Former Carson City sheriff seeks ‘intended’ road work

Paul McGrath, former Carson City sheriff, wants action on use of road funds after next year’s Board of Supervisors begins work or he will consider a petition drive.

McGrath, the sheriff from 1987 until 1995 who later served 15 years as executive director of the Western State Sheriffs Association, said city government doesn’t use a nickel in gasoline tax authorized for the freeway or related local street expenditures as originally intended. He said the improper use, as he views it, has gone on for a decade.

“It’s not to embarrass the city,” he said of his petition idea and a running battle with Transportation Manager Patrick Pittenger over use of the funds. “It’s just to get something done.”

McGrath said he has talked with Supervisors Jim Shirk and Karen Abowd, as well as Supervisor-elect Lori Bagwell, in his bid to alter where the funds are used so streets badly needing maintenance get fixed. He didn’t divulge how long he would wait for board action before seeking a petition remedy. He did say he has consulted with an attorney about it but has yet to retain one.

“I want them to fix what they’re supposed to fix,” he said, noting from his perspective the money is intended for the freeway or for arterials leading from it or nearby neighborhood streets.

His contention is that if city government was going to broaden the use to all city streets or roadways rather than those closer to the freeway, local government should have sought a vote of the people.

Pittenger, for his part, says road maintenance money is short because of various matters that have lowered overall gas tax take, and that a city ordinance from a decade ago provides proper authority for use of the nickel.

The ordinance language says it may “be used for the design and construction of the Carson City Freeway, or any arterial, collector, roadway or alternative route related to the movement of traffic through Carson City.”

Whenever conditions of local streets is discussed and Pittenger comments, he remarks that gasoline taxes haven’t been boosted in years and no longer generate sufficient income. He did so just last Thursday at a governing board meeting with this comment: “There is a structural shortfall in the amount of funds available.”

Mayor Robert Crowell on Monday said he’s aware of McGrath’s contention and isn’t opposed to a board discussion on the issue at some point, but added it should come through the Regional Transportation Commission. McGrath has been to the commission (RTC), but that body’s makeup will change next year because Bagwell defeated Supervisor John McKenna in November. McKenna is the board’s representative on RTC, so makeup there must change as well

“I don’t think there’s any difficulty with discussion of how the funds should be expended,” said the mayor, though he was clear regarding his caveat about having another round at the RTC level first.


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