AMIDST ASSURANCES THAT THERE IS NO COUNTY LIABILITY, THE SITTING COMMISSIONERS ARE LIKELY TO ALSO ASSUME OVERSIGHT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE TRI GID….WHICH THEY SAY HAS NO DEBT ….WELL EXCEPT FOR THE IMPENDING $130+ MILLION DOLLAR LOAN FROM ROGER NORMAN
THE HIRING PROCESS FOR PAT WHITTEN’S REPLACEMENT KICKS OFF WITH A STUNNINGLY VAPID SET OF JOB REQUIREMENTS. IT LOOKS LIKE AN INTERNAL WILL BE SELECTED THUS CONTINUING THE LONG TRADITION OF ORGANIZATIONAL INBREEDING THAT IS STOREY COUNTY GOVERNMENT
CONGRATULATIONS TO NEWLY ELECTED AND RE-ELECTED STOREY COUNTY OFFICIALS, THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SERVICE!
This meeting was held on Monday of this week due to NRS requiring the swearing in of officials on the first Monday of January. Judge Wilson did the honors and the courtroom was full of proud families and friends. Sworn in were:
- Newly elected Commissioner Jay Carmona
- Judge Eileen Herrington
- Sheriff Jerry Antinoro
- Clerk Vanessa Stephens
- Recorder Jen Chapman
- D.A Ann Langer
- School Board Trustee Jeff Nevin
- School Board Trustee Tom Thompson
Congratulations to all!
The next order of business was the election of Chair and Vice-Chair of the Commission and Commissioner Marshall McBride was re-elected Chair and Commissioner Lance Gilman was elected Vice-Chair.
Staff updates were brief.
Mike Northam, Public Works project manager spoke a bit about recent service line break in Gold Hill, which is repaired for now, the plans to make the Black and Howell building into the future Visitor Center, the renovation of the County Fairgrounds and 6 mile drainage improvements.
SIDENOTE- I agree with the purchase of the fairgrounds and some of the renovations it requires because it is a revenue generating property and has the ability to pay for itself. The county purchased the fairgrounds and will lease them back to the VCTC until that debt is paid.
The purchase of the Black and Howell building by VCTC Director Deny Dotson in 2014 was a “pig in a poke” and has cost the county…not VCTC…. money to mitigate the collapsing building site disaster. I was at those meetings at the time and I along with Judy Cohen asked numerous questions about final costs ( cost of ownership ) which were waved away as no big deal at the time because it was “an opportunity” to get it for only $80,000. The County has had to spend more money on it to keep it from becoming a liability. Add that to the $80,000 “ opportunity” price tag.
Now we have a $1 million +++ complete buildout of a new Visitors Center on the Black and Howell site which the county will be paying for…and ostensibly another “loan” to the VCTC to do it. How will the VCTC pay for it ? Where is this money coming from? Our taxes? Grant monies? The billion dollar companies at TRI?
Where is my property tax roll back?
Early digression…danger ahead…..
VCTC Executive Director Deny Dotson updated the Board on his activities which included working on budgets, the renovation plan for the fairgrounds, and preparation for the mining games and oyster fry in March. He stated that there will be a lot of focus on Christmas next year and that planning is underway.
Special Project manager Mike Nevin gave some detail on what happened in Gold Hill with the water break. There are two holding tanks for GH. One is about 150,000 gallons and the other is 90,000 gallons. The smaller tank was given to the town in the 1950’s and has been in a constant state of repair since then. It is a duct tape rip away from collapse and…it ruptured. The plan is to replace the 90,000 gallon tank and refurbish the 150,000 gallon tank OR to replace both of them with one larger tank. Apparently, there is money left in the USDA loan that the county got for the water project that MAY be able to be applied to this project as well. The loan has an interest rate of about 1.5 percent and those rates are long gone so it would be a great deal for the county if they could use that money.
The Fire Marshal reported on the activity at Community Development since July 2018:
- 173 Plan reviews
- 261 Permits issued
- 119 Licenses issues
- 1787 Inspections completed
- 106 open permits at Tesla alone
- 65 permits for other businesses in the county
- 60 residential permits
- 16 Trailer permits
Austin Osborn, HR/Planning Manager reported that the County is beginning negotiations with Waste Management for the next 5 year contract. He noted that WM wanted to renew the contract with the existing terms intact…ie no changes. Austin declined and asked the company to come at the table to discuss all of the terms. BRAVO Austin!
