Commissioner gives upbeat report on county activities
The chairman of the Churchill County Commissioners gave a brief State of the County presentation to the business community on Wednesday at the monthly Churchill Economic Development Authority Business Council breakfast.
Pete Olsen said he is pleased with the involvement from Churchill County residents.
“So many people have invested their lives in the community to make lives better,” he said.
Olsen also said residents want to make their businesses better and make their business plans work.
The majority of Olsen’s presentation focused on the positive side. He said the county is seeing a slight economic improvement with property and consolidated tax revenues. Although property tax shrunk from a high of $11 million in 2007, he said it has held steady at about $9 million.
Olsen said gas tax revenues bring in about $2 million, but the method of figuring the rate occurred in the 1990s. The present annual amount coming into the county, Olsen said, is flat. He said the gas tax revenue helps pay for the county road department, but he sees the need to increase the current rate because it is not keeping up with demand.
According to Olsen, voters will see a gas tax ballot at the general election. Olsen said he is a Republican who doesn’t like to see tax increases, but for this one, he said an increase is necessary to maintain the county roads.
Olsen also explained about half the county’s annual budget is earmarked for public safety.
“The government’s No. 1 job is to keep our community safe,” he said. “That’s where most of the money is spent. But we try to keep expenses in line.”
Olsen, a longtime dairyman in Churchill County, said agriculture is showing many positive indicators despite a lack of water in 2015. Moat farmers and ranchers received their last allotment of water in early July.
Olsen said the Sorensen and Perrazo families are expanding their dairy operations, and a shuttered dairy recently reopened. The Freys wine and distillery operations have also been expanding. He said the Frey Ranch and Lattin Farms, for example, draw many visitors to Churchill County.
“We would like to promote ag tourism,” Olsen said.
Olsen said the county enjoys a solid relationship with Naval Air Station Fallon. To avoid community encroachment to the base’s fence line, the county and Navy developed a plan to implement conservation easements near the base. Olsen said 4,500 acres have been placed in agriculture production, and development rights have been removed. Additionally, Olsen said 3,300 water-righted acres have been preserved.
“There’s 14,00 acres around the base so let’s keep it in ag,” he said.
During 2016 and 2017, Olsen said the focus is to place 1,000 more acres within the conservation easement plan.
“Over the years, we’ll continue with this challenge,” Olsen added.
The third area dealing with economic development centers on geothermal or what Olsen calls “the third leg of the stool.” Churchill County, the second-largest county in the United States producing geothermal energy, has seen great expansion within the past decade. Cyrq, Inc. bought the Patua Hazen and the Soda Lake plants in 2015. Olsen said Ormat is working with the Bureau of Land Management on permits for the Edwards Creek plant east of Fallon, while Enel North America has added solar panels at its Stillwater facility and will do the same at its Salt Wells plant.
Other business expansion, Olsen discussed, included the addition of employees at the New Millennium joist plant, construction of a new senior center and county jail and a slight increase in the number of single family residences being built.
The proposed county jail will be built on the site of the former New Frontier building on North Carson Street.