By Nicole Barde

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

Pat Whitten’s summary basically covers all of the key points of the meeting and I just have a few comments.

First of all Congratulations to Jeff Nevin the new Storey County Fire Chief. He comes from a long line of Storey County residents in public service to their community. He will replace Chief Gary Hames when he retires this year.

Public Works Director Jason Van Havel reported that we have received 150% of “normal” precipitation in just two months. Nevada has had the wettest year on record…that’s 124 years. This is to say that the work that they have been doing on 6 Mile has been set back as a result of the latest round of storms. This week’s storms flooded the Canyon worse than the January events.

Community relations Director Cherie Nevin reported that the President approved the Declaration of Emergency for Nevada as a result of the January event. FEMA monies will be made available to the county as well as residents who apply. This isn’t “free money” it’s likely in the form of low cost loans to repair the damage. So if you’ve sustained significant damage please look into it. Meanwhile it’s an 18 month process…so let’s get on with it!

Bum Hess made an appearance as the County’s lobbyist and listed all the various bills that will affect Storey County. One is the water rights bill affecting our wells. It was suggested that residents attend these meetings to make our needs known.

Another is AB 153 regarding Washoe County, among others, applying impact fees to TRI related traffic or activities. It’s unclear exactly what it is but both Lance and Bum said that we need to be on high alert and that we have a year of careful analysis ahead since people have their eye on Storey County and the money we get from TRI.

SIDENOTE: Now, if you’ve been paying attention for the last few years you will remember that Lance Gilman, Storey County Commissioner, TRI Principal and brothel owner has been saying over and over and over again that Storey County is the “richest county on earth”. He’s said it at Commission meetings, during campaigns, on TV, on radio, during the holidays, and at events…..this is published in news reports far and wide.

This public chest beating is likely to attract the attention, envy and resentment of our neighboring counties who feel that they have to foot the infrastructure bill for all of the employees working at TRI…more people living in THEIR counties mean more services i.e. schools, roads, police, fire… Well……………If you are Washoe County and you hear Lance boasting and bragging about how rich Storey County is……wouldn’t that piss you off if you are sitting there holding the bag for all of the infrastructure to accommodate all the employees working out at TRI? Wouldn’t you want some of those riches?

Now, if you’ve been paying attention for the last few years you will recall that the major companies at TRI (Tesla, Panasonic, Switch et al) have been given varying levels of tax incentives and abatements to move to Nevada. This is money that Storey County does not get and yet Storey has to provide infrastructure and services to these companies. This is a cost to Storey County and its taxpayers. Our neighbors don’t yet see that we are losing money as a result of TRI. One way is thru the abatements and the other is thru the loss of sales tax as a result of the zip code issue. But they don’t care….Lance says that we are the richest county in the galaxy….

In 2014 Lance promised the residents of Storey County a tax rollback or abatement of some sort to share in those riches…..we are still waiting. He promised “Economic prosperity”……we are still waiting.

They need to wait as long as we do………

Austin Osborn talked about the county’s Strategic Plan meeting held last Thursday at the Planning Commission. He said it would be an 8 month process which would also include inputs from the communities. I suggest we all go to give our inputs.

I was at this planning meeting…I think I was the only “public” there and the room was full of all of the County Department Heads, 2 Commissioners and Pat Whitten. The activity was led by someone from UNR I think. Over an hour was spent on discussing “if Storey County were a car, what kind would it be”, “If Storey County was a song, what song would it be”, “if Storey County were a movie what movie would it be”…if Storey County were an ice pick I would have gouged my eyes out during the exercise…..seriously……grown men and women being forced to write these answers on pink sticky notes. Ridiculous.

I have created strategic plans, I facilitate strategic planning, and I teach strategic planning…………..this is NOT it. For a 3 minute icebreaking exercise what we did was fine but that was all that was done at that meeting. You don’t have that kind of management horsepower in a room and not use it productively.

