Lyon County sets date to elect Fernley mayor

Lyon County commissioners have chosen March 6, 2001, as the day voters will choose the leadership of Nevada's newest and 19th city.

The City of Fernley was approved by voters in November. Commissioners Friday set the date for the special election, when voters will choose their mayor and members of their city council, said District 1 Commissioner Bob Milz.

Still to be decided, however, are the number of city councilmen and whether they should be elected by ward or at-large. Commissioners are set to make that decision Dec. 8.

The town of Fernley has five town board members, and county commissioners are considering retaining the five-seat leadership or forming a three-member council. Either membership will be decided by voters.

Recent industrial and population growth in the area, about 30 miles east of Reno, and an increase in the community's tax base spurred a third grassroots movement to incorporate the town into a city.

"I believe with the growth factor they have earned the right to have local control," Commissioner Chet Hillyard said Saturday. "I would say in the past 10 years the population of (Fernley) has quadrupled. We've seen many large industries move in which brings hundreds of jobs, increases the population and elevates the tax base. The people in Fernley have worked hard during this change and I believe it's time for us to honor their request. I agree with the people."

Though the council will be elected March 6 and begin work soon after, they won't be seated until July 1, when the initiative passed by voters takes effect.

In the interim, state law allows the the council to adopt a budget, adopt laws, levy a property tax, negotiate employee contracts, contracts for services, and negotiate for the purchase of equipment, materials and supplies and negotiate an agreement for the equitable apportionment of fixed assets of the county.

Council members will also have until July 1 to negotiate agreements with Lyon County to determine which services the city or county will supply.

"The purpose of them wanting to be a city was for them to be in charge of their own destiny," Milz said, "and to have the frills the county government doesn't offer. If they want to tax themselves for those extras it's within their capability."

Milz said one hypothetical example would be for the council to levy more taxes to build a swimming pool.

Milz said the tax rate will remain the same unless the new council decides otherwise. As an example, Yerington, the only other incorporated city in Lyon County, has a property tax rate of about $3.15.

The Town of Fernley presently levies $2.85 per $100 assessed valuation. By law, the maximum Fernley could levy is $3.41. If the city at a later date taxed its residents at the maximum rate, the property tax bill would increase by $193.34 on a $100,000 home to $1,193.64.

Fernley is the first new city in Nevada since West Wendover incorporated in 1999. With its population around 10,000, Fernley from day one will be a medium-sized city.

Fernley needed three tries to become a city but this latest effort came following the arrival of huge manufacturing plants at Nevada Pacific Industrial Park. The assessed valuation in Fernley has soared from $91 million to $212 million since 1995.

Fernley's assessed valuation makes up nearly a third of the entire assessed value of Lyon County, $672 million, and is larger than eight other cities and six counties in Nevada,

A race for justice of the peace will be added to the ballot for the Fernley mayor and city council.

The late Judge Stephan Wendal Lehman died near the end of his re-election campaign on Oct. 24 at the age of 52. Lehman was a longtime Fernley Township justice of the peace. He spent 20 years as the justice of the peace in the Canal Township and posthumously won his latest bid for a six-year term.

Commissioners could have appointed a replacement judge to fill Lehman's term until the 2002 election, but instead chose to add the position to the special election ballot in March.

Milz also said commissioners are seeking applications from attorneys interested in the Lyon County district attorney position left open by Robert Estes.

Estes was elected to a district judgeship in November. Commissioners will choose an appointee for the remainder of his term Dec. 22.


Lyon County commissioners will decide Friday how many city council members there should be and if the new city council should be elected by all voters or by ward.


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