Mayor Robert Crowell Wednesday laid out the good, the bad and the beauty of a brass ring he said is within Carson City’s reach.
Delivering his state of the city speech, he cited a laundry list of accomplishments, talked of public and private projects to come — including potential for a private sector complex near the Carson Nugget casino — but also said things like deferred road and other maintenance needs still plague city government as the recession recedes.
The city’s state is sound, he said, and can get stronger if the community builds on burgeoning economic diversification in the capital city, the region and Nevada.
“This is a brass ring just waiting for us to grab hold,” Crowell said. “We must not miss this opportunity to maximize the enormous potential of that diversification.”
Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in the Gold Dust West Hotel and Casino, Crowell said many retail concerns came to Carson City at the Carson Mall and elsewhere, lauded city improvement projects approved by the Board of Supervisors last year and expected this year or in years to come, gushed about a lowered jobless rate, and said sales tax revenues are running well ahead of projections.
“For the first four months of this fiscal year,” he said, “we experienced an increase of 8.75 percent compared to our budget forecast of 3.5 percent — or about a million dollar increase in revenues.”
He said that good news will prove helpful in financing necessary public services, “particularly in the area of deferred maintenance that I will talk about a little later.” He did return to it toward the end of his remarks, but when he zeroed in on road repair needs he differentiated them from other maintenance because they are funded by a dwindling gasoline tax take.
“I am not sure I have a good answer today on how to address that shortfall, other than to continue our efforts of making do with less,” Crowell said, “but that can’t last forever.” He also talked about deferral of updates on aging Sheriff’s Office patrol cars and Fire Department vehicles as he assessed the challenges ahead. Despite those references to the temporarily bad along his recitation of the good, he stayed upbeat.
“In the end, and as in the past,” he said, “we will address and resolve those issues and others — and there are many others — in a transparent, common sense, business-like fashion.”
Regarding the much discussed yet vague talk about a private sector downtown project near the Carson Nugget, the mayor was cautiously optimistic. But he was no more detailed than anyone else.
“On the drawing board: a large scale development on the Nugget parking lot areas that may potentially include a hotel, convention center, technical and general office space, and a parking garage — all privately financed — looks to be proceeding favorably,” Crowell said. He then expeditiously moved on to another hotel and got laughter along with applause as he mentioned the Ormsby House.
Calling it a landmark, he said he’s told “there is a possibility that the Ormsby House will reopen.” He said that would provide a more vibrant downtown consistent with the board’s decision “to improve our downtown streetscape.” That hotel/casino closed more than a decade ago and has undergone rehabilitation and renovation work ever since.
The streetscape project the mayor mentioned, which has stirred controversy in part because it would narrow the number of vehicular lanes from four to three downtown, was among several he recounted in his list of past progress about to move from plans to the reality stage. Also included are a plaza on a block of West 3rd Street just off Carson Street, later rejuvenation of Curry Street, improvements for other business corridors, and new structures.
“Next month the Board of Supervisors will pick the general contractor for the initial phase of our corridor improvement projects,” Crowell said.
Among the building projects of which he spoke are a new animal shelter and a multi-purpose athletic center. The streetscape and building construction work being done are funded from bonds issued after the city governing board last year approved a city sales tax boost amounting to an eighth of a penny.
The mayor also talked of public/private ventures that include having the Nevada Humane Society handle animal services and run the shelter, using a contractual private company to run city building services, and the public/private venture to build what’s going to become the Robert McFadden Plaza on the block of West 3rd Street downtown.
Crowell didn’t neglect regional and state progress also underway, praising Gov. Brian Sandoval and his administration for luring a Tesla battery plant and another major concern to the region.
“Developments such as Switch and Tesla are a great help, indeed a tremendous help,” he said. “For the first time that I can recall in the last 30 years we are seeing the beginning of a true diversification of our region’s economy.” Crowell said it will bring quality growth and sustainability to the region and help Carson City grab what he called the brass ring by keeping momentum going the right direction.
“As our region and the state goes through this change it is important to not only recognize, but indeed, capitalize on the fact that we are the state capital,” said the mayor.