Lyon County residents worry ordinance change would hurt advisory boards

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Lyon County Commissioners want to revise the county's advisory board ordinance, but some residents say they fear if that happens, they could ultimately lose their voice in government.

Bob Hastings, who said he tries to attend all the Dayton Regional Advisory Council meetings, called the ordinance to amend the county code a wolf in sheep's clothing.

"This would give the power to the commissioners to remove any board for any reason they see fit," Hastings said.

Specifically, he said, by eliminating the listing of specific advisory boards, the ordinance allows the commission to determine the need for some and not others.

His fear is that boards could be removed arbitrarily by commissioners.

Lyon County has 10 advisory boards created by the existing ordinance. Most of them represent specific areas of the sprawling county - Dayton, Silver Springs, Stagecoach, Silver City, Mason, Mound House and Smith Valley.

But County Manager Jeff Page said the intention of the revision has never been to eliminate boards, but rather, to streamline their processes so that everyone plays by the same rules, and to speed up the process so that decisions can be made by resolution rather than ordinance.

The only exception, Page said, is the elimination of the Mason Town Board, which has been defunct for a number of years and represents only about 800 people. Commissioners want to create a Mason Valley Advisory Board for that entire valley, representing about 8,000 people.

He said it is unlikely any commissioner would want to dissolve an advisory board, because it would be "political suicide."

Hastings disagrees.

"In our opinion, this makes it way too easy for them. They could just wipe (advisory boards) out. It seems like this is giving them an awful lot of power. Our influence could be taken away completely," he said.

In an email to Hastings, Page wrote:

"State law requires that any change to an ordinance be published in the newspaper and requires a lengthy process of proposing an ordinance revision, public hearing on the ordinance, and then a waiting period for the ordinance to go into effect."

Consistency is another issue of concern to commissioners, Page said in a media release.

"The proposed ordinance clears up any misconception as to how members are selected and how vacancies are filled. The proposed ordinance puts into place the practices that are generally being used today. The existing ordinance does not define how an advisory board member is removed from appointment, and the proposed ordinance outlines very clearly the process to be used in an open and public meeting."

Lyon County worked with Washoe County in framing the revised ordinance and used its language.

Dayton residents will get a chance to share their views when the county commissioners, county manager and staff hold a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. tonight at Dayton High School, 335 Old Dayton Valley Road.

The ordinance change is not scheduled to go before the board of county commissioners until the first meeting in September, and the second reading would be held during the first meeting in October.



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