The lease setting up the state's plan to lease-purchase a new state office building was approved by the Interim Finance Committee Wednesday with none of the debate that clouded the idea before the Board of Examiners or Board of Finance.
State Lands Administrator Pam Wilcox told lawmakers they were leasing 4.88 acres of state property just north of the Department of Transportation building to the Nevada Real Property Corp. That nonprofit - which is managed by a board consisting of state officials - will now contract for construction of a 120,000-square-foot building to house the Conservation and Natural Resources Department.
She said then the state will lease the building and underlying property back and pay for the building in payments, much like a homeowner pays the mortgage each month.
After 27 years, the state will own a building that Treasurer Brian Krolicki said will be worth an estimated $100 million then. The benefit is that the lease payments are covered by what the agency now pays in rent, and the cost doesn't require state bonds or count against the state's bonded indebtedness limits.
That concept was opposed by Secretary of State Dean Heller at the Board of Examiners meeting and by Controller Kathy Augustine at the Board of Finance meeting. Both said the idea was rejected by voters in 1994.
They said it should be put to the voters again before the state made such a deal.
Krolicki defended the plan, saying it doesn't commit the state to any more expense than it now pays in rent to private business and - in the end - the state will own the building. He said it was just a smarter use of public money, and that the state Supreme Court ruled the idea was legal.
While he started voluntarily to make those arguments again before committee, Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, moved for approval. None of the lawmakers on the committee opposed the plan.
In other business, the committee:
n State officials approved the state's portion of financing for the new state combined Emergency Operations Center off Fairview Drive near the new National Guard headquarters. Most of the cost of the structure, which will total more than $7 million, is being paid by the federal government. The center will centralize and coordinate operations of all emergency services agencies during a disaster or terror attack in Nevada.
n approved $5,000 for the Judicial Selection Commission will incur in reviewing and selecting candidates to replace Supreme Court Justice Myron Leavitt, who died Jan. 9. The commission will narrow the list of applicants to three finalists from which Gov. Kenny Guinn will choose.
n approved $124,000 from the prison industries fund to buy 22.5 acres of land near Indian Springs in Southern Nevada. Prison Industries Director Howard Skolnik said the plan is to have a private developer create an industrial park that could attract businesses and provide jobs and work skills training for up to 2,000 inmates.