Carson City will eventually have its long-awaited freeway bypass, but the second phase of the project will likely not start next spring, transportation officials say.
State officials say they intend to "take the right steps" in acquiring 82 acres of land that bisects the Lompa family ranch to complete the second phase of the freeway.
The state will delay going out for bid as scheduled in December because an agreement has not been reached with the Lompa family.
The delay will not jeopardize the project or its funding, said Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Magruder.
"We want this to go through the right steps," Magruder said.
The project is meant to produce a freeway from Highway 395 at the bottom of Lakeview Hill in northern Carson City to Highway 50 East near Lompa Lane.
The $14 million first phase of the NDOT project that constructed four bridges on the northern 3.8-mile segment is nearly complete. The state needs to acquire land on the Lompa property to finish building a stormwater retention facility to complete the first phase.
The Lompa family has no objections to allowing the stormwater facility built on their property before a final settlement is reached, according to the family's attorney, Laura FitzSimmons.
The state appears to be in no hurry to impose on the family property as the Attorney General's Office has not sought right of entry to complete the facilities.
"If the state would go to court to do an occupancy case, the Lompas wouldn't oppose it," FitzSimmons said.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Hutchins said the state will not seek right of entry on the property until they reach an amenable agreement.
"We're still waiting to sit down and talk about the issues," Hutchins said. "We're trying to be sensitive to the family and we'd like to be able to talk about it."
The state offered the family $2.8 million for the property, Hutchins said. The Lompa family is gathering information about the property before it makes a counter offer, FitzSimmons said.
The state took two years to complete necessary research to come up with its offer and it may take a few months for the family to do the same, she said.
Until the state can sit down with the family to discuss when and if the department can get possession of the property, the state will not seek right of entry, Hutchins said.
Magruder said NDOT must delay the start of the second phase slated for spring 2003. The state is holding the $106 million needed for the project and it remains in the work plan.
"The project is programmed for fiscal year 2003," Magruder said. "It would go forward if we had the property at this point."
The Nevada State Transportation Board filed an eminent domain lawsuit to acquire the 82 acres needed in September, but no date has yet been set for the condemnation process. Carson City's two district judges, Michael Griffin and William Maddox, recused themselves from the case because of their friendship with the Lompas.
FitzSimmons said the publicity is emotionally difficult for Eva Lompa and her family. They feel their family's reputation in the community is being hurt by messages from NDOT and the state to the public blaming the delay of the project on negotiations for the property.
"They have every right to protect their land and their family," FitzSimmons said. "Over my dead body are they going to take shots at (Eva Lompa)."
The 430-acre ranch, owned for the past 70 years by the Lompas, was home to dairy cows before it switched to a cattle ranch 35 years ago. Eva Lompa, 87, moved to the ranch with her husband as a new bride at 18. She lives on the property with her son, Sam, and his family.
FitzSimmons plans to begin talking with Carson City and state elected officials to begin a dialogue about solutions.
"We've got to get together and find if we can work this out," FitzSimmons said. "It doesn't have to be this polarized on these issues."