anywhere and access the files needed to complete their work. Another one was to streamline the business license renewal process by contracting with the state’s Silver Flume business portal. This would save the staff hours and hours of manual work in mailing out the renewals.

SIDENOTE: I just have to say again that the Hames contract as a “consultant/contractor” is NOT LEGAL per the IRS and state definition of a contractor.  He essentially retired early, got his PERS, resurfaced as a contractor (not) and is pulling another big salary from the county. This is a PERS workaround since once you retire you can’t go back and work for your former employer as an employee. This along with the juicy “PERS payout” of last year for him is another “buddy “deal…..nice huh?

But I digress

Pat Whitten’s staff summary included talking about more real-estate purchases and sales which he referred to as “strategic property”.

The first property that he wants to buy is the “Piper House” which sits right next to Pipers. It was built in 1876 and the county wants to use it to move some folks out of the Courthouse and in to it due to cramped quarters. The county already has staff in small houses throughout VC so this is nothing new. Oh, and this house comes with parking space down below of course.
Next is Pipers itself. He didn’t mention if the appraisal was done or not but the county would be buying Pipers back from the School District.

The third property is the house next to the VC fire station that has served as a training center and Command center during emergencies. Whitten says that it has “environmental issues” (which I’ve been told is radon) and that it is unsuitable for occupancy. They can sell it where it sits, sell it and have the owner move it or demolish it ( for a parking lot no doubt) . Whatever they do they will need to check with the Comstock Historic Commission to see what can be done.

SIDENOTE: While we’re on the topic of real estate I want to mention again the likelihood that the County will seize by eminent domain the Freight Depot co-owned by Pierce Powel. Pat Whitten and Marshall McBride mentioned this a couple of meetings ago. They mentioned that the appraisal to buy it thru eminent domain is around $900k.  I don’t know what Pierce is asking.
Since the original purpose for the Depot purchase as the terminus for the rail line is no longer on the table ….meaning that  opening the tunnel and trenching the track in front of St. Mary’s and the length of E street is cost prohibitive as well as a non-starter with the owners there … I have to wonder why they want that property. I can imagine that they want to preserve it…OK….but Pierce is kind of doing that himself. I can also imagine that they think that it is a safety/fire danger and that they want to keep it from endangering the town…they said as much in the meeting last month.
 I can also imagine that since the ill-fated $85k  purchase of the Black and Howell building by VCTC Executive Director Deny Dotson was such a disaster that they now want to buy him a more viable building to create his vision of a  VC Visitor Center. Oh, and did I mention that the lot adjacent to the Depot , owned by Jim Collins, will likely be bought as well for……………………………PARKING???  But not at the point of a gun, like eminent domain, but at a free market price set by Jim.

So…..taxpayer money will buy the Depot for close to $1 million, the parking lot for $$??? and then even more money to renovate the Depot into whatever purpose the county has in mind. I’m guessing $3 million total. But that’s just a guess.

Oh, and the county is also looking at buying Deny the fairgrounds after Deny paid a tidy sum of money to improve the property. Which is to say that if it was worth $100k unimproved and Deny put $50k into it for improvements and the appraisal comes in at $200k….the county pays $200k for it……paying twice for the improvements and paying for the appreciation that those improvements gave the property…..that is unless the owner, Scott Jolcover (VCTC Board Chair) allows the county to deduct the cost of the improvements from the sale price.

All of the above on top of the $1 million dollar parking lot next to the Courthouse and the B of A building being (under) used as a convention/meeting center.
Just want to keep these things front and center for you……it just keeps adding up…or not.

Oh well…I digress again…...onward with the rest of the meeting.

The hearing for yet another brothel worker wanting to contest the denial of her work card was pulled from the agenda. No mention as to why except to say that it had been resolved.

Item #9 was the approval of an agreement to use the States Silver Flume business portal to process business licenses. This was fairly procedural but Pat Whitten’s comments were interesting. He lauded Gary Hames’ efforts at improving the efficiency of Community Development by doing this saying “this is an example of change is good and Gary is making good changes”…he went on to say that there had been “turf issues” with the prior person (Dean Haymore) and that this person had wanted to hold on to all aspects of the business licenses.

SIDENOTE- I am hearing different things about Community Development. On the one hand I am hearing that the employees were very sad to see Dean go ….on the other hand that Dean was doing stuff on his own without proper approvals/disclosures. Then hearing that the employees were fearing and loathing Gary Hames’ arrival. Then we have rumors of employees being told that they would have to quit the county to work for Gary Hames’ consulting company (refuted by Pat Whitten )  then the sudden departure of Stacy Bucchianeri, then the acquiring of the Fire Marshal duties without the incumbent Fire Marshal, then the lack of qualified inspectors….I mean….how stable is the organization?

But I digress…..

Item #10 was a revoting of the approval of the $200k paid to Marshall McBride for the Court House parking lot land. They had to do this since Marshall accidently voted on paying himself the $200k. It passed of course. I wonder if they will revote the appointment of Jack to the V&T Rail Commission from last meeting since Jack voted himself in on that vote as well. Lance was absent and it just left Marshall and Jack to do the county’s business. Lance is gone a lot these days.