Austin also reported that the Zoning Ordinance revision is almost complete and he will be going to each community to get inputs, the flood study at Mark Twain is ongoing with participation from residents there, the USGS water study in the Highlands is ongoing with a new update to residents in the Spring, that the VC cell tower is up and the one in the Highlands was to have been completed by last Christmas.
District Attorney Ann Langer got up to say that her office has a total of 36 nuisances that they are looking into. That they are all being worked on in earnest and that she is very pleased with the response of the residents in clearing them up. She noted that Community Development in helping with that and that the number of nuisances is much lower than when she first took office and they are getting resolved more quickly.
County Manager Pat Whitten said that the January 3rd objection date to the TIA had passed with no objections so the TIA is a go. He also reported that he was approached by Roger Norman’s lawyer, Bob Sader, asking that the County Commission take over the governance of the TRI GID by sitting on that board as Trustees. Pat said that this is just a request at this point and that it is in the beginning stages of discussion and due diligence.
He noted that there is a problem with the TRI GID’s ability to seat a full board since there are few residents out at TRI to pull from. Pat noted that the TRI GID is debt free, which is good. There are two ways to populate the board…#1 is to have an election from within the residents of the area ( which is a problem) , #2 is to have the County government act as Trustee. Pat made a point of saying that this is not going to be a liability to the County. That the County will not be in a position to have to backstop the GID’s finances.
SIDENOTE…..Uh…….The TRI GID has been running as an “inappropriate” entity since forever. FOREVER. I can’t say “illegal” since thats a legal term….I’m NOT saying illegal.
It should have 5 board members and they have 3. All three are Lance Gilman Employees who live and/or work at the Mustang Ranch. It has been managed like this for years….why the change now? Oh wait…..Roger Norman and Lance Gilman are no longer the developers. OK.
This has been brought up at the Commission meeting several times by both Sam Toll and myself over the last year in relation to the Tax Increment Area and the Special Assessment District when it was part of the deal. The concern being who was going to be left holding the bag if the GID went belly up. Each time we were told “ the county has no liability, it’s not a problem”.
Last year the Switch lawyer told the Reno City Council that if for some reason the TRI GID wasn’t able to pay for the pipeline or pay Reno/Sparks for the water contract that Storey County was responsible and would be that backstop. There is a video of this and it is on the record. So was the lawyer lying to the Reno City Council or was the Storey County Commission lying to us? Are people confused?
Roger Norman is fronting the TRI GID the rest of the money to build the water infrastructure in the park to the tune of over $130 MILLION dollars. This is in addition to the $35 million it will cost to build the pipeline which the county is paying $28 million for already. Since this is a private transaction we can’t see that agreement but I think I can call it a “loan”…..and as such it WILL be debt. Altho the County owes Roger $41 million and THATS not considered debt so who knows…..
The plan, I’m guessing, is to recoup that debt thru increased water/sewer rates at TRIC….but I doubt that Roger is willing to wait that long so how does it get paid back? We’ll never know. At the very least I’d like to see the TRI GID “loan” from Roger backstopped by BLOCKCHAINS so that the County is guaranteed that it will not be responsible for that huge liability or any other financial issues or expenses with the GID. Blockchains is the last developer at TRIC and beneficiary of that water….and if they are able to grease all of the decision making palms in Storey County ….will soon to be building a 1,000 to 10,000 unit housing development out there so….. they should be holding this bag….not the county.
So, lets see what the due diligence reports disclose. Also, lets hope that the TRI GID was built to higher standards than the rest of the infrastructure that Roger put into TRI. As of now, this does not pass the smell test for me….we’ll see.
But I digress and I have another one coming up….
Agenda Item#9 was the review and approval of the hiring process for Pat Whitten’s replacement. Pat would like to retire in July of this year. The County has hired an outside consultant and acknowledged friend of Pat Whiten’s named Linda Ritter to be the process agent. She is a former Carson City manager, 2003-2008, among other very impressive things.
She outlined the process, which is in the agenda packet , which will post the position immediately in several Nevada organizations and receive interested resumes by February 1st . Then two interview panels ( a Citizens Panel and a Staff panel of 7-9 people each) will interview the strongest candidates in the last two weeks of February. The top candidates out of that process will be interviewed by the Commissioners in the April Commission Meeting.
Commissioner Marshall McBride expressed concern about the length of the process and asked about an expedited process.
