Public airs views on capital projects

Downtown 20/20 President Dana Lee Fruend talks with Community Development Director Lee Plemel in front of the display set up for the downtown Carson Street project.

Downtown 20/20 President Dana Lee Fruend talks with Community Development Director Lee Plemel in front of the display set up for the downtown Carson Street project.

The first person going on record Tuesday regarding a Carson City sales-tax hike and the projects it would fund spoke against it and a downtown face lift, but favored a new animal shelter.

Resident Lisa Helget, speaking at a Fuji Park Exhibit Hall workshop on the various projects and a proposed one-eighth-cent city sales-tax increase, went down the list of projects starting with downtown streetscape changes. She asked the rhetorical question about whether she supported it, then answered it emphatically:

“I strenuously do not,” she said. “Walking down the street is not going to lure me in,” she said, if she isn’t interested in what the business offers. “I think this is a money grab on the taxpayers.”

She said she favored a smaller version of the multipurpose athletic center being built with existing funds and said money should be raised for an animal shelter, but not via a tax hike.

“We’re all embarrassed over that animal shelter,” Helget said.

Others at two workshops put on by city government officials offered different views, with many in the morning joining Helget in opposing the sales-tax increase, while others favored it in hopes of helping revive economic activity. In an afternoon session, most favored the tax hike and project, though a few raised questions on particular facets.

Eric Ingbar, a businessman, asked why city government doesn’t tie design standards for businesses to streetscape beautification paid for from city sales tax.

“This is an investment in the city,” said Garrett Lepire, a Realtor who spoke at both sessions. He has said in the past he didn’t favor the downtown part of the plan but now is pushing for the entire package of projects. Nothing major has been done in Carson City in recent years, Lepire said. As he put it, “It’s been a long damn time.”

The package includes streetscape changes on Carson Street; additional streetscape improvements on East William Street; a larger version of the MAC for up to $8.5 million, rather than the current $5.7 million available; and the new animal shelter facility for $4 million, which would include some financing from private donations.

The cost overall was set at $29 million. The sales tax would cover only part of it, with grants and donations expected to cover the rest.

One more workshop is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 29 in the Community Center. At each workshop, the first hour involves learning about the projects and the final hour is for questions and comments. Written comments also are taken.

Among others opposed in the morning session were Linda Barnett, who is in the lodging business, and John Lawrence, who said he is a businessman.

“I’m sorry; we just can’t afford it,” Barnett said. “Where would you like us to get the money?” She also questioned the wisdom of having roundabouts on each end of the downtown, one at William and Carson streets and the other at Stewart and Carson.

“These roundabouts just aren’t going to do what you think they’re going to do,” she said.

“I am against the one-eighth-cent sales-tax (hike),” said Lawrence, “because that brings up the cost for everybody.”

Dana Lee Fruend and Doreen Mack of Downtown 20/20 spoke in support at both sessions, as did representatives backing a new animal shelter. One in the morning was Patti Stewart, who said, “This is the step forward that we need to take.”

Tommy Hughes also addressed what in the past has been a focal point of downtown controversy: leaving Carson Street four lanes or cutting it to two lanes with one north and one south.

“I definitely want Carson Street reduced to two lanes,” he said.


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