Items # 11, 12 and # 13 was the transfer of the Fire Code (Fire Marshal) duties out of the Fire District to Community Development. I got up to ask if the approximately $800k that I was told this represented would also move over to Community Development and Pat Whitten told me that they were working on it. I also asked if that transfer would be transparent and open to public scrutiny and he said yes.

During Public Comment Lockwood resident Marilee Miller got up to ask who was responsible for dredging the creek that runs thru that community. She asked because it has suffered some damage as a result of last winter’s water events and it is causing some issues. Another resident Louise Pena also got up to ask about river clean up. Pat Whitten said that he really didn’t know who was responsible for that task but committed to look into it.

Last but not least……I got up to ask about the TRIC GID.

As I reported in the article I wrote about the Reno City Council meeting where the effluent water agreement with TRIC was approved (HERE)….the Reno council members are concerned that IF the financing for the agreement was to evaporate that the Reno taxpayers would be on the hook for up to $60 million dollars. The question was asked and the guy from SWITCH of all people answered that no, Reno would not be liable for those funds since the state was backing the bond for the actual pipeline (~$30 Million) and the TRI GID was responsible for the other ~$30 million. That if there was an issue with the TRI GID funding that Storey County would backstop those funds….i.e.…would be responsible for paying.

Needless to say my ears perked up when I heard that since I had asked in previous Storey County Commission meetings if Storey County was liable for ANYTHING to do with the TRIC GID and was told NO.

So I got up to ask our Commissioners again if Storey was liable for the effluent agreement and funding should the TRIC GID run into problems and default.  I relayed to them what was said in the Reno Council meeting.

Pat Whitten said that the SWITCH guy didn’t speak for the county, Assistant DA Keith Lumos said he’d answer my question off the record after the meeting.
Then I asked that since the TRIC GID was a governmental entity was it subject to open meeting law and public requests for information. Keith Loomis replied emphatically that YES, the TRIC GID is subject to those laws and would have to comply with requests.

This was good to know since there is no website to go to in order to find out about the TRIC GID, when and where it holds its meetings, or a listing of agendas and minutes. I asked because I know of several requests that were sent directly to Kris Thompson, a board member, which have not been acknowledged. It makes me wonder just how “real” this organization is.
Meanwhile after the meeting I had a discussion with Keith Loomis where he told me that according to NRS 318 that NO, the County would not be liable for TRIC GID agreements or debts should something go wrong.

But as we talked further we discovered that under NRS 318.515 ( below :Procedure for corrective action by board of county commissioners: Notification or petition; hearing; adoption and challenge of ordinance or resolution) there was a responsibility for the Storey Board of Commissioners to deal directly with issues pertaining to the TRIC GID. I noted that if there were a default on the effluent agreement or a loan that a good lawyer would go after the deep pockets of Storey County.  Keith said he’d look at that.

The reason I brought this up……and will continue to do so is because not only are the taxpayers of Storey County on the hook for the $35 Million dollar bond to build the pipeline for the effluent water to TRIC….which in any other universe is a developer expense…..but if the TRIC GID somehow loses the funding from Roger Norman for the improvements to handle the effluent…….Storey County taxpayers are on the hook for that debt as well.

Let me be clear….I am not anti-business….I am anti paying Lance Gilman and Roger Norman’s expenses.

Gonna keep say’in it till my lips fall off.

NRS 318.515  Procedure for corrective action by board of county commissioners: Notification or petition; hearing; adoption and challenge of ordinance or resolution.

      1.  Upon notification by the Department of Taxation or upon receipt of a petition signed by 20 percent of the qualified electors of the district, that:
      (a) A district of which the board of county commissioners is not the board of trustees is not being properly managed;
      (b) The board of trustees of the district is not complying with the provisions of this chapter or with any other law; or
      (c) The service plan established for the district is not being complied with,
Ê the board of county commissioners of the county in which the district is located shall hold a hearing to consider the notification or petition.
      2.  The county clerk shall mail written notice to all persons who own property within the district and to all qualified electors of the district, which notice shall set forth the substance of the notification or petition and the time and place of the hearing.
      3.  At the place, date and hour specified for the hearing, or at any subsequent time to which the hearing may be adjourned, the board of county commissioners shall give full consideration to all persons desiring to be heard and shall thereafter:
      (a) Adopt an ordinance constituting the board of county commissioners, ex officio, as the board of trustees of the district;
      (b) Adopt an ordinance providing for the merger, consolidation or dissolution of the district pursuant to NRS 318.490 to 318.510, inclusive;
      (c) File a petition in the district court for the county in which the district is located for the appointment of a receiver for the district; or
      (d) Determine by resolution that management and organization of the district will remain unchanged.
      4.  The Department of Taxation or any interested person may, within 30 days immediately following the effective date of the ordinance adopted under paragraph (a) or resolution adopted under paragraph (d) of subsection 3, commence an action in any court of competent jurisdiction to set aside the ordinance or resolution. After the expiration of 30 days, all actions attacking the regularity, validity and correctness of that ordinance or resolution are barred.
      (Added to NRS by 1977, 523; A 1979, 802; 1989, 522)