‘Get on with the show,’ Lompa family says about freeway project
In the small two-bedroom home her husband built for her, Eva Lompa sits at the round wooden kitchen table that looks out over the family ranch.
Her sheep dog, Molly, guards the back door and barks a warning at newcomers as sheep dawdle quietly by the long-standing outbuildings close by. A 150-year-old wooden barn stands open, and bales of hay are stacked to feed cattle during the winter.
The kitchen view will likely change soon. Instead of viewing an open field and pi-on-covered hills where her children used to ride horses to the east, the 87-year-old widow will have a front-row view of a freeway bypass.
The thought is not distressing to Lompa and her grown children. It’s the sign of a growing city and progress, they say. What is most stressful to the family are the drawn-out dealings with state officials who need to purchase the land to build the project.
Years of delay and discussions still have no end in sight.
“Get on with the show,” is Lompa’s message to the state, she said.
“It’s not something you want, but there is nothing I can do to stop it,” said Sam Lompa Jr., who raises and sells cattle on the 430-acre ranch. “All we want is what’s fair.”
Talk of building a bypass as a way to deal with traffic, which otherwise must travel through the middle of the city on Carson Street, has floated around for more than 50 years.
“Carson City — A General Plan Study,” written in April 1958, includes a freeway across the Lompa property, following almost the same route as proposed by Nevada Department of Transportation today. The plan is meant to address the city’s problem with its “disproportionate amounts of streets,” to serve an expected build-out of 12,000 residents, says the 44-year-old document.
Today, an estimated 40,000 cars pass through downtown on Carson Street on an average weekday. Of those, NDOT estimates 10,000 to 15,000 people drive the street without stopping, merely passing through Carson City to get to or from Reno, according to Mike Lawson, NDOT traffic information division chief.
By building a freeway, the traffic in downtown will immediately be cut by one-third, Lawson said, relieving the “highly congested” roadway.
In the past few years after NDOT settled on the current plan that bisects the Lompa property, the state offered the family $8,000 an acre for 123 acres, what they said they required at the time.
Then the family hired attorney Laura FitzSimmons, who represented another property against NDOT. State officials immediately rescinded their offer, Sam Lompa said.
Years passed, and the state completed its first phase of the project by building four bridges north of the property, setting the stage for continuing their plans for the Lompa property.
The state has come back with another offer of $28,000 per acre, saying it now only required 82 acres. The Lompas are hoping to get a counter-offer appraisal.
NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder said the agency considered several options and held numerous public meetings before settling on the final proposed route through the Lompa property.
“We have a very strict process before we’ve even selected an alignment,” Magruder said. The agency approved final plans for the freeway in 1986. NDOT officials believe they have offered the Lompas a fair price, he said, and are waiting to take the right steps and come to an agreement with the family.
The process already has taken too long, Sam Lompa said. He said he talked with state officials at one point and told them to just write him out a big check. He would pay them back any money, if it was more than what he needs. He has done the same for buyers of his cattle in the past, he joked.
Eva Lompa and her husband worked the ranch through the Depression, World War II and into the 1960s, until his death.
She remembers marrying Sam Sr. on a Saturday when she was 18, driving back to the ranch to sleep the night, and waking up early the next morning to milk cows.
People visited the young couple’s ranch to buy milk and cream. Eva Lompa churned butter for sale. They also sold dairy products to a creamery in Minden. Once the creamery left town in the early 1960s, the ranch was converted into a cattle ranch.
They didn’t do much for fun, Lompa said. “We were broke,” she said. Her children helped on the farm with the chickens, sheep and horses.
“It was a pretty simple life,” said her daughter Martha Keating. “We didn’t know any different. It was a great place to grow up.”
The ranch, which was originally 820 acres, has been sold off slowly as Carson City’s growth has surrounded it. Carson City High School is on one corner of the ranch, after a the Lompa family donated part of the property.
The ranch is one of the few remaining open pieces of land in an otherwise-subdivided city.
While NDOT and state attorneys scramble to hire outside lawyers, cut deals, hold meetings, and jockey work plans, Sam Lompa still wakes up each day and heads out to the fields. He piles his truck full of hay and makes the rounds.
Molly the dog still keeps an eye out for strangers at the back door. For now, it’s just another day.