By Nicole Barde.
The recently re-approved county wide infrastructure list has 85%+ of the investment in Virginia City for VC specific projects…what about the rest of the County? The revenues which come into the county regardless of whether they are property, sales or tourism tax belong to all of us. All of the needs of each of our communities need to be taken into consideration when deciding how to spend this money yet this list is almost exclusively limited to Virginia City cutting out at least two communities with potential long term infrastructure issues.
In January of 2014 the Commissioners approved the new Infrastructure project list and it totaled over $7.6 million in expenses over the next 10 years. The infrastructure money comes from a ¼ cent sales tax imposed some time ago. The last list of projects was directed at the school buildings and once that was done it was time to develop another list for the monies.
In January 2014 the new infrastructure list was approved and included lots of flood control, road/bridge repair and VC water infrastructure projects for about $ 3.5 million. About $925k was for land purchase/renovation, $2.4 million for building and grounds in VC and $600k for TRI. The state statute specifies that the money can only be used for, among other things, water and wastewater facilities, floodplain management, schools and the construction or renovation of facilities of cultural or historical value.
In September of 2014 the infrastructure list was amended to include removing the Justice Court building from the list ($450k) and to change the cost for the renovation of the Gallagher/Courthouse lot from the original January 2014 estimate of $300k to $750k …ooops.. we grossly underestimated the cost on the original list. That $750k does not include the purchase price of $250k so it’s a $1 million parking lot. The revised infrastructure list is now $1.3 million for total land purchases as compared to $950k in the January 2014 list.
In May of 2015 as part of the 2016 budget process they revised the infrastructure project list. There are a couple things to note.
$3.38 Million -~ 44% of the fund was for public works projects in and around Virginia City
$1.95 Million -~ 42% for buildings/grounds and land purchases predominantly in Virginia City
$170k- ~2.3% ish for Community development/Flood mitigation
$600k- ~7.5% ish for TRI
Here’s what they want to spend on land purchases:
|Gallagher/Clark Lot (courthouse)
Courthouse parking lot renovation
Eaton’s lot renovation
$750,000 up from original $300k
$100,000 in progress
Here is what they want to spend on Buildings and grounds:
|V&T Depot purchase
Gold Hill Restoration
Court House remodels
Fire Station #72
DA/Sheriff Building purchase
This is a 10 year plan and the county anticipates that we should get about $315k in revenue from the infrastructure tax in 2016 and they expect it to go up from there for subsequent years. Additionally, they can get “free” grants and float bonds to help fund some of the projects as with the reservoir projects. So that is all good.
However, the fund is for COUNTY WIDE projects and 86% of the funds are spent for the benefit of Virginia City…what about the rest of the county? I don’t begrudge VC getting supported, I question how the list was developed and prioritized.
Additionally, $1.3 million for parking lots in VC? Really? Not to mention the $75k for the bank building as a conference room facility. Now, I know that parking is an issue in VC but there are also pressing issues outside of VC. Again I question how the list was developed and prioritized.
There is money allocated for community centers in Lockwood and Mark Twain on the infrastructure list…which I think is WONDERFUL and a perfect use of OUR money. Nothing for the VC Senior center or the Highlands on the infrastructure list. VC’s senior center is up and running and apparently needs nothing. Nothing for the Highlands either. Full disclosure before you read on ….…I live in the Highlands.
Let’s get somethiing straight. There is resentment or animosity towards the Highlands by many old timers in and out of county government because the developers took the county to court in the ’70’s to allow the development to go thru despite a citizen’s vote of “NO”. They wished we would fall into a pit. Since then they have gladly taken our tax dollars.
I know the Commissioners consider us in the Highlands to be elitist, isolationist, backbiting whiners who can’t get our act together. I know this because they have said as much to my face and to others many times in open recorded meetings, the most recent being April 7th 2015 during the preliminary budget review when I asked why there was no money for the Highlands. Yes, we are a “private” entity but we pay taxes and we have a worsening water problem in the Highlands and regardless of whether they like us up here or not, the Highlands needs the County’s help to develop a plan to address it. I believe that Mark Twain may also have a water problem although I don’t know what nasty names the commissioners call them or if they want Mark Twain to fall into a pit along with the Highlands.
This water problem is not something we can do by our elite, whiney , backbiting selves. If there are legal reasons in the way of us getting infrastructure money such as being a private entity then let’s look at overcoming that. If they can’t give it to us out of the infrastructure fund then perhaps other county sources could be used. They seem to find ways of doing things when it is to TRI’s benefit, why not for us? I don’t think that they want to do anything for the Highlands. They basically laughed in my face when I asked if they could just give us the materials and manpower to finish the rest of the Cartwright sealing as an equitable solution to the Highlands being the only community that gets no Community Services money in the 2016 budget. Even the Jeep Posse gets money thru Community services.
We need the County to do some work on an assessment of the water problem in the Highlands and Mark Twain if necessary and to present options on how to solve it. Having a master plan in itself won’t fix that problem. Proactive action will.
For our part in the Highlands I believe we need to get our collective act together, co-operate and make our need known to all of the commisioners . I believe we need to see the light and realize that the lack of water for a growing number of people will affect property values sooner rather than later and the ability to sell properties for ALL OF US. Bottom-line…..the commissioners need to think outside the VC and TRI box when it comes to serving the county. There are actual real people who live in the county who have needs not related to parking lots or TRI who need infrastructure support.
Note- This article was written before Jay Carmona’s communication with the Commissioners attempting to get some funds. Read his comments in COMMUNITY VOICES