Carson City redevelopment spending raises questions

Redevelopment funds have been spent in absence of a strict policy and out of line with a general understanding of how they should be spent, Carson City supervisors and city staff acknowledged Thursday.

No spending was illegal or over budget, but supervisors agreed that better guidelines for redevelopment spending do need to be adopted soon.

Questions on spending came up at the board meeting during a presentation by Economic Development Manager Joe McCarthy on next fiscal year's redevelopment budget.

McCarthy, when asked, told supervisors that he had "several times" spent more on professional services without board approval than the city's general policy allows.

If a contract is for more than $25,000, it is generally expected to be brought to the board. McCarthy said he had told some supervisors of the spending, but Supervisor Shelly Aldean seemed surprised when McCarthy acknowledged it at the meeting.

Both Aldean and Supervisor Robin Williamson later defended McCarthy, saying that he was in a position at those times where he had to make quick decisions.

Gottschalks needed design work done at one point, for instance, McCarthy said, and if it wasn't done immediately, the city risked losing the department store.

Supervisors did ask McCarthy to tell the board of such spending in the future, even if it was after the fact.

Other questions about redevelopment spending came up when the board approved $100,000 to subsidize renovation work at Doppelganger's Bar & Grill.

The board's general policy is to give redevelopment money to a business project only if that work could not be finished without public money. Doppelganger's, however, is nearly finished and also benefited from renovation work by previous owners.

These types of incentives, McCarthy acknowledged, have "gone a bit astray" from the generally accepted criteria for spending.

Aldean was the only supervisor to vote against the Doppelganger's incentive.

The board and McCarthy have been working on official guidelines for business incentives since 2005, but have not been able to agree on them yet.

Money for redevelopment is taken from property taxes in the city's two designated redevelopment areas - one in the downtown area and one in the south end of the city.

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at or 881-1212.


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