CAN I SAY AGAIN HOW IMPRESSED I AM WITH COMMUNITY CHEST? WE ARE SO LUCKY TO HAVE IT!
THE QUOTE FROM ANIMAL FARM “ALL ANIMALS ARE CREATED EQUAL….SOME MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS….” HOLDS SPECIAL MEANING HERE IN STOREY COUNTY WHEN IT COMES TO THE MUSTANG RANCH AND TRI
MUCH ADO ABOUT HOW THE NEXT COUNTY MANAGER WILL BE MANAGED BUT…ANOTHER MEETING PASSES BY AND NO CONSEQUENCES DISCUSSED FOR PAT WHITTEN’S MISAPPROPRIATION OF ALMOST $215K OF TAX PAYER DOLLARS….THEY WANT THIS TO GO AWAY.
By Nicole Barde
First off my apologies for being late with this report. I barely made it to the Commission meeting then went down for 6 days with the flu. My second round and I got the flu shot!
Onward……….Pat Whitten’s report pretty much covers the staff updates and voting items but there are a couple which I’d like to amplify.
First is Community Chest. I cannot adequately express my admiration for Shawn Griffin and his staff for what they have accomplished for this community. Shawn was there at the meeting to give the update and recalled how 20 years ago the vision of what we now have at Community Chest was met with derision, laughter and incredulity. Today we have a spectacular new building funded by the Pennington Foundation, we have children’s programs, a gleaming new library and computer center, a performing arts space and soon to be a 5 day health clinic. Best of all Community Chest is DEBT FREE. All I can say is thank you and BRAVO, BRAVO, BRAVO! There will be a grand opening on June 1st from 5-7. See you all there!
There is a new Public Works Director replacing Jason Van Havel. Congratulations to Interim Public Works Director Jason Wierzbicki for being promoted to Public Works Director.
The annual Residential Dump Days are coming around and are scheduled as follows:
-Lockwood landfill – the first three weekends in April
-Virginia City Waste Management transfer station – May 3, 4 and 5 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed 12-12:30 for lunch)
-No tires, dirt, concrete, engines, appliances, TV’s or electronics will be accepted.
Under Board comment Commissioner Jack McGuffey explained why the team couldn’t make it to Washington DC for the national NACO conference.
This was an extremely long meeting, over 4 hours. Much of that time was taken up with a lot of detail and minutiae involved with wording of several county policies and then the County Manager’s job description and performance appraisal process.
The first agenda item was #7 which was a Resolution ( #18-483) authorizing the County to begin negotiations with TRIC to create a Special Assessment District at TRIC which will pay for the effluvium pipeline. This would be a special assessment on the companies that will use that water. The Resolution would also authorize the County to enter into an agreement with TRI companies to put $175k on deposit with the county to reimburse the county for all of the expenses associated with the creation of the Special Assessment District.
Pat Whitten explained that this would authorize him to begin the process to look at a Special Assessment District as an option for raising funds to pay for the pipeline. That it in no way obligated the county to do anything. That if there were bonds involved that the county would not be liable for them. That this was just the first step to see what could be done. Additionally, this would authorize the county to negotiate with the principals (Switch et al) for a deposit of $175k to pay for the consultants (financial and bond) the due diligence and other services like appraisals that would be required to begin the process. All were in agreement to proceed.
Sam Toll, editor of The Storey Teller, got up to ask about the wording of the agreement where it names Switch as the “ developer” company who owns or controls the owners of the companies in the Assessment District. He asked if this meant that Switch has power of attorney over the other companies utilizing the water for purposes of this agreement. He was told by the bond consultant that they were told by Jeremy Aguerro (Las Vegas TRI consultant who bombed with the first financing scheme) to just put Switch in there for now, and that this was just a draft agreement.
Sam went on to note that there is currently a seat vacant on the TRI GID and no one to fill it. He said that in order to qualify to run you have to live in the district. Because there is no one living at TRIC , technically no one can qualify to run. He noted that there seemed to be no oversight of that GID and that if the county is going to help the GID get funding that there should be more transparency and reporting required. He noted that the Nevada legislature recently passed a bill, SB462, which allows counties to establish oversight committees over General Improvement Districts. Commission Chair Marshall McBride said that they may look at that later in the process but that since this wasn’t part of the Resolution discussion nor an agendized item that nothing more could be discussed about it.
