County discusses recreational marijuana
September 26, 2017
The Churchill County Board of Commissioners met last week for a bill's first reading, an ordinance amending county code to prohibit recreational in addition to the currently prohibited medical marijuana establishments.
District Attorney Benjamin Shawcroft explained how back when the medical marijuana law was passed, each local government (city or county) was permitted to make the decision whether to allow those establishments or not. The county adopted an ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana establishments whereas the city took no such action.
The current dispensary in Fallon is licensed through the city but only for medical marijuana presently, he said.
The board approved a public hearing for the bill (2017-C, ordinance 113) to be held at the next meeting on Oct. 5 at 8:15 a.m. in the chambers at 155 N. Taylor St.
Shawcroft explained the bill deals with land use and would include commercial facilities, cultivation, labs and the like. He noted the issue was discussed with the board in December last year following the state vote to enact Question 2, legalizing the recreational use of one ounce or less of marijuana by individuals 21 and over.
The DA reiterated county voters voted 59 percent against and 40 percent in favor.
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As discussed previously, Shawcroft said, the board tends to lean more in favor of adopting measures that prohibit this type of land use — and it has looked at what other counties are doing including Douglas County prohibiting marijuana establishments and now Elko.
Shawcroft concluded if adopted, the measure would be in tune with the county's master plan and code provisions.
A second public hearing of bill 2017-B, ordinance 118, resulted in the board establishing a $6 Recorder's Office fee to provide legal services for abused and neglected children, effective Oct. 1.
"We're in a catch-22," said Commissioner Bus Scharmann, explaining how the county is trying to find a source to fund this state mandate.
Commissioners Pete Olsen and Carl Erquiaga echoed this thought.
"I don't like raising taxes; that's essentially what we're doing," Olsen said but added usually the state sends counties large bills via the legislature balancing the budget with no way to pay those bills. "I don't think the public knows that … I don't like doing this but I'm in favor of the $6."
The $6 fee would result in approximately $30,000 to help cover the majority of the associated guardianship legal costs. Since the last hearing, Deputy DA Joseph Sanford reported Clark County instituted a $5 fee, Humboldt $6, and Nye is still planning on $6 but awaiting further business information.
"I don't like raising fees and taxes but it's a source," Erquiaga agreed.
The board also authorized moving forward with improvements to the county's Jet Park on Reno Highway, in an amount not to exceed $55,000 at this time. The board advised project coordinator Julie Guerrero with the county manager's office to continue looking into her researched idea to possibly include an F-18 at the park in addition to the project's proposed signage, landscaping, lighting, benches and continued cleanup.
Other organizations including Naval Air Station Fallon, the Rotary Club and local businesses have expressed commitment and interest in aiding the endeavor.
Ken Collum with the local Bureau of Land Management gave an update on the region's renewable energy sites and latest wildfires. He also gave a presentation on the effects of the prevailing spread of cheatgrass due to wildfires, including the sage grouse increase and combatting methods.
Chief Financial Officer Alan Kalt gave a presentation on the county's historical taxable sales and CTX revenues. The county's sales tax rate is at 7.6 percent, and he reported that statewide taxable sales show a good upward trend as well as positive numbers locally.
Kalt reported local economic drivers increasing the commercial side of things include Fallon Ford-Toyota's expansion and vehicle sales, military operations, residential housing/construction and general merchandise stores.
Presented by Human Resources Director Geof Stark, Kalt — who's retiring in the near future — has requested to participate in the county's retirement incentive plan and the county's payment of approximately $66,000 for PERS (Public Employees' Retirement System of Nevada) credit.
The commissioners discussed the item at length, reviewing with Stark the numbers of time served and time-off conversions.
While the payment is a burden to the county, Olsen said, it's a savings when compared to the expense of a replacement.
"There is a net savings to the county," he said. "And it's a policy we've had. It's what's available to everybody (who) would like to retire."
Erquiaga disagreed with the math and the notion as well and said he didn't like the policy to begin with but was told he was nitpicking. He added he doesn't know of a case where the county cut a check to someone for leaving.
The motion was carried with Olsen and Scharmann for and Erquiaga against.
The board also approved to move forward with recruitment and selection of a new comptroller in accordance with a time period for transition. County Manager Eleanor Lockwood — who noted she's also looking to retire in 2018 — said they would be looking for somebody extremely competent with local government, budget management and public administration experience.
After hearing from attorney Jacob Sommer and his colleagues, the board planned to workshop a percent increase in the county's contract fee for public defenders over the term of the contract commencing Dec. 1. Sommer emphasized a need for more reasonable compensation compared to other counties in the state — not to focus on numbers but standards.
The board also approved the following:
Agreement renewal between the county and Research and Consulting Services, Inc., for services regarding the county repository oversight program for a two-year period in an amount not to exceed $130,000 annually.
Appointment of CPA Phyllys Dowd (Churchill County School District Director of Business Services) to the Audit Committee.