By Nicole Barde
EVERY TIME I GO TO ONE OF THESE MEETINGS MY HEAD EXPLODES. I CAN SAFELY SAY THAT THESE MEETINGS MAKE THE SAUSAGE MAKING PROCESS LOOK CLEAN AND SANITARY.
You can find the 32 (THIRTY TWO) item agenda for this meeting HERE. There were attachments too numerous to link to so I will only include a few key items. If you are interested in the rest please contact me thru this blog.
To start out with, the original meeting date for the meeting was May 22. That meeting had to be rescheduled to May 30 for lack of a quorum. There were not enough commissioners there to have the meeting. The commissioners who were not able to attend did not have the courtesy to inform anyone that they were not going to attend so we sat there for almost 30 minutes watching while people tried to locate them.
…..this was a total waste of time for those of us who made the effort to be there.
Additionally, it is apparent to me that there is no pre meeting prep work done with either the Project Manager, Candy Duncan or the Accountant, Bob Robinson by the Commission Chair or Treasurer. I say this because in every meeting I have attended there are always surprises, confusion, misunderstandings and disarray. A lot of time could be saved and confusion avoided if the materials for the meeting were reviewed prior to the meeting and issues worked out before presenting the information in the public forum. As it is, the public has to sit thru the working out of the many errors and omissions that occur. This meeting was typical of all the V&T Commission meetings……….. a complete cluster of confusion.
Despite the 32 agenda items, the net-net of this meeting was basically that the Commission is running out of money……as usual. There was a long and confused discussion about item 9 HERE which was an action to augment the CURRENT year 2017 budget by $318,520 to cover the upfront costs of storm repairs which will then be reimbursed by FEMA. The Commission would secure the $318,520 “augmentation” by taking a loan from Storey County.
That seems simple enough………..but it’s not. The never approved $318,520 had ALREADY been plugged into this year’s V&T budget by accountant Bob Robinson which then affected the June 31, 2017 ending on hand balance on the balance sheet………….this pretend EOH number ( since there is NO actual $318,522) was then used as the beginning on hand balance in constructing the coming V&T 2018 year budget. This means there is actually even less real money available in the new 2018 budget.
Got it? Padded the books….actually more like counting your chickens with no eggs.
Essentially the new V&T 2018 budget was approved by the Department of Taxation based on the non-monies represented by the non-loan from Storey County. Accountant Bob Robinson said that the $318,520 “augmentation” had to be approved in this meeting since the final, final budget had to be approved by the V&T Commission the next day per “the rules”.
Got it? Approval after the fact.
OK, this is where it all broke down. There was confusion and incredulity on the part of Commission Chair Dwight Millard and everyone with a pulse in that room except for Bob Robinson the accountant. He was the one presenting the agenda item and in charge of the budgeting, who seems immune to the confusion he causes. A couple of things came out which tortured the process.
The first thing was that since there was no $318,520 in the account (the augmentation being voted on) ….how could it be included in the budget? If the $318,520 didn’t exist then what are they voting on? This point was revisited many times during the meeting since it just made no sense , ie..cognitive dissonance, but that didn’t stop the discussion from going forward.
The second thing was that the Storey County “loan document” to be approved by the V&T Commission had never been discussed with Storey County and it contained no terms on the loan let alone the interest on the loan. That plus….none of the numbers made any sense….
The third thing was that Bob Robinson the accountant and the Commission operated on the assumption that Storey County had the funds and had already approved the $318, 520 loan at no interest. This assumption was based on some prior meeting where Commission member and Storey County Commissioner Jack McGuffey was heard to say by all that County Comptroller Hugh Gallagher had approved the $318,520 at no interest. Jack doesn’t recall saying that in exactly that way. Disagreement and contradiction ensued among the V& T Commission for a while on this point stressing that Jack had indeed said that the money had been approved. Both County Manager Pat Whitten and Comptroller Hugh Gallagher were at the meeting and spoke up to say that this was never discussed with them and that before any action could be taken the loan request ,and the document, would need legal review and then the Storey County Commissioners would have to vote on it. More confusion about who said what to whom, when and where occurred.
The bottom-line at this point was that V&T Commission and the Storey County representatives agreed that they needed to further discuss this issue and that Storey County needed time for legal review, determination of the terms of the loan and the approval by the Storey County Commission.
Commission Chair Dwight Millard also told accountant Bob Robinson to take the $318,520 out of the current budget totals and fix the coming years budget totals even if it makes the submission to Department of Taxation late….rules be damned!
The next agenda item, #10, was to discuss the sale of the $469,881 note which the Commission carries on the Drako property which they sold previously. They are currently getting monthly payments but need the lump sum for cash flow purposes. They are looking to unload it at a discount.
Item #11 was to approve the 2018 budget which is to be modified MINUS the $318,520 loan money that was never approved from Storey County. This item was pushed out to a later date to be approved.
Item # 12 was the presentation of the financial sales tax audit on Commission monies received from Storey County.
The audit was requested by Storey County because per the 2010 Interlocal Agreement between Storey County and the V&T Commission the ¼ cent sales tax monies were to be used for V&T Rail operational expenses ONLY and monies were to be disbursed to the Commission ONLY when requested by the Commission in the month they need it. This monthly request was never done but Storey County kept sending money until they woke up one day to ask where the money was actually going. So they repeatedly requested an audit then stopped sending the money until they got the audit. This is that audit.
The audit shows how much Storey County has collected thru the ¼ cent sales tax and how much it has paid the V&T Commission per the 2010 interlocal agreement…..it did not show what the county wanted to know…..what did the money pay for? There was some discussion by Commission members about how it didn’t matter if the money was spent on items other than operations since the math would work out….so we should trust them on that. Hugh and Pat were not pleased but why quibble now.
Item #13 was to discuss the effect and implementation of SB 57, now law of the land, which takes the number of board members on the V&T Commission from 9 to 5 adding the Tourism Directors from Carson and VC to the Board. The bottom line is that the new Commission members take control in October and planning for upcoming events will continue as usual under the current Commission. The transition to the new Commission is expected to be smooth.
Items number 14, 15, 16,17,18,19 and 20 were all for approval of the contracts to continue with Marketing ($85k), PR ($14), Accounting ($9k) , Project Manager ( $12k plus $45k), Tom Gray, and Polar Express.
All of the vendor services except for Tom Gray were only extended until December 31, 2017 which allows the new Commission to evaluate whether they want longer term contracts. I would expect that some will NOT be renewed.
Items 23 and 24 were to discuss authorizing the engineer to seek bids for the repair of storm related damage totaling $250,000 as well as for the professional services to manage the project. There was an issue with these items in that until the Rail Commission receives funds either from the sale of the note on the Drako property or from Storey County they don’t have the funds to do the repairs. The Commission approved these items with the proviso that the contracts are contingent on sufficient and available funding.
The rest of the agenda was pretty procedural and the meeting mercifully ended.