SIDENOTE: I have been objecting to the initial scheme to finance the pipeline using out taxpayer dollars for MONTHS…. I really hope that this new effort to establish a Special Assessment District truly places the burden of the cost for the pipeline squarely on the shoulders of those who will benefit from it……not on the shoulders of the taxpayers either as a guarantee for the bonds or as a siphoning off of our tax revenues to pay for it. I also hope that this doesn’t end up having so many moving parts that we can’t see who’s on first, what’s on second…..meaning I hope it’s a clean deal with no surprises, gotchas, or hidden elements.
Next up was # 31 agenda item, the approval of a Special Use Permit for the construction of a hotel which will exceed the general height requirements. It will be four rather than the three stories. This passed.
SIDENOTE: We all know that TRI has created both a housing and a lodging shortage….it’s a fact of rapid growth and adding a fourth story to this hotel helps with room inventory and revenue. It will be interesting to see how many SUPs will be requested by the companies out at TRI. We just went thru a rigorous Master Plan process….let’s see how long that lasts in the face of pressure from the golden goose. Any bets for six stories?
Additionally, Commissioner, TRI principal and brothel owner Lance Gilman has already described the plans for the LAKE and shopping and entertainment venues out there as “Vegas like”. Nothing wrong with that but I just wonder where all that water will come from? Industrial effluent perhaps?
But I digress…………..
Items # 12, 13 and 14 all had to do with the funding of the Storey County 5 Mile Water Line project. The resolution passed.
Items #15 and 16 were discussions about how to perform the public performance evaluation of the FUTURE County Manager and how administrative policies pertaining to the job duties of the county manager need to be approved by the Board.
SIDENOTE: Before I continue with the meeting summary on this item let me summarize exactly why this is on the agenda. Remember last year when the Commissioners discovered quite by accident that County Manager Pat Whitten had given away the store to his buddies to the tune of $215k in unapproved bonuses?
By “accident” I mean that if it hadn’t been for Rob DuFresne getting up during a public meeting to ask where HIS bonus was the Commissioners would have happily continued to look the other way.
As a result of Rob’s action it forced them to look at Pat’s “power gone wild” actions and their own lack of oversight over Pat’s activities. Their feigned outrage then produced an inquiry which resulted in Pat’s getting lauded as a wonderful team member, a flurry of activity in the rewriting of many policies that gave Pat his authority, an interest in defining the job of the NEXT County Manager and doing a performance appraisal of that County Manager. But nowhere in any of this has there been any talk of let alone any movement towards consequences for Pat Whitten’s misappropriation of $215k of our taxpayer funds. They have talked about the above mentioned activities in terms of “for the person who replaces Pat” not in terms of applying them to Pat himself. He seems to be immune from both consequences and accountability.
But I digress………….
There was lengthy discussion around a template/format on the criteria for the evaluation, how to do the actual performance evaluation, who would do it, how it would be done etc. There was concern that it shouldn’t be a subordinate who collects the information. During public comment I got up to ask if they had considered using the 360 degree approach to get feedback on Pat’s performance.
Austin asked what was a 360 degree process. I described a process in use for at least 25 years in the real world which has performance input provided by a person’s subordinates, peers, managers and in some cases customers or vendors. We did it at Intel for all of our reviews. I did it for the Executives I was partnered with. I even did it for the president of the company. Not hard to do, very thorough. They nodded and thanked me for my input.
Next up were items #17 and 18, the recommendations by the county Auditors based on the Audited financials and the appointment of next year’s Auditors.
Bottom line the auditors noted 6 departments or funds that were over approved appropriations and that better monitoring needs to be done to avoid this in the future. The auditors noted that the cash basis accounting standard used for the investment accounts will need to change to fair market value in the future and that the Commission needs to implement policy standards that will require board approval of future additional retirement benefits.
The auditors, DiPitero and Thornton CPA, were selected for next year’s audit.
