Churchill County Commissioners gave a unanimous thumbs down at their Wednesday meeting to allow marijuana establishments to operate in the county.
Sheriff Ben Trotter thanked the commissioners for having the best interest of the community and its residents in dealing with the marijuana businesses.
“We have a medical marijuana establishment in the city limits, and we don’t need one in the county,” Trotter said in his prepared remarks
Trotter listed several reasons why commissioners must vote against the ordinance. He said law enforcement personnel would still be able to focus on their established duties and growing an abundance of marijuana would require huge amounts of water. He said that would pose a problem during drought years.
“We live in a desert,” Trotter said. “I believe it would cause a negative impact on our water supply.”
Paul Molloy, who described himself as a recent transplant to Churchill County, asked commissioners if they would consider several options including one that would establish a five-year plan to see where “the cultivation for selling will go.”
“With the legal dust on the subject settling, it is difficult for me to acknowledge that the county would want to go forward without exploring all options,” said Molloy, a retired engineer with Boeing. “Have you thought about trying for two or three years, whatever the case? You can always pull that license or permit. That is easy.”
Commission Chairman Pete Olsen said the 2016 general election ballot question was flawed. Olsen said he felt the answer was always “yes” no matter how voters answered.
“Our community answered it 60/40 against,” Olsen said. “I will try to give my community as close to no as I can give.”
Commissioner Bus Scharmann said the taxes derived from marijuana sales in Colorado was originally earmarked for education; however, he said the money is being used by the state for enforcing marijuana regulations.
“Money is not influencing my decision,” Scharmann said.
Commissioner Carl Erquiaga said he would rather implement a moratorium and see how the law pans out across the state.
“I can think of many unanswered questions so far,” he said. “I’d rather see if tax money will be as much as it’s predicted.”
Michael Johnson, the county’s planning director, said he agrees with Trotter. He said his department receives two to three calls a week regarding marijuana growing in Churchill County.
County resident Jim Falk said he agreed with the others and would not like to see marijuana growing in the county.
Kristy Bekiares, a member of the Churchill Community Coalition, said the commissioners should make a good decision.
“We need to go slow with these changes,” she said, adding commissioners must see the impact within the state.
Commissioners also listened or took action on the following agenda items:
Commissioners also heard the first reading of an ordinance to amend Title 3 of the Churchill County Code that would give employees a one-time opportunity to carry annual leave in excess of 240 hours into the 2018 calendar year.
Human Resources Director Geof Stark said one reason for employees to carry over extra hours is because of extenuating circumstances with flood mitigation.
“It was hard for employees to take leave,” he said.
Stark said about 40 employees would be affected. This ordinance, however, would not apply to employees who are part of a collective bargaining agreement.
“The goal is to bring down the cap the following year,” said Deputy District Attorney Ben Shawcroft.
He said the county would be following the intent of the Nevada Revised Statues, but if it were to occur again, he said the county could be in violation.
“I recommend approving everyone, not waiving the provision for just one person,” he said.
Scharmann agreed, saying employees were involved in extraordinary circumstances.
A public hearing on the proposed ordinance is scheduled for the Nov. 2 meeting.
The Bureau of Land Management gave commissioners an update on projects around the county to include environmental assessments for geothermal exploration and solar. Ken Cullum, field manager for the Carson City District’s Stillwater Field Office, said the agency is working with the Valley Off-Road Racing Association because their five-year permit to race on dirt roads expired. He said BLM is looking at a new environmental assessment that could expand routes in the Hawthorne, Yerington and Fallon areas.
Cullum said two scoping meetings for sage grouse habitat — one in eastern Nevada and the other in the western part of the state — are scheduled between Nov. 1-15. He also said the BLM is planning fall aerial seeding of areas affected by wildland fires.
Scharmann expressed concerns about the abundance of cheat grass and asked if the BLM was expanding grazing rights. Cullum said the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources at the University of Nevada, Reno has been studying the protein value of cattle grazing on cheat grass. Cullum said the BLM is already working on expanded grazing.
“It’s nice to know the BLM is working on it,” Scharmann said, “and coming up with solutions.”
Commissioners approved a letter of commitment to join the Northern Nevada Development Authority and Lyon County as a coalition member in submitting a $600,000 grant to the Environmental Protection Agency under the Brownfields Program.
County Manager Eleonore Lockwood said construction on the new law enforcement facility is on schedule, and the county is still looking at early December for its dedication.