John Barrette

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March 13, 2014
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Empire Ranch bankruptcy dismissed

Residents of the Empire Ranch Golf Course neighborhood were told Wednesday evening the course owner’s bankruptcy is over and city government is merely protecting city interests by getting an appraisal.

The city is getting a property appraisal because owner Dwight Millard owes back property taxes and the course is one of the sites where city government can get rid of treated wastewater effluent that the federal government won’t allow in the Carson River. The appraisal move and community talk has sparked owners of homes around the course into fears the course might become something else.

Supervisor Brad Bonkowski, who held the meeting to dispel rumors and address concerns, said the bankruptcy proceedings involving Millard were dismissed or discharged this week but he couldn’t discern what might happen next.

“I don’t know what that means,” Bonkowski said. “I don’t know what his plans are.”

Millard, on hand but silent during the meeting, said afterward in his view the dismissal meant little.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “It just means that I’m not under bankruptcy protection.”

That would include from city action on his back property taxes, but he voiced the view city government might not want to slap his hand while it is trying to shake hands on an agreement over effluent water. Though the water is free, he acknowledged under questioning, he can back out with a year’s notice. The city uses the State Prison Farm lands and city golf courses for such watering.

During the session, which lasted just over an hour, several residents were vocal in their worries about their property values should the golf course disappear. Applause broke out several times over statements about defending home values if changes come, and almost everyone agreed when asked to raise hands.

Roger Maxwell, one of them, also was vocal about his critique of city government maintaining the municipally-owned Eagle Valley Golf Course complex, lowering lease payments that cover bonded indebtedness and so continuing a competitive situation with Empire Ranch and Silver Oak, the private golf courses.

“We’re not here to talk about Eagle Valley,” said Bonkowski, but Maxwell pressed his point anyway by saying the city’s actions there were part of the problem.

Eileen Starling, another resident, raised questions about what happened to a restriction on the property on the Darling deed that required the city to supply effluent water for 90 years, which was on a deed in 1983 but had disappeared. She said later she had read 700 pages of documents trying to find it as the property transitioned in ownership.

“The problem is that restriction isn’t on the deed,” she said after the meeting. “Why?”

Some people also wanted to talk during the session about recently-raised city water and sewer rates, upgrades at the sewer plant and the related effluent issue that is part of city government’s reason for trying to determine what to do. Most insisted the 27-hole Empire Ranch complex should stay as is, and if any conversion to soccer fields or something else is contemplated that should be done on the city’s Eagle Valley property.

Senior Judge Robey Willis, however, had a different proposal. He suggested if the city did take over, it should turn to Jim Kepler, the Eagle Valley manager, and press him into service.

“I would have Jimmy coordinate both the golf courses,” he said, suggesting that as an option until another buyer emerged.

Bonkowski thanked him for the idea, but assured the crowd he didn’t want the city to buy the course, nor did he think others were for the idea. But he was careful not to speak for other supervisors.

Supervisors John McKenna and Jim Shirk were present, but to avoid open meeting law violations stayed silent and away from Bonkowski. Both volunteered to and then did talk with people after the meeting ended.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Mar 13, 2014 08:58PM Published Mar 13, 2014 01:07AM Copyright 2014 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.