RENO, Nevada (Aug. 17, 2021) —The following are highlights from today’s Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting:   

1. Board approved overhaul of the Citizen Advisory Boards (CABs): Over the past several years, Commissioners have identified a need to revitalize and redefine the nine Citizen Advisory Boards in Washoe County. CABs have experienced decreased community participation and have been limited to only advising on projects after developers have applied for development within Unincorporated Washoe County. The Commission previously directed staff to research successful citizen boards in other communities and develop a new CAB concept, which was presented today by Assistant County Manager Dave Solaro.  

“The number one feedback we hear from CABs is that they feel they were not heard by the county or developers. This new format will allow us to gather meaningful input before a project starts so it can be baked into the project,” Solaro said. “The intent of the new development review process is to broaden the public input and engage not only the community but also staff early enough in the process that developers and the community are successful in the development. We’ve heard loud and clear that the dialogue needs to occur. We need to go through a process to identify each commission district’s needs rather than a broad brush across Washoe County.”

The solution includes a newly formed Commission Support Program that will dovetail with neighborhood meetings that will allow the community to weigh in on developments while still in the planning stage. Developers will be required to conduct neighborhood meetings before they apply for permits and licenses, and the meetings will not be formal county-led gatherings restricted by Open Meeting Law. Commissioner Vaughn Hartung pointed out that Open Meeting Law “has a tendency to hobble conversations” because nothing may be discussed that is not agendized, and public input is limited to three-minute public comment opportunities. There is no leeway for two-way conversations and problem-solving.  

“I hear the concerns of all the commissioners, and right out of the gate, I don’t disagree that we’ve neutered the CABs. Initially I thought it was more important to focus just on development, and that has led to a lack of attendance and want and need, and led to frustration within the community. And it’s kept it too rigid and structured,” Commission Chair Bob Lucey said. “The idea of a Commissioner Support Program was to make it specific for each district. I want to see a program for each commission district by each commissioner. I think each commission district has specific needs. In a different format, there could be a dialogue or a work session. It’s about doing better outreach to our community so they know what’s going on. A dialogue could be more beneficial rather than a dog and pony show before a CAB meeting. I want it be a format for a dialogue.” 

After a vote to dissolve the current CAB structure tied to development only, the Board adopted the resolutions to create CABs to assist in developing the Commissioner Support Program to be implemented within the Office of the County Manager, which reinstated all nine CABs established throughout the commission districts.  

Commissioner Alexis Hill said: “There will be a few bumps along the road but I believe that our new staff who are going to help us with our future CABs are ready to do this and our community development staff are perfectly capable of trying this new way of getting community involvement and input into the different development projects, and if it’s not working, I think that we can reevaluate. I think that that’s the exciting part and I’m willing to take the step to try this out and give my CAB more of a voice in the community and more of an opportunity to get involved.”   

2. Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine presented an overview of ARPA funding: The State of Nevada has developed the “Every Nevadan Recovery Framework” to utilize the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to build a better Nevada. It currently has identified funding for 67 out of 105 programs including local aid, education, transportation, infrastructure, housing, healthcare, food assistance, and more. 

The state framework identifies four areas of prioritization: basic needs, community, economy, and quality of life. It further breaks programs down to seven priorities for strategic development. Gov. Steve Sisolak is currently conducing a Listening Tour to gather community and stakeholder feedback. That feedback will help the State develop a roadmap, and the final step will be to create programs and services that will be funded through the ARPA. Residents are invited to provide their thoughts and suggestions online 

“If we do this right, we have the change to create honest-to-God generational change in Nevada,” Conine said. 

3. Board received COVID-19 update and directed staff to continue regular updates to the Board: Assistant County Manager and COVID Incident Commander Dave Solaro presented an update on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community and regional efforts to slow the spread of the disease. The current recommendations for the community are to get vaccinated, wear a mask indoors, use the COVID Risk Meter as an informational tool, stay home when ill, pay attention to hygiene, and maintain a safe distance from others in crowded areas.  

Chair Lucey asked Solaro to continue to provide updates on a regular basis.  

