Today, the Lahontan Valley News looks at the top stories of 2014 as determined by the editorial staff, readers input during the year and impact to the overall community.
One of the worst water seasons is finally over as the drought continues to punish the West.
The Truckee-Carson Irrigation District closed the Truckee Canal irrigation system in July, thus becoming the LVN’s No. 2 story of the year.
According to Project Manager Rusty Jardine, the district hit its minimum pool requirement of 15,000-acre feet. In another blow, Jardine said the level of the Truckee rivershed is too low to siphon off any additional water to replace losses suffered at Lahontan Reservoir due to evaporation and seepage.
Despite the closure of the system, TCID resumed deliveries for wildlife entities in September. TCID and those entities such as the Stillwater Wildlife Refuge agreed to hold deliveries until after the season to assist TCID in delivering water to farmers and agriculture use.
The silver lining for TCID, though, is it allows the district to engage in maintenance projects throughout the project.
Jardine said the district will tackle several planned renovations and upgrades including work on the V- and A-line canals.
The V-line project consists of replacing the Lewis spillway and adding a hydroelectric generator to the structure, the fourth electrical generator in the system. The Lewis spillway is down from 26-foot Drop.
On the A-line, Jardine said a fifth hydroelectric turbine will be added to Panicker Drop.
The district will also continue its efforts to automate its structures throughout the project including Lahontan Dam. Automation will allow TCID to control flows from computers at its headquarters on Harrigan Road.
Unfortunately for the district, there is little they can do to reassure their users. The largest source irrigation water comes from snowpack in the Sierra Mountains and whatever precipitation falls in the valley typically does little.
“We are so dependent on our snowpack,” Jardine added. “We look upstream constantly to see what is happening up there. We have to have a strong snowpack or conditions will continue to worsen for us.”
More than four years after a hazing scandal rocked the high school wrestling program, the Churchill County School District reached a settlement as a result of the incident.
This is 2014’s No. 3 story of the year.
The incident the hazing of a wrestler by other athletes in the program while the team was attending a tournament in Las Vegas.
According to federal documents filed with the U.S. District Court in Reno, CCSD reached a settlement of $712,500 with Dee Gregory.
Of the total, $296,714.14 was for attorney’s fees, $104,670.45 for the victim’s medical expenses, $310,115.14 will be distributed to the victim and $1,000 to Dee Gregory to satisfy disputes with CCSD.
The $104,670.45 is subject to a lien by the U.S. Navy, according to the settlement, as the victim received medical and psychological treatment paid by the Navy as a benefit to the father.
The suit charged false imprisonment, battery, assault, invasion of privacy, negligence, intent to inflict emotional distress, negligence to inflict emotional distress and aiding and abetting false imprisonment, battery and assault.
CCSD attorney Ann Alexander of Reno said the settlement will be paid by the district’s insurance. In addition, the agreement stipulates there is no admission of liability for the district.
But a fallout did occur that removed wrestling coach Mitch Overlie from his position.
Overlie, Fallon’s varsity wrestling coach since 1999, said he was notified of the decision to withhold his name from consideration to coach in the spring and beyond about 90 minutes before the Churchill County School District’s Board of Trustees meeting in February.
Overlie said the suspension is the result of his deposition given in the fall and subsequent settlement after litigation of a federal lawsuit brought by former assistant coach Dee Gregory, whose son was the victim of hazing in December 2010. Dr. Sandra Sheldon, CCSD superintendent, said the decision not to hire Overlie for the spring season came from the Board of Trustees. Coaches are hired on one-season contracts and must be approved by the board.
The economy was the big news in the county.
Nevada’s unemployment rate fell below 7 percent in November for the first time since June 2008. Both the seasonally adjusted and raw rates ended the month at 6.9 percent with less than 100,000 Nevadans looking for work in a pool of nearly 1.4 million workers. Churchill County unemployment held steady compared with October. The rate there was just 5.4 percent.
The Churchill Economic Development Authority selected a new executive director, Rachel Dahl, and immediately the former educator , her staff and business council began to assess the needs of the community and to attract new businesses.
Dahl stepped down from the Fallon City Council to take her new role. Kelly Frost became the new councilwoman.
Other significant events that attributed to the local economy are as follows:
The Dairy Farmers of America’s new dry milk processing plant in Fallon began its operations in the spring and held an open house later in the year.