I fear for our future if this is what the process will be like and if it takes 8 months to create the plan. I expect that it will get better…it HAS to. I hope that they create a Strategic Plan that minimally focuses on:

◦A culture of efficient, effective and progressive County management

◦Business partnerships for mutual growth and success

◦Strength of community thru services and involvement

◦TRUST between citizens and their government

I hope that the strategic plan comprehends some of these things:

– identifies the future short and long term legislative issues that we will have to deal with and the impacts

– strengthens and grows the economic health of both TRI and Virginia City….maybe an Economic Development zone for VC

– a revitalization of our Arts Council and reconstruction and preservation of our cultural treasures

– a strategy that addresses the issues and needs of our wildlife and environment… specifically ; how to support the horse advocates in their stewardship , address the environmental concerns around protecting and  preserving our rock art, native wildlife and foliage and minimizing the impact of mining in our communities

I hope that whatever is developed has indicators and goals that get reported on to the citizens.

BUT I DIGRESS……………………..

YIPPIE! Comptroller Hugh Gallagher announced that he was putting the county audit services contract out to bid. Pringle and Associates has been auditing the County since 1972…………..upon hearing of this Pringle promptly declined to be part of the bidding citing decreased staffing. Kay Dean, Highlands resident was calling for this to be done 3 years ago…….anyway they have to select a new auditor by March 30th.

D.A. Anne Langer talked about the various phone scams that are going on and so please be aware.. A few are:

-the IRS calling you to say that you owe them money—-note..the IRS only ever sends you notices thru the mail.

-someone calls to say there is a warrant out for your arrest for…whatever…and to bring $3000 to a location to get a voucher to take to the sheriff’s office

-the power company calls to say you are in arrears by some amount and to pay it immediately or your power will get shut off

These are all scams….hang up!!

Pat Whitten announced that the Virginia City News and the Comstock Chronicle will be merging. Wonderful…all county, TRI and CMI PR in one place.

Pat also announced that Roger Norman, TRI developer and major owner, gave the county a mountaintop to put communications equipment on. How nice.

Let’s see………If I recall correctly the county gave county owned USA Parkway to Roger a couple of years ago which he then turned around and SOLD to the State for …I can’t remember maybe $20 + million….Roger originally built the parkway and then of course shifted that cost to the county as part of the infrastructure agreement ( we owe TRI about $45 million ) so the county owes TRI for building it….then we give it back to TRI and TRI makes money on it but we still carry the debt. How nice.

We seem to have traded the cow for 2 beans and a handful of belly button lint….we need Trump to renegotiate THAT deal.

Last but not least I brought up two items during public comment.

One was the issue of the peeping-drone here in the Highlands. While drones have many, many protections under the law….we as citizens basically have none. My neighbors heard this drone outside their living room window and a bedroom window I think….reported it to the sheriff’s office, who came out to take a report but the drone was gone by then. So….I told this to the commission and asked that they look at creating an ordinance that deals with this type of “trespass” behavior and puts some kind of boundaries around what drones ( and their owners) can and cannot do in residential areas. I noted that I was sure that TRI and its businesses had some sort of remedy for drones spying on them so ……what about the rest of us. D.A. Langer said that she had prosecuted drone owners for “trespass” before and basically said nothing about the county stepping up and protecting its residents against this type of intrusive behavior. Oh…..we’re not supposed to shoot them out of the sky with shotguns ….that would be wrong…..

The other question I had was about the gas/diesel tax. Recall that it was voted down by Storey County residents. Well all other counties except one also voted it down. So the counties are still trying workarounds to get some money. Pat Whitten said that there may be a way for the commission to increase the road diesel tax by about 5 cents but only for road diesel…not gasoline or home diesel.

Lastly, a resident living on a remote 40 acre parcel in the Highlands asked the county to look into the fact that there is no access to his home from either side of the mountain he sits on. He had to be rescued during the snow event to get out and now can’t get back in….there is only one access and it’s demolished due to the water and snow. He fears for fire season. He noted that he had brought this to the attention of Kris Thompson and Lance Gilman and that there were private parties at TRI that were willing to help out. Lance committed to continue to help with this in his capacity of TRI principal.. The county is betwixt and between on this since he is on private land and the county can’t do the extensive repairs needed on his road and yet the Fire department needs to be able to get to him.


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