Lyon County OKs $6.1 million for projects

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Approximately 17 Lyon County departments and entities were apportioned more than $6.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds after presenting their requests to the county’s Board of Commissioners last week.
On April 14, speakers were given 10 minutes to explain their proposal, then took questions from the board members who asked a common question: If the commission could only grant a portion of the original request, could each department or organization make do on fewer dollars provided? Most making a presentation said they would be willing to accept whatever amount would be awarded to them with tough choices at stake.
Requests ranged from capital projects to public service needs. Sheriff Frank Hunewill asked his portion to be allocated to his office’s drone expansion project to improve the department’s night vision capabilities. Human Services Director Shayla Holmes requested replacement tables and chairs for the county’s senior services. Dayton Valley Dog Park President Dave Smith sought funds to restore the park’s large grass area, repair its benches, provide new storage, upgrade its security and add a memorial wall for less than $56,000.
The four fire districts – Mason Valley, Smith Valley, Central Lyon County and North Lyon – each requested ambulance purchases for their unique emergency service needs based on geographical challenges, patient mix or specialized equipment for the vehicles. The fire chiefs gave an account of current aging vehicles that are taken out of active use and put into reserve with all the mileage put onto ambulances up to 25 years old. The commissioners asked where the fire departments could consolidate or make purchases through a single manufacturer to reduce costs and ultimately cut the districts’ requests for vehicles by half to budget dollars in other areas.
North Lyon Fire Chief Jason Nicholl acknowledged the board’s difficult task in its decision making but urged it to consider the county’s distinct needs.
“It’s not about fairness, it’s about proportionality,” he said. “We live in Fernley at a lower tax cap as no one else does and that causes significant problems. That’s no one’s fault. But there are 4 cents left, and that 4 cents don’t buy us an ambulance. “With all respect to your decision making – and this is very tough decision making— I told you I would never turn money down.”
Big-ticket items included the Fernley Justice Court and Sheriff’s Substation expansion by Lyon County Comptroller Josh Foli, originally requested for $4.4 million; the reconstruction of Ramsey Weeks Road in Silver Springs by the Roads Department for $5 million; and the Mound House Community Center for $1.2 million.
Mound House Community Advisory Board chairwoman Melinda Cash asked the commissioners to consider her $1.2 million request as the county’s “longest requested source of funding.” It would signify support for citizens who have experienced financial hardships in the past 30 years as well as recent theft trying to keep a meeting table in the firehouse holding CAB meetings, she said. After deliberations, she was awarded $1 million.
“We’ve been waiting patiently for over 30 years,” Cash said. “If you consider doing this, you need to do it right. … I don’t know what else to do but get on my hands and knees and beg for our community.”
Funds for ARPA projects must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, Foli said. This is the date by which the entity has the plan in place to spend the funds. The project itself must be completed with funds spent by the end of 2026, county manager Jeff Page clarified to the Appeal this week.
As deliberations began after public comment, certain items immediately were removed from the list out of concern for ineligibility or challenges to maintain the federal guidelines even though speakers were allowed to present, Foli said. Proposals for the Pizen Switch Times newspaper website, for example, would not meet the ARPA funding federal guidelines. Executive director Darin Wilkinson and editor Leah Wilkinson submitted a request for $104,488 to support website hosting and salaries with other expenses to sustain a year’s worth of Southern Lyon County coverage.
The USA Rehab Centers LLC’s request to develop a Web app as a searchable directory to list Lyon County’s local first responders, social workers, case managers, discharge nurses and other professionals for assistance to those struggling with alcoholism, substance use or mental health disorders or physical injury, also was removed. Foli said if the county were to fund the grant, at a cost of $79 a month to list six known Lyon providers for 50 years, it would still come up more than $100,000 short of the request, and it falls outside ARPA’s requirements for any request to be reasonable as well as allocable.
The third request to be removed was the Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey Counties’ food pantry expansion for $299,000, for which executive director Wendy Madsen said the current temporary open space, a 15-foot-by-30-foot area in Dayton, now has seen an 80% increase in its numbers being served. The original request for Dayton recently became a request for Silver Springs since its pantry there will not have its lease renewed as of June 16, Madsen said. Foli said if there were a guarantee a permanent space could be built on site within two years with an operable food site open by the time the funds must be obligated, there would no issue according to the ARPA guidelines.
“It’s almost a chicken-and-egg thing,” Foli said. “But the way the original request is, that causes concern under federal regulations.”
The Silver City Citizen Advisory Board, bringing two requests to expand its local historic cemetery, which has only eight remaining gravesites left and is not enough now to accommodate the needs for nearly 200 residents in the town, did not receive funding. Its initial request was for $8,000 to engineer a master plan for the cemetery with a second ask for $100,000 to execute an expansion.
The commissioners voted 4-1 on the requests, with Commissioner Vida Keller opposing the board’s strategy on its allocation.
“I really think we’ve addressed this incorrectly,” she said. “I will be a ‘no’ vote.”
Commissioner Robert Jacobson of District 4 said in the meantime, he would reach out to residents about the HCC’s requests for its Silver Springs and Dayton food pantries to figure out a solution for other sources of funding.
“I do want to thank everybody,” he said. “I wish we could have funded all of these projects 100%.”
The $6.16 million is part of the county’s total $11.17 million package, with $5.01 million already having been allocated for various water and sewer projects in Dayton, Silver Springs and Willow Creek; parks repair and maintenance; Internet connections to county facilities in Smith Valley and Silver City; personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing; and indigent assistance, childcare assistance and behavioral health support.

According to Page as of Wednesday, however, the discussion will return to the board in May for finetuning. The county will need to address concerns about funding for the Dayton Justice Court, a federally mandated requirement, and Page said this will be the basis for clarifying items decided upon from last Thursday's ARPA workshop.


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