Developing Carson City supervisors’ agenda a thorough, transparent process
To the public, it’s a few pieces of paper.
To the Carson City manager, the agenda for the twice-monthly Board of Supervisors meetings represents a huge part of his job.
“The agenda and meeting-related stuff takes up half my time,” said Nick Marano, city manager. “And that’s outside of the meeting itself.”
Whether the item is required by Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) or a one-off informational item, it takes coordination and may be months, even years, in the making.
Almost all action items, matters that require the board to vote, have to be on the agenda, and some, such as those originating with the Planning Commission or the Regional Transportation Commission, have a strict deadline to be on the agenda.
“It’s a fair statement to say that anything that goes to the board for action, with rare exception, has to go to the board,” Marano said.
A rare exception might be the city manager requesting an official opinion on pending legislation from the board, which he doesn’t technically need, so he can testify with authority at the legislature.
Most, though, are required by NRS or city policy. Any city purchase more than $50,000, for example, has to be approved by the board.
Right of way abandonments, even uncontroversial ones Marano said, have to go before the supervisors.
All items, even the minor ones, take staff time, preparation and collaboration.
Much of that work is done via Granicus, the same computer program used to watch meetings online. That’s the public front-end. Another part of the program is used internally to build the agenda and packet.
Some agenda items start with a supervisor or two, who want to see the city take some specific action.
“One item on the next agenda is a change to our nuisance standard, which initiated with Lori (Bagwell) and Karen (Abowd),” said Marano. “Asset management, that was Brad (Bonkowski) and Lori. It’s very important to both of them.”
A supervisor can request a future item during a board meeting and if it’s seconded by another member, it will be placed on the agenda, a policy instituted only recently.
But that rarely happens. Usually it’s a matter of supervisors approaching staff and going from there.
“We have a collaborative relationship between city staff and the board members,” said Marano.
Information-only items, on which the board takes no action, are more flexible but fairly routine as well, said Marano.
“We do some on a regular basis. Very few board of health items, for example, are for action. They’re mostly information and recurring,” he said.
Or the items are updates on big city issues that may not require action but need to be kept in the public eye.
“The wastewater plant, for example,” said Marano, which was an information-only item on the board’s last agenda. “It’s a project in excess of $30 million and there was a rate increase.”
And, right now, it’s good news: the project is on budget and a year ahead of schedule.
That isn’t what drives the agenda, said Marano.
“I have a philosophy that bad news doesn’t get better with age,” he said.
He kept the board and public apprised of work on the new animal shelter, for example, even when the updates weren’t easy to deliver.
“All the bids came in higher than we budgeted. It was not a good news story,” said Marano. “I made a case for additional funding and why assumptions that were valid at the time needed to be increased.”
The most leeway the city manager has is the order of the meeting’s items.
Marano said that’s mostly a juggling act to make sure the meeting runs smoothly. If the meeting is going all day, Marano said he front loads the morning because morning items can be bumped to the afternoon, but afternoon items can’t be pulled into the morning.
Controversial items might be scheduled first after the board returns from lunch so the public knows exactly when to arrive to comment on the item.
In the end, it’s up to the mayor. Marano gives the agenda to Mayor Bob Crowell a week and a day before the meeting for his approval.
“The mayor has the final say,” said Marano.