Top headlines from the Board of County Commissioners Meeting

by | Feb 21, 2024

The following are highlights from today’s Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting:    

1. Board conducts hearing on proposed public camping ordinance: The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) brought forward an ordinance amendment to ban camping on county-owned property or public places within 1,000 feet of the Truckee River, as well as to ban fires, blow torches, or propane tanks and parking oversized vehicles on public property and obstruction of public sidewalks, roads, or highways. Violating these bans would be a misdemeanor offense. The cities of Reno and Sparks have already passed similar ordinances, so the WCSO drafted the county ordinance to align with those to provide more uniform and cohesive enforcement across jurisdictions. The primary objective of the WCSO and this ordinance is to offer services and assist those experiencing homelessness through a boots-on-the-ground approach. However, this primary objective must be achieved with public health and safety in mind. Today’s hearing was a “first reading,” which means that a public hearing and possible adoption can be scheduled for March 12, 2024.  

“We cannot arrest our way out of this problem, that’s not what we are here today presenting,” Chief Deputy Corey Solferino said. He later added: “What we want to do is push people toward resources which ultimately end in housing and getting them in a program and into a long-term solution. But there are certain rules of society, public health and public decency we have to do to get there and that’s what we’re asking for. We’re asking for the compliance on those means and measures and nothing more. We’re not trying to criminalize more, we’re trying to give a pathway by which we can intervene without arrest.”  

“It’s not about criminalization, it’s about providing law enforcement the tools necessary to help direct folks to the resources that are needed,” Commissioner Clara Andriola said. “There already are two jurisdictions that have this in place, and not having Washoe County put this in place will create a disservice to looking at a consolidated approach, a regional approach to working together to solve this.” 

2. Board reviews mid-year budget status update: Each year, the Budget Division presents the county’s Financial Outlook for Fiscal Year 2025 and Budget. The overview includes a review of the General Fund’s financial results for Fiscal Year 2023, a Mid-Year 2024 review, and a general outlook for Fiscal Year 2025 and Budget. Budget Manager Lori Cooke presented the report and invited feedback from the Board of County Commissioners before the deadline of April 15 to submit the tentative budget to the State of Nevada Department of Taxation.

Rather than a recession, economists are projecting a “soft landing” for the national economy in the coming year. As of December 2023, unemployment in Washoe County was 3.9 percent, compared to the statewide rate of 5.4 percent and the national rate of 3.7 percent. Inflation and lack of labor have driven up the cost of contractual agreements that are bid or negotiated. The take-away is that funding will be limited going into FY25, which begins July 1, 2024. One-time investments, resource-sharing and leveraging existing resources should be the first consideration before investing additional resources.  

3. County Finance Division receives distinguished budget award for 22nd year: Washoe County CFO Abbe Yacoben and Budget Manager Lori Cooke presented the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for Fiscal Year 2023-2024, awarded by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). This annual award is designed to encourage governments to prepare budget documents of the highest quality to meet the needs of decision-makers and citizens. This award is the highest form of recognition in governmental budgeting and is the 22nd year that Washoe County has received it. Washoe County has met both guidelines established by the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting and the GFOA’s best practices on budgeting. The guidelines are designed to assess how well Washoe County’s budget serves as a policy document, a financial plan, an operations guide, and a communications device.

“I want to acknowledge the receipt of the Distinguished Budget award,” Chair Alexis Hill said. “Our budget team is incredible and we appreciate the leadership and guidance we receive from that incredible team.”

4. Board adopts ordinance amending county code to allow schools in Tahoe-Wood Creek Regulatory Zone with a special use permit: The Board held a second hearing on an ordinance to amend County Code in the Wood Creek Regulatory Zone to add “schools – kindergarten through secondary” as a permitted use in the zone. The approved ordinance will allow schools on properties at least 3 acres in size, with the approval of a special use permit. This change will next go to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency for their review and possible approval prior to going into effect.

5. Board approves an agreement to expand broadband service to homes in Gerlach: Washoe County has an agreement with Digital Technology Solutions Inc. (DTS) to install community broadband access in Gerlach and Empire, currently limited to Washoe County facilities including Gerlach’s fire station, community center, Sheriff’s Office, and Roads Department. Today the Board approved an agreement to install the fiber backbone to street poles and residential properties in Gerlach and Empire. The installation will be performed during fiscal years 2024 and 2025, with the cost supplemented by Washoe County not to exceed $724,720. As part of the agreement, Washoe County will receive a 50 percent discount on the previous agreement with DTS, and property owners can receive high speed Internet at discounted rates for a term of five years. This project will enable Gerlach and Empire residents to access high speed Internet solutions that are currently not being provided within these service locations at affordable rates.

6. Board approves donations to county programs and departments: The Board must formally accept donations of money or goods to Washoe County programs and departments. Donations accepted today include:

  • $21,103.39 in cash from various businesses, organizations and individuals for Regional Parks and Open Space programs and facilities, and in-kind donations from May Arboretum Society valued at $80,948.32 in support of the May Arboretum.  
  • A one-time equipment donation of 20 Preliminary Breath Tests (PBTs) valued at $6,823.28 from the Northern Nevada DUI Task Force to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office to be placed in all patrol vehicles and used to assist in detecting impaired drivers and reducing DUI-related accidents. 
  • A one-time food donation of $300 from the Silver Sage Foundation to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, so this foundation can provide a shared meal with members to foster community relationships. 
  • Donation of two new K-9 dogs, Otto and Bodie, and their respective equipment, handler training, and travel costs valued around $31,000 each. These donations are from the Washoe County K9 Partners to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, and will include fully trained narcotics K-9s from the prestigious Vohne Liche Kennels.