Carson City Board grapples with street finance

Street construction and maintenance finance bedeviled Carson City’s Board of Supervisors with the old problem raising past issues and future hopes Thursday.

Future hopes came during a presentation by Transportation Manager Patrick Pittenger detailing years of low maintenance funding and pointing to the need, in his view, for new funds via public approval by voters of gasoline tax indexing.

“Washoe County has reaped the benefits,” said Pittenger, noting the Reno-dominated county to the north tied gasoline tax to an inflation index years ago and 50 percent of its roads are rated good compared to 38 percent in Carson City.

Past issues were hashed over, but not necessarily resolved, after Pittenger’s presentation. Dialogue focused on past use of gas tax money, whether it was legal and if an audit should be done.

Paul McGrath, Carson City’s former sheriff raised those concerns, but District Attorney Jason Woodbury said past uses were legal despite McGrath’s views.

“We’ve all come to the same conclusion,” said Woodbury, referring to himself and those he cooperated with on researching authority for and use of the money. “It has been legal.”

“Are you comfortable with that?” asked Mayor Robert Crowell, to which Woodbury’s reply was affirmative.

McGrath’s contention was originally a nickel tax was authorized only for use on the I-580 freeway bypass in the late 1990s, but since 2004 it was used without a vote of the people for some streets in Carson City while others near the freeway path were passed over.

He said in essence that was a new tax that originally had a sunset provision, so his view was the change should have required a vote of the people.

McGrath brought along Richard McCann, attorney and lobbyist for the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers, who didn’t quarrel with Woodbury’s assessment on legality but said McGrath’s companion call for an audit should fly.

He said McGrath and other residents want answers.

“Shouldn’t they have an opportunity to see what it was spent on?” he asked in rhetorical fashion. The mayor raised concerns about how an audit of spending from the nine cents in gas tax could break out the part used on streets from the nickel.

McGrath, meanwhile, said he wants the issues agendized for action rather than just a presentation and testimony. He acknowledged self interest because the south part of the city where he lives needs both road work and stormwater drainage solutions.

“I’m going to be dead before you get out there to fix the roads or drainage problems in my part of town,” he said.

Supervisor Brad Bonkowski said no matter what transpired there’s a math problem now — insufficient funds to fix McGrath’s street or others in southern Carson City.

That returned matters to the issue of the gasoline tax indexing question on the Nov. 8 ballot, which if approved could raise the tax three cents per gallon. Over a decade, that would provide an estimated $60 million for local roads.

McCann returned to the fray, saying Bonkowski may be right and people via transparency on past spending would have information they seek to determine what to do next.

He said Pittenger’s presentation covered gross gas tax and related road income/outgo, not a look at details of where it was spent.

Two others also appeared after the McGrath/McCann testimony with similar concerns. They were Tim Howard and Krista Leach, both of whom also live in south Carson City.

There was some talk of obtaining road spending data in each of the city’s four wards, but no action was called for on the agenda and none was taken.

In other action, the board gave preliminary approval to an ordinance adopting 2012 International Energy Conservation Code and 2015 Northern Nevada Energy Code Amendments. Final adoption is expected in two weeks.

It also received a report on Charles Abbott Associates handling of the Building Department, which is operated under a contract with the city.

The board, meeting with Health Officer Dr. Susan Pintar and Sheriff Ken Furlong as the city’s Board of Health, also met members of the city’s Sexual Assault Response Team.

Pintar said the team’s work has produced “a pretty incredible rate of successful prosecutions.” Later, Frankee Haynes, victim-witness coordinator with the city District Attorney’s office, said the team has dealt with a total of 62 underage sex crime victims over the years.

She said it also has seen a spike in incest cases, including one that resulted in a pregnancy, and a spike in child pornography.


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