Candidates for Carson City mayor and Board of Supervisors faced off in public one last time before the start of early voting this weekend.
The six candidates answered questions posed by the Carson City Chamber of Commerce at its monthly luncheon Monday at the Gold Dust West.
Streets, water, growth and revenues were on the menu.
“Our roads are the biggest issue facing Carson City,” said Brad Bonkowski, incumbent Ward 2 supervisor.
Bonkowski said if the gas tax indexing questions passes it would provide some relief, but not enough.
That measure would allow the Board of Supervisors to raise the gas tax by as much as 3 cents a year for the next 10 years.
“If it’s defeated how will we fund it? The truth is we won’t. The numbers are way too big. We need $90 to $100 million dollars to bring our roads back to an acceptable level,” he said.
Bonkowski said Carson City was better off than other counties in the state, in particular in terms of water and schools, which he said were the best in the state, and said that the 3 percent annual cap on new development means there is not runaway growth here.
His opponent, Maurice White, agreed the city has a good water and sewer system, but said utility rates should be held below the rate of inflation.
White also suggested reducing the allowable growth rate to below 3 percent and following Douglas County’s lead, which requires developers to build the needed infrastructure, such as schools and fire stations, to support their development, he said.
White also said the city could better manage its money, including $286,000 he said was wasted on project rebids, in order to pay for such items as $6.8 million in unfunded capital improvement programs.
White also was unequivocal in the role in the role of city government to incentivize businesses.
“Investing taxpayer money in private business is bad policy and should never happen whether its big business or small business,” he said.
Jim Shirk, incumbent Ward 4 supervisor, said bringing the right businesses in has been an afterthought rather than the first step in downtown’s reconstruction.
“Carson City has always been a great community, but in some respects we have not planned ahead,” said Shirk.
Shirk voted against the one-eighth of a cent sales tax hike that funded the downtown project, the multi-athletic center and animal shelter.
All should have relied on other sources of revenue, said Shirk, such as redevelopment funds for the downtown streetscape.
Shirk had an idea for better managing the city’s road projects by bringing the decision making closer to the public.
“The (regional transportation commission) has two supervisors on it,” who should become nonvoting members, said Shirk. “The RTC should consist of a citizen from each ward so we can have a discussion about it.”
John Barrette, Shirk’s opponent, said the public should have a say in the city’s plans for the future.
He proposed redoing the city’s master plan and in the process holding public meetings.
“Any city has needs that outstrip revenue,” said Barrette. “I would propose going to the people and asking them. That’s the way to find out what we need in the future. I’m not going to impose my dreams for the city. There are a lot of things we can do to make this community even better than it is.”
Barrette also talked about the urgency of the city’s roads maintenance.
“I said we needed the entire city budget to fix the streets in a timely manner,” he said. “Construction costs go up two to three times the rate of inflation. If let the roads deteriorate we’re going to be in big trouble.”
He also thought the city’s growth was well managed and that the planned for 1,300 units of new housing would be a decade in the making and not happen overnight.
Bob Crowell, incumbent mayor, said Carson City was well equipped to be part of the fast growth expected in Northern Nevada from Tesla Motor Co. and other manufacturers moving in.
He said services such as fire and school are always considered when the growth management ordinance is reviewed and that the allowed growth each year was never maxed out.
“We need to not overlook affordable housing,” said Crowell. “It’s a good part of how cities sustain themselves.”
Crowell also explained the 1,250 acre feet of water the city gets from Minden is used for blending in order to reduce levels of arsenic and uranium, not because the city has run out of water.
The alternative was to build a treatment plant and the city saved $6 million by getting water from Minden to blend instead, he said.
Looking to the future, Crowell said the city needs to keep expansion of the library, which has become a multipurpose facility, on its radar screen as well as consider single-stream recycling when the city’s waste management contract comes up for renewal.
Chris Carver, Crowell’s opponent, disagreed about using water from Douglas County.
“I agree we have plenty of water,” said Carver. “Piping in water from Minden was not strategically sound.”
He said rates for users will have jumped 59 percent in six years.
“While we have access to water we may not be able to afford our own future,” said Carver.
In terms of roads, Carver said the city needs to look at safety first and fix the roads most in need of repair.
“I’ve talked about the infamous Plan B several times,” said Carver when asked what will happen if the gas indexing initiative doesn’t pass. “The fact that we’re having this discussion this late in the cycle means we have not planned well.”
Growth and development is another area the city has not planned well, said Carver.
“We say ‘yes’ first then worry about where the money is going to come from later,” he said.
Early voting is Saturday through Nov. 4 in the County Clerk’s Office at the Courthouse, 885 E. Musser St. Election day is Nov. 8.
For hours, go online to http://nvsos.gov/sos/elections/voters/2016-primary-election-early-voting-locations-and-times/carson-city-early-voting-2016-primary-election.