During public comment, I got up to say that altho the process steps looked good, that the time for recruitment was far too short. Even if it were posted now, to only have 3 weeks to get the best candidates to see it, decide if it is a job for them, and to apply isn’t enough time. Additionally, that unless the job requirements were written expressly so that an exiting internal candidate would qualify for the job that the position description has no real meaty experiential requirements. You can see them HERE. But here is an excerpt:
The Ideal Candidate
The ideal candidate will be a strategic thinker with an entrepreneurial spirit that projects enthusiasm and a positive attitude. Accessibility and approachability will be essential for success. Keen negotiating and communication skills will come into play for this problem solver and fair minded mediator. The ideal candidate will value the benefits of living in a small community while being close to city conveniences.
Education and Experience
The successful candidate will have a combination of education and Job experience equivalent to graduation from a four-year college or university with major coursework in public or business administration, political science, public policy, finance or a related field and (10) years executive-level experience in a related administrative/ managerial capacity involving responsibility for planning, organization and implementation of programs and services for an organization.
I went on to say that I had been to the podium several times in the last two years asking that the Commission PLEASE recruit for the absolute best experienced person for this job. That given the County’s growth in both size and complexity that we needed someone with experience who has been to where we are going as a county. That by not requiring extensive broad prior County management experience the Commission is basically shortchanging the citizens of this county. We can’t afford someone learning on our nickel as we move forward into a very complex future. We need someone who will bring in clean, fresh eyes and proven strategies to adapt to our situation..
Kris Thompson, TRI and Lance Gilman employee, planning commissioner and Blockchains assistant government affairs employee got up to say that he disagrees with everything that I said. That hiring someone out of Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco or Denver won’t work. That the current structure was built by “cowboys & a retired banker” and it works and has been very successful. That the current way of doing things works and not to mess with it.
Pat Whitten said what he has said in the past. That we don’t want anyone from the east coast who can’t even pronounce Nevada. He said that culture is key. That getting people out of large metropolitan areas who don’t understand Nevada or know about how we do things in Storey County isn’t the right way to go. He said that the requirements were written with flexibility so that it didn’t exclude otherwise qualified people who may be a fit.
SIDENOTE….Bottom line this job will be filled by an internal candidate. Two to three weeks of recruitment time is too short for a quality external hire at this high level of job. If you want the best candidate you recruit them, they are not looking for a job. If you want to grow and improve your organization you bring in a diversity of experience. The Storey County institutional knowledge exists under this position so that will be retained but you need a leader who will bring new ways of doing things to the organization.
The Commission has known that this was coming for at least 6 months maybe longer and could have mounted an actual recruitment process….but chose not to do so.
There was absolutely no interest voiced by any Commissioner in getting someone who can bring in new and different skills, perspectives and proven strategies. No interest in bringing in someone who the staff can learn new things from. No interest in bringing in someone who has successfully navigated the big money tactics which we face so that we do not continue to be babes in the woods and out maneuvered. No interest in breaking the insider clique.
To me this is mismanagement of the highest order. It looks as if the Commission is deliberately closing ranks to hire someone “ who knows Storey County, how we do things, and will continue to do them that way”…..and that is NOT an external candidate, it’s not even the best candidate. So why bother going thru with this farce?
In her letter to Pat Whiten, which is in the packet, the consultant stated that because Austin Osborn, HR/Planning has expressed interest in the position that all of the resumes will be going to Carson City Human Resources to process in order to eliminate “the conflict this poses”. Nothing against Austin, he’s smart, works hard, is good at his job but he brings none of the above to the party.
WHO IS SHE KIDDING? The job is his.
I have digressed too much…
Item # 10 of the agenda was the annual appointments to the various committees and boards which you can see in the agenda packet.
Item #11 was the result of the county financial audit. It passed with a few areas for improvement….they were basically the same areas as last time, and the time before…..there is one accounting change which affects the balance sheet and that is that the County now needs to “book” PERS and Health insurance for retired on the balance sheet which reduces the assets side of the sheet by $38 million dollars and the net position $2.7 million lower than the last audit. Altho these “liabilities” are not likely to happen all at once if at all this is the new way to show them.
The last meaty item was the approval of the amendment to the TRI Developer agreement. The county has to pay Roger Norman back for his infrastructure loan of $41 Million under a very specific set of conditions. One of those conditions is based on the revenue generated by TRIC. This amendment states that the revenues generated in the TIA will not be a part of that payback formula since the county has to return that revenue to the companies for paying for the pipeline.
The establishment of the TIA, which was approved at the last meeting, was contingent on Roger signing this amendment which he did so this was the final piece to fully approve the TIA.
And that was it!