“I would ask that as long as we maintain ourselves in the CDC zones of guidance that we are a high-transmission area, that we receive an update on where we are with vaccines and testing so we can adequately convey that to our constituent base… so we can make informed decisions and help with policy and outreach,” Chair Lucey said. “If this is the path forward and this is how we’re going to keep our businesses open and get people vaccinated, it’s important to have this information and an update on hospitalizations.”  

4. County Manager presented redistricting guidelines: Per state law, Washoe County Commissioners are required to establish commission districts with nearly equal populations, and the 2020 Census showed that Washoe County has grown just over 15 percent in population, now topping 480,000 residents.  

To begin the redistricting process, Washoe County Manager Eric Brown presented the Board with a timeline and a process for determining districts. Today’s presentation of the process and guidelines was the first step, and the Board will be tasked with approving the final districts at a public meeting in September.   

5. Board accepted donations to support the Sheriff’s Office, Law Library, and Human Services Agency:  

  • Thermo Fisher Scientific donated Smallpond software license, five years of support, and 50 RapidHIT ID Investigator sample cartridges to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Science Division. The donation has an estimated value of $105,000 and will allow the division to process crime scene samples and compare them with offender DNA collection database. 
  • The David Hamilton Trust Account donated $120.36 to support the ongoing operations of the Washoe County Law Library.  
  • The Washoe County Human Services Agency received donations totaling approximately $19,600 for the Senior Services Fund. The donations included monetary donations and goods. Nearly $11,0000 in goods were collected during the always-popular Stuff a Bus drive. An additional $7,900 in various cooling fans were collected during the Fans for Seniors donation drive, a community effort with HSA’s media partner, KOLO-TV.  
  • The Human Services Agency also received donations for the Child Protective Services Fund. Donations of clothes, shoes, books, blankets, and Halloween costumes were received totaling approximately $4,200.  

“In the 14 years I’ve been on this board, I’ve been astounded by the generosity of our community, and they need to be lauded,” Commissioner Kitty Jung said in making a motion to approve the donations. 

6. Board proclaimed August 31 as International Overdose Awareness Day: Nevada suffered 916 deaths from drug overdose in 2020. Overdose Awareness Day draws attention to overdoses from both legal and illegal drugs, and strives to remove the stigma of overdose deaths. Washoe County joins communities all across the world in recognizing Aug. 31, 2021, as International Overdose Awareness Day.  

Commissioner Hartung was joined in the proclamation by Valerie Fiannaca, a local mother who lost her son to drug overdose. 

“The numbers on overdose are low because overdose overlaps with suicides. Many people who are addicted tend to commit suicide,” Fiannaca said. “My child was a genius, he got straight A’s, and nobody recognized that he was even in distress. I don’t know how we solve this problem, but we need more treatment places.”  

7. September declared National Preparedness Month: September was identified as National Preparedness Month after the 9/11 terrorist attack. September 2021 will mark the 20th anniversary of the attack and is a reminder that preparedness requires community attention and participation in preventing and recovering from disasters. 

8. Board appointed two members to the Washoe County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife: Two residents were appointed to the Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife. State law requires that the board members be citizens of Nevada, residents of the county, and be hunters, trappers or anglers or otherwise engaged in ranching or farming in the county. The two new appointments are effective as of today through August 1, 2024. The new members are Matt Melarkey and Coby Rowe 

Melarkey is a 14-year resident of Washoe County and a lifelong hunter and angler. Rowe has lived in Washoe County for 33 years and is a hunter, angler and trapper.  

9. District 1 Special Funds approved for the Downtown Reno Partnership: Commissioner Alexis Hill designated $25,000 of the $100,000 District 1 Special Fund to be granted to the Downtown Reno Partnership, a nonprofit that works to make Downtown Reno safer, cleaner, and friendlier for residents and visitors. The grant will fund a van for the Downtown Reno Partnership Ambassadors.  

Commissioner Hill also designated $1,000 of the District 1 Special Fund for the Local Food Network to support the Reno Local Food Faire. The donation will assist with production costs including insurance, equipment and marketing.