Next up was item #19 a retry on Ordinance No.18-283 which forgot to exclude bestiality as an allowable activity in Storey County in the Commercial Zone of the Master Plan. Sleep safe tonight Storey County…bestiality is now dead! The Ordinance also added some language as to what was allowable for “adult uses”. Commissioner and brothel owner Lance Gilman said that he was not allowed to display adult items or themes inside his “C” street establishment and asked if these changes would affect that prohibition. He was told that this Ordinance allows it in the Commercial Zone only and that Virginia City was residential/commercial and therefore it was still not allowable for him to display things of an adult nature on “C” Street.
Next was item #20 which changes the Transient Lodging tax provisions in Ordinance 18-284. In a nutshell…..according to the law if you stay in a place longer than a certain number of days you essentially enter into a “landlord/tenant” relationship and have tenant rights. Hotels and motels don’t want that type of relationship so if you are staying there long term (extended stay) they have you move rooms every month or so. This also has implications for the tax rate. The transient lodging tax is paid on each room night. This Ordinance specifies the maximum number of nights a person can stay in a hotel as a transient (and subsequently collect room tax). This will result in more tax revenue coming into the County to fund the VCTC.
It was approved.
Sam Toll got up and stated that the Mustang ranch was required to pay the lodging tax by Ordinance and yet they do not pay it. He said that upon asking Comptroller Hugh Gallagher about it that Hugh said that a room tax is for a stay of at least a day and that the transactions in the rooms at the Mustang are less than that so no room tax. Sam then stated that there are currently 7 people who claim the Mustang Ranch as their legal residence despite the lack of residential zoning designation. 3 of them live in a double wide at 5 and 56 and 4 live in another area. All claim to legally live there. He asked how they can live there legally when it isn’t zoned for extended stay/residential or even lodging. He asked if this ordinance would affect the Mustang Ranch’s residential/lodging classification either for the rooms in the Mustang or for the 7 resident claiming to live there.
Sam was told that since this wasn’t part of the current Ordinance nor an agendized item that nothing more could be discussed about it.
SIDENOTE: The issue of people claiming the Mustang as legal residence when the Mustang IS NOT ZONED RESIDENTIAL gets brought up and nothing gets done about it. I’ve read in the Teller that Sam has been asking about this issue with Community Development, the DA’s office and recently filed a complaint about it with the Sheriff and NOTHING is getting looked in to. Unless there is invisible ink in the Ordinance that says the Mustang is zoned residential I don’t understand why they haven’t been cited and shut down from allowing people to live there and claim it as their residence.
Do you think that if you had an un-permitted mother-in law quarters on your property that the county would hesitate for one second to fine you and shut you down?
But I digress……………..
The rest of the items were fairly procedural and covered in Pat Whitten’s summary.
At Public Comment at the end of the meeting Sam Toll got up and again asked that the Commission consider adding the public comment section at the beginning of the meeting so that the public could be served…..first instead of having to wait until the end ( of a 4 hour meeting) to have their say. He noted that Storey County is the only one of 17 counties that put Public Comment at the end of the meeting.
To this Marshall countered that there is public comment after each agenda item.
SIDENOTE: While there IS public comment after each agendized item you can only comment on that particular item and discuss it. If you want to address issues not on the agenda then you have to wait until the general public comment time. Once there you can bring up your issues and until recently have some discussion about it with the Commissioners. Recently Marshall has taken the stand that “this is not a debate” is the appropriate answer for questions asked during the public comment section. He doesn’t allow discussion, questions, replies or exchanges. You now go up, say what you have to say and sit down or he moves you out. No way to engage unless you can get an agenda item on the agenda for some future meeting.
Gee…….we’re getting big and formal and ….but I digress………
Next Sam expressed his frustration about the enforcement of the zoning rules. He noted that he got a list of red tags from Community Development and saw that they were pushing people off their properties for not having plans and permits and yet these rules are not being applied equally to everyone. He asked that more effort be put forth to have a uniform application of the rules for everyone, regardless of privilege or status. He cited Animal Farm where “some all animals are created equal but some animals are more equal than others “.
SIDENOTE: Gee…..I wonder who he’s referring to.