By Nicole Barde

This week’s meeting was short but had some interesting tid-bits. The agenda was fairly straightforward but there were a couple of procedural flubs not caught until after they were made. You can read Pat Whittens summary of the meeting HERE.

Commission Chair Marshall McBride started by talking a bit about the tragedies of terror events in Paris and San Bernardino and asked for a moment of silence. He said that we must all be vigilant and “say something if you see something”. He called Sheriff Antinoro up to give some comments as well. The Sheriff said that although he was not overly concerned about terror events here on the Comstock that he agreed we should say something if we see something out of place. He will be giving a talk at the Gold Hill Hotel on January 7th about “Guns, Terror, and Radicalization in Rural Nevada.”

Then the consent agenda was approved. The consent agenda are typically those items that are considered routine and are grouped together to be approved all at once without any discussion. If a citizen wants to have one of those items put on the general agenda to be discussed then the Commission does that. There was one item on the consent agenda that surprised me. It was the first reading of an application for a liquor license by Tina Perkins for the Delta Saloon. Vimcent Malfitano owns both the Delta and Bonanza and was denied liquor licenses for both. This denial by the board put a lot of people out of a job. Perkins is now applying for a license under her own name. Given the history I would have thought this would have been a part of the regular agenda but it sailed thru.

The staff updates came next. Marshall called out each of the department heads to ask if they had anything to report and Jana Seddon, County Assessor, told the Commission that the Assessor’s office was no longer required to publish the tax roll in the paper or mail it out to all Storey County residents. That the new legislation allows for the posting of the tax roll on the County website. If you want a hard copy you can get it at no charge. This saves money and time for the county.

Hugh Gallagher, County Controller, reported that the draft of the audit report from Pringle was complete and he would be reviewing it prior to submission to the Commission for approval. He said that having the audit completed will give him the ability to do the property tax rollback analysis requested by Commissioner Lance Gilman last year. Here’s hoping that we get a tax cut.

Hugh also mentioned that the county will be doing a 5 year capital improvement plan. This is driven by all the construction out at TRI. The companies want various types of reporting and plans and the county will need to supply them accurately and on time. There was an article on Tesla in the RGJ on December 10 stating, among many other things, that Storey County was delinquent in providing the state with the required reports for the tax abatements given to Tesla:

“……Lawmakers also wanted to make sure the project didn’t pose a significant burden to local government services such as police, fire and education. They required Storey County to file two annual reports detailing the cost to local government posed by the project.

Storey County missed its first two deadlines for those reports, filing them only after a reporter called the Legislative Counsel Bureau looking for them.

The reports eventually filed by the county were barely half a page long and contained few details required by lawmakers”.

I have asked the question of “cost to the county” several times over the year since we get no significant revenues from Tesla and are now providing services. I have been told that the costs are offset by an agreement we have with Tesla to reimburse the county for these services so I don’t know why County Manager Pat Whitten couldn’t provide the data that the state required.

The full story is here. We can’t slip like this on any state and company requested reports and call ourselves a professional and progressive organization. Our credibility as being in control will come into question if we can’t produce the proof. The County’s credibility with citizens will also come into question if they can’t assure us that they can effectively manage the increased TRI/TESLA costs with no negative impact to us. By negative impact I mean utilizing other tax monies, not necessarily property taxes, to cover TRI expenses. Tax monies that could have gone into supporting other areas of the county and it’s citizens. Developing an Economic Development Plan for VC for example, helping the Highlands figure out it’s water issues is another. All taxes collected belong to the citizens of the county, not just the property taxes.

Then Marshall then asked Kris Thompson from TRI if he had anything to report. This was odd to me…..since when is TRI a part of “staff” updates? The various community centers and other organizations that are non-profits and financially supported by the County give updates when they are there but TRI is a private entity. Guess the lines got blurred.

