Churchill County Commissioners heard concerns Thursday morning during their regularly scheduled meeting about the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources and the UN Cooperative Extension (UNCE) programs.
University President Marc Johnson provided an update on the outlook for those programs and answered questions from community members during a 56-minute discussion.
“I’m looking to hear your concerns as partners and providing Cooperative Extension to the citizens of Churchill County,” Johnson said.
Johnson informed commissioners the university has gone through a reorganizing process of cutting and reducing programs as a result of losing 35 percent of its state budget the last four years.
“We had to cut Cooperative Extension budget quite a bit while maintaining the core of the services,” he said.
Part of that core has been to maintain a county extension educator in every county, he added. When UNCE staff was asked how cuts should be implemented, Johnson explained it was determined to cut the county extension educators to 90 percent time and specialists to 75 percent time in order to save more people.
“I truly believe we can improve that situation,” Johnson said. “The governor has proposed $1 million over the next biennium for Extension, and if that goes through, with the base of $500,000 a year, we will be able to restore all of our county Extension educators’ positions to 100 percent full time and raise the proportion of the specialists from 75 to 85 percent ... and that’s a start.”
Churchill County farmer Charlie Frey, a 1970 graduate of Nevada, expressed his belief both the CABNR and UNCE programs should remain separate.
“The past 43 years I’ve been continually going back to the University of Nevada, specifically Cooperative Extension to seek advice on how to succeed,” Frey said. “The 43 years I’ve been out of school, I’ve learned more than the four years I was in school. That’s why I think these two organizations with two completely different missions should remain totally separate and have a viable working relationship. That’s why I’m pleading with Dr. Johnson to make sure he doesn’t change the Cooperative Extension mission.”
Johnson replied that no more cuts to the Extension program are planned.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been through a horrible four years with budget cuts,” he said. “The latest numbers we see are that we will not be cut more at the University of Nevada, Reno, for which we are very thankful. We’re not taking people out of the field to have them teach, that’s been a fear around the state, but that’s not what we want to do. By our federal regulations, we can’t use our Extension resources for teaching. We have a commitment to the counties of the state.
Johnson added he believes “collaboration and the cross-campus outreach from the university to this county” can be enhanced.
“Everybody’s nervous; we value the programs here in our community and we don’t want any more reductions,” Commissioner Pete Olsen said. “We’ve seen what’s happened in the past and that’s what worries folks.”
Commission Chairman Carl Erquiaga echoed those concerns.
“We want to keep Cooperative Extension here,” he said. “I grew up in a household where Extension was a household word — guys like John McCormack, we owe a huge thanks to the work they do — and we’re pretty protective about keeping that.”
Commissioners discussed or took action on the following items:
Agreed to American Lands Council membership and $5,000 for the annual membership fee and to support the county’s support of Assembly Bill 227. A county representative for the organization’s board of directors will be chosen at a later date. Commissioners took their vote after hearing a presentation from Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl.
Agreed to submit a FTA 5311 Grant to purchase a new Churchill Area Regional Transport (CART) bus for $406,735. Approval was also granted to submit a request for Nevada Department of Transportation FTA 5309 funds to acquire 12 ambulatory/2 wheelchair passenger buses.
Heard an update from Maurice Washington on Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA) activities in Churchill County.
Accepted a conceptual plan for River Park at Scheckler Cutoff.
Ratified a three-year agreement with the Churchill County Dispatchers’ Union.
Roger Baylocq was granted an extension in his appeal regarding the Churchill County administrative hearing officer’s abatement decision. The extension is contingent that Baylocq, a Reno resident, abide by conditions of a reprieve to generate a plan to bring his property on McLean and Cleveland streets to code by Sept. 30.