State of the County address touches on economic growth

An Union Pacific train recently passes along the western edge of the proposed Churchill Hazen Industrial Park on a winter morning.

An Union Pacific train recently passes along the western edge of the proposed Churchill Hazen Industrial Park on a winter morning.

Churchill County Manager Jim Barbee gave a State of the County assessment to the January breakfast meeting of the Churchill Economic Development Authority’s Business Council.

Barbee, who has been in his position for 18 months, touched on several areas of general interest Wednesday.

Barbee said the county’s population is shy of 25,000 residents, and the city’s population is near 8,000. The current unemployment rate is 3.8%, a quarter of what the unemployment rate was during the height of the Great Recession. The main industries in the county, he said, are agriculture, the Navy and geothermal. Because of the military presence, Barbee said Churchill County has a high percentage of veterans

First, Barbee reviewed the 2019 accomplishment affecting the county.

“We recuperated the largest percentage of the funds that were expended for the 2017 flood mitigation efforts,” he said.

Barbee said it has taken months for county agencies to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The latest action involves the Wild Goose Bridge.

According to Churchill County, “the bridge has been unused since the county road department raised it by several feet during the 2017 flooding to allow water to pass more freely through the V-line canal. In the two years since the flooding, the county has gone through the application process for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for much of the work done to mitigate the flooding throughout the county. A portion of the FEMA money received has been set aside to reinstall the Wild Goose Bridge at the raised level over the canal.”

Barbee said the county has partnered with the city for on the construction of a new youth club facility net to the City-County Gym on Venturacci Lane, and the county worked successfully with the Legislature to restore Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) money to be able to access additional funds from CC Communications.

During the past year, he said the county updated its website to give it a more modern look.

“It’s a better way to reach out and communicate with the community,” he said of the website.

Barbee said the county is aware of the lack of affordable housing. Barbee said the county has purchased 30 acres off Coleman Road to create affordable housing.

He said the Governor’s Office on Economic Development has projected an expected growth of 12.61% for the area.

“We think that is good news and it could be even more than that depending on how the economy goes,” he said.

Although several presentations have been made at county commission meetings, Barbee discussed the Churchill Hazen Industrial Park, which is adjacent to the Union Pacific line. CHIP would provide a hub for rail and truck operations. Barbee said the county is applying for federal grants to improve the infrastructure at the 2,308-acre park proposed south of the railroad overpass on U.S. Highway 50 Alternate.

Barbee said the 2,308 acres constitute the first phase

Afterward, Barbee also expanded his comments on the proposed multi-family dwellings off Coleman Road. He said the county will explore the opportunities in moving forward with the project.

“We’ll look at expansion of our infrastructure in that area as well,” he said.

The latest Environmental Impact Statement is due to be released regarding the Fallon Range Training Complex and its proposed expansion and modernization. The Navy has been working with local governments on the proposal since the initial information was rolled out in August 2016.

Barbee said Churchill County has been working with the Navy to find the best way for them to expand. At previous scoping meetings, the county has presented a list to the Navy on concerns affecting the expansion.

Barbee said the county will seek a lands bill since the expansion will reduce the number of acres for economic development. The bill would affect the checkerboard land north of Fallon that could be affected by the expansion.

Once Naval Air Station Fallon receives the EIS, Barbee said a public hearing will be conducted.

The county’s Master Plan Update is scheduled to have three public meetings on Feb. 25, March 24 and April 28. While the public will be able to learn of information affecting the plan, Barbee said the three sessions will also be ideal for the public to interject their feedback.


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