D.A. Langer made note that they had approved the Delta first reading for the liquor license but that there may be a need to discuss it. She said that she had reviewed the Delta’s lease and had some questions about the separation between Perkins and Malfitano in the lease. It was pointed out to DA Langer that they had already approved the first reading thru the consent agenda. DA Langer said it could be re-opened for public comment which it was. There was no public comment and the Sheriff was asked to comment on the application. He responded that this first reading is fairly procedural and that he had not reviewed the lease, he was just processing the application and doing the required investigation. The question of whether Malfitano would relinquish his business license for the Delta came up. Apparently you can’t have two licenses for the same establishment. DA Langer said that she would be examining the lease more closely between now and the next reading in January 2016.

I didn’t know that it is standard process to review every lease of every applicant for liquor license. Sounds like a lot of work.

Board comment came next.

Commission Chair Marshall McBride commented that the parade on December 5th was very nice and everyone had a good time. He also commented on the passing of Shirley Colletti and reminisced about what times were like when she was commissioner.

Commissioner Jack McGuffey reported on the various NACO activities. The EPA is apparently trying to take control of all, ALL, U.S. waterways inclusive of dry ditches. There are 31 lawsuits filed against them for this. Needless to say this will take a long time to unwind.

Utah wants to have total control of its Federal Lands. They feel that they could manage them for cheaper than the FED and actually have them generate revenue. Nevada is watching how this goes.

There is talk of having a gas tax increase on the ballot in the next general election. Jack commented that it’s fine as far as the big truck stops at TRI are concerned but we need to be careful how it might affect our lone gas station in town. Jim Poston recently did an excellent article on our regional gas taxes, you can find it here.

Jack also reported that the V & T commission’s audit was completed and that Storey County is the main and essentially only county contributor to general revenues and he has a problem with that. Storey is giving approximately $307k this year thru the ¼ cent sales tax. I also attended the V & T Commission meeting on December 14th and will do a summary as soon as I get a few requested documents. Look here for a detail of the disaster that has been Storey County’s recent history with the V&T Commission.

At this point Pat Whitten made the comment that he may suggest that a repeal of the ¼ cent sales tax contribution to the V & T Commission be put on the ballot in the general election. (ed note: this was passed by Storey County voters in the 2010 general election as a way to fund the completion of the line thru town to the freight depot. This never happened) Whitten says that repealing the ¼ cent tax helps in the negotiations with businesses considering moving to TRI since every ¼ cent is money out of their pocket and having the lower rate helps us to negotiate. I would expect that Whitten would determine if this is even legal, practical and in good faith discuss this with the V & T Rail Commission so as not to take them by surprise.

The next agenda item was for approval to hire an outside Tax audit company. Part of our tax revenue is on “personal property” as well as real (estate) property. Companies are supposed to self-report these assets to the county. Up until now the assessor’s office has been able to do the site inspections to audit if the self-reporting is accurate and to list the equipment and materials to be taxed and then tax them. With all the growth at TRI and with the complexity of the types of businesses out there the assessor’s office has neither the staff nor the expertise to do those audits. This outside company has been doing this successfully for Washoe County and other counties and so Storey wants to use them to do it here. This was approved by the board. Meanwhile, since the companies at TRI have a Sparks’s zip code many are sending their personal property reports to Washoe County and Washoe gets those taxes. While Washoe catches some of this and returns the money to Storey it’s not a clean process. There is high hope that by using TMA (Tax Management Associates) it will enable Storey to get all the money it is due.

Next up was transferring about $27,000 from the contingency fund to the general fund to cover a couple of unfunded actions by the legislature enacted after the budget was approved. Salary and PERS increases were the main items augmented. It’s nice to see that if WE need it, we can ask for an augmentation to funds that support the communities.

Next was the approval for add-on to existing liquor licenses for the Palace and old Hill Hotel by Robert and Nicole Wilkinson. This was approved then after it was approved it was noted that the Commissioners and Sheriff had not convened as the Liquor Board to make the approval so had to reconvene and do it over.

Lastly the Commission approved the “moratorium” on new PUD’s in Storey County until after the Master Plan is approved in July 2016.


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