The state-of-the-art, $85 million plant, which is already producing thousands of 50-pound bags, is the DFA’s first operation in Northern Nevada that can produce up to two million pounds of powdered milk per day when running at full capacity.
DFA officials said it will be several years before the Fallon plant reaches that number, but once it does, it will produce 250,000 pounds of dried dairy ingredients daily, or 90 million pounds annually, mostly for the Chinese and other Asian markets.
Frey Ranch Estate Distillery took a huge step when Nevada’s first commercial estate distillery rolled out the first batch of vodka for an open house in October.
The second batch of vodka filled 3,000 bottles for the tasting in addition to the sampling of brandy and wine.
Bealls, a regional department store, brought, Fallon shoppers a new department store on April 24 when the popular retailer celebrated its grand opening at 920 W. Williams Ave.
Big 5 Sporting Goods, the leading sporting goods retailer in the Western United States, is opened its newest location in Fallon on June 27. The 11,817 square foot, full-line sporting goods store is located at 920 W. Williams Ave., and has provided a number of new jobs.
Pizza Factory, a small chain in central and northern Nevada, opened a pizzeria in the Stillwater Plaza in the same location once occupied by Round Table.
Question 3 and county elections is the No. 5 story of the year.
Nevada voters soundly defeated Question 3, the Education Initiative that proposed a 2 percent tax on a business’ gross revenue of $1 million or more and then channel the extra money into the Distributive School Fund.
Churchill County voted 6,631 to 795 against it, and statewide, the voters defeated it, 429,431 to 115,915.
Karen Griffin, spokeswoman for the Coalition to Defeat the Margin Tax Initiative, said there was no guarantee that the money raised would be spent on schools. One thing for certain, though, is that the additional tax would have hurt thousands of the Silver State’s businesses including those in Churchill County.
Opponents included the Fallon Chamber of Commerce, Churchill Economic Development Authority, insurance companies, building contractors and large businesses that opened their wallets to outspend proponents about four-to-one.
According to CEDA, prospective businesses were reluctant to invest in the county until the vote.
Support for the measure largely came from teachers and unions frustrated that Nevada ranks near the bottom in the nation in per-pupil spending.
As for the elections, this was a ho-hum year in Churchill County as many office seekers ran unopposed.
Sheriff Ben Trotter retained his seat for a second term by defeating Jay Horsley.
In one of the most competitive races, Tasha Hessey defeated Jaime Dellera to succeed Joan Sims as Churchill County Recorder.
Nona McFarlane wasn’t re-elected to the board for another four years. Instead, Rich Gent, Carmen Schank, Clay Hendrix and newcomer Matt Hyde won the top four seats.
Statewide, the Republicans won all six constitutional offices, and Gov. Brian Sandoval easily retained his office. The Republicans also control the Assembly and Senate for the first time in at least a generation.
Former Assemblyman and State Senator Virgil Getto died Nov. 6 at his home after a lengthy illness. A Mass of the Resurrection was conducted at St. Patrick’s Church followed by a Celebration of Life at The Gardens Funeral Home.
Not only was the 90-year-old Getto widely known in agriculture circles throughout Northern Nevada, but he was also an effective legislator having served in both the Assembly and Senate.
After serving one term as a trustee on the Churchill County School Board, Getto successfully ran for Assembly in 1966 and campaigned with a grassroots effort by knocking door to door. For the next 26 years, he served his constituents in Carson City.
Getto served in the Assembly from 1967-76 and took a break to return to his Fallon ranch. He ran again for Assembly and was elected in 1978 and served until 1980 when he was appointed to fill Dodge’s Senate seat for two years. Getto then returned to the Assembly from 1983-88 and ran successfully for Senate. He announced his retirement in 1992.
In 2007, the Assembly added Getto to its Wall of Distinction.
Getto made numerous professional and personal contributions to the community college system, especially Western Nevada College’s Fallon campus. A building on the Fallon campus was renamed in his honor in 2004.
Getto, the son of Italian immigrants, was born in Fallon on June 19, 1924, and grew on the family ranch. At the time of his death, he still resided at the Centennial Farm established by his father Andrew.
Brothers John and Andrew purchased the land where their farms have operated since 1911, and their families joined an elite list of Nevada ranchers and farmers in October 2011.