Carson City’s capital projects, deferred maintenance loom large in 2015

Finding the political and financial guts and dollars in 2014 to forge ahead with Carson City capital improvements was the past year’s highlight.

So said some members of the city’s Board of Supervisors, while a board majority looking into 2015 also indicated getting those improvements started is important even as the city finds needed funds to deal with deferred maintenance. Some talked of a wide array of deferred maintenance needs, while streets posed a specific concern. Clearing the capital projects funding hurdle, however, loomed large in retrospect.

“There are a lot of highlights,” said Mayor Robert Crowell in assessing the past year, “but the one that stands out is the passage and approval of a one-eighth of one percent sales tax increase based on a plan of expenditure that includes infrastructure projects that will go a long way to favorably position our community for the coming decades.”

He put that plan in the context of economic development as Nevada diversification efforts take place so the state and its capital city can not only grow, but enhance the local sense of community.

Supervisor Karen Abowd agreed, saying the one-eighth of a penny tax hike and bonding from that revenue stream will help build an animal shelter, a multi-purpose athletic center (MAC), spark business corridor improvements, including downtown, and upgrade the community center. “Working toward completion on all this will extend well into my second term in office,” she said.

Supervisor Brad Bonkowski, an integral part of the majority board coalition that provided the phased capital improvement plan and passed the tax hike, said his goals going forward include efforts to “continue wastewater treatment upgrades, corridor improvement plans, the MAC and the animal shelter projects.” Bonkowski was big on insisting all business corridors, not just downtown, be included for makeovers or facelifts.

Supervisor Jim Shirk, who repeatedly opposed the method used for financing the capital projects, said he learned in 2013 about city government’s and the board’s system of operating, “which then helped me to gain the knowledge so that in 2014 I was better prepared to serve and be a voice of the citizens.”

Though he didn’t mention the tax hike or public projects, he did look forward in 2015 to a possible private sector project downtown and voiced support for it. He calls it the MacCompany’s project that would go behind the Carson Nugget casino to the east and is featured on that Chicago area firm’s website. “It appears more than likely this project is a go,” he said. “I think we should show support for it.”

Shirk decried, however, the lack of public-private linkup in planning the public and private work that will proceed downtown.

“Unfortunately,” Shirk wrote, “this (private sector) project should have been coordinated with the narrowing of Carson Street.”

Supervisor-elect Lori Bagwell, who unseated Supervisor John McKenna for the board seat from Ward 3, didn’t talk of a 2014 highlight but said going forward she intends to make certain tax-backed funding for the public phase of any downtown business corridor change gets spent wisely. She said during her campaign she wouldn’t have boosted the sales tax had she been on the board, but she realizes a majority continues to support it.

Bagwell did say she figures deferred maintenance of streets and roads is a necessity in 2015 and beyond. Both the mayor and Bonkowski mentioned deferred maintenance concerns as among their priority issues next year. Crowell referred to it as “grappling with issues related to deferred maintenance resulting from the recession.”

Public Works has said deferred maintenance needs are falling behind funding at the rate of $1 million per year and growing.

The mayor, meanwhile, also mentioned senior city employees reaching or approaching retirement age as a concern, as well as the fact economic conditions improving was going to mean demand for public services was going to increase.

Bonkowski, in addition to issues previously mentioned, listed several priorities: continuing to lower the property tax rate, which dropped just two cents per $100 in assessed value in 2014; fostering additional customer service in city departments; implementing lean management city government concepts; implementing an outreach program for Hispanics, and creating a comprehensive strategic plan “that can and will be implemented.”

He said city government has bounced around in the past “like a pinball in a pinball machine. We have a strategic plan, but it’s not very strategic.”

Shirk, meanwhile, among his priorities voiced general support for future prospects involving the decommissioned Nevada State Prison on East 5th Street.

“The Nevada State Prison could possibly contribute to our cultural and architectural history, along with generating revenue from the increase in tourism,” according to Shirk.

He also said next year he will continue reviewing and providing a voice regarding any and all city expenditures, plus keep citizens informed. He said he’s trying to provide that voice to prompt “bigger and better discussions” and, in a related priority for him, called for divvying up the board’s various committee positions by having supervisors listing their top three preferences and apportioning them from that grid.

Abowd, meanwhile, looked forward to next year not only with excitement about beginning the capital projects but also with an eye toward working on a cultural master plan that “encompasses and adds to economic revitalization efforts.” She also wants to address mental health needs via outreach to help people, from teens to seniors, by dealing with such things as substance abuse, sexual assault and by preventing suicides.

Another facet for Abowd in 2015 will be exploring opportunities and options for dealing with wastewater effluent and stormwater storage.

“All of this is part of a sustainable community, as I see it,” Abowd said of her various priorities.

Bagwell, as the incoming board member, not only talks about the need for dealing with aging streets but adds several priorities of her own.

Among them, she said, is seeing city government’s “rainy day” or stabilization fund, as she said it’s viewed, is replenished in 2015. She said there’s nothing in it now.

Bagwell also intends to beef up the city’s website, turn to online bill paying when possible, upgrade the clerk’s office accounting technological capabilities, provide watchdog oversight on spending, and reach out to community youth organizations to seek input and provide relevant opportunities for the young.


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