On the horizon: How the elections, gangs and the new freeway could shape Carson City | NevadaAppeal.com

On the horizon: How the elections, gangs and the new freeway could shape Carson City

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer

While it is impossible to predict what events will take center stage in 2007 in Carson City, there are several events that have the potential to shape Nevadans’ daily lives.

Among them, a Nevadan in the highest echelon of national power and a freshman congressman with Carson City roots. On the state level, the 2007 Legislature and new governor tackling a jam-packed agenda. Locally, alliances and funding to stem the flow of methamphetamine and curb the rising gang violence.

The new year will also provide a clearer picture of Carson’s identity, as the new freeway takes shape and the city struggles to save its historic past.

Some of the most decisive events of 2007 could be instigated less than 24 hours after its arrival.

Monday morning, Jim Gibbons will be sworn in as Nevada’s 28th governor, marking a new era in the mansion for the first time in eight years. Later in January, Gibbons will give his State of the State Address to the Legislature and spell out his priorities for the next two years.

Gibbons has said his plan will include no tax increases for the $7 billion budget, which will fund the state for two years beginning in July. On Feb. 5, the 74th Legislature will be gaveled into session, faced with a gamut of issues including all-day kindergarten, health care, alternative energy funding and teachers’ salaries.

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Reid takes helm, Heller takes seat

While the Nevada Legislature and governor work to solve the state’s issues, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., will step into a new role on the national stage, as Senate majority leader following the Democratic takeover of both houses of Congress.

In the wake of the change in power, the Democrats, with Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the helm, now have two years to earn the public’s trust before the country chooses the next president.

Among the scores of new congressman in Washington following the election is Carson City native Dean Heller. Elected to fill the seat left vacant by Gibbons’ move to the mansion, Heller enters Congress in the minority party after 12 years as Nevada’s secretary of state and four years in the Legislature. Heller campaigned on preventing tax increases, increased defense of the nation’s borders and eliminating the federal deficit.

New Carson City Freeway

After years of working and waiting, Carson City residents welcomed the future of transportation on a chilly morning in February. A 3.5-mile section of the Carson City freeway opened for the first time. Gov. Kenny Guinn took the first ride on the freeway in his black SUV.

As the months passed and the freeway evolved from the newest attraction to a part of life, the talk turned to the next phase and its eventual completion.

The Nevada Department of Transportation is scheduled to open bids for Phase 2A of the freeway on Feb. 8. Initially the bids were supposed to be opened before the end of the year, but were pushed back to February.

Work on the second phase, which will run from Highway 50 south to Fairview Drive, won’t begin until this summer. Utility and sewer lines are being moved to accommodate the new construction.

In addition to putting water, sewer, gas and phone lines underground, Carson City must complete work to widen Fairview Drive for the increased traffic. The street is expected to become a four-lane artery from the new road.

The first half of the second phase is expected to be completed in 2008 and will cost an estimated $51 million. Near the end of 2007, NDOT will begin the bidding process for the final phase of the freeway, running from Fairview to an interchange with Highway 50 at the base of Spooner Summit.

NDOT officials are estimating completion of the project by 2010 at a total cost of $330 million.

The spread of methamphetamine

As 2005 closed and city and state officials looked at the year ahead, among their priorities was combating the growing problem of methamphetamine. A coalition called Partnership Carson City continued to work on fighting the drug’s spread. Several labs were discovered and destroyed, taking hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of the drug off the streets.

In May, Sheriff Kenny Furlong reported that nearly 80 percent of the crimes committed in Carson City were in some way connected to drugs. A meth hotline was created for the community to provide anonymous tips on suspected meth labs, sales and use.

In 2007, the efforts to stop the drugs’ further infection of Carson are scheduled to continue unabated. On Jan. 9, a 30-minute anti-meth television program will air at 7:30 p.m. on every local station and will include interviews with addicts and those fighting the drug. Furlong and his daughter, Kendra, who has struggled with meth addiction, are scheduled to appear.

Furlong is considering requesting funding for additional deputies in his proposed 2007 budget in part to step up efforts to find and arrest dealers.

Gang violence

Following several shootings involving rival gang members, an outraged community began to demand answers about how to curb the gang violence in Carson City. In November, a community meeting about the problem became heated as the sheriff’s office asked for help in identifying gang members.

Several community groups, including Latino community activists, joined forces to form the Carson City Community Coalition, to provide help and information about gang violence.

Additional deputies could help curtail the graffiti and crime associated with gangs. The coalition will meet next at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 11, at the Carson City Senior Citizens Center, 911 Beverly Dr.

Historic preservation

On a much smaller scale, a mainstay of downtown Carson City’s historic district received a reprieve and will begin getting a facelift in 2007. After months of fighting, a compromise in March prevented the demolition of First Presbyterian Church.

The historic structure, one of the oldest in the state and with ties to author Mark Twain, will see an expansion on its south side beginning in mid-January. Church officials are expected to begin worship services in the new structure by summer 2008.

The compromise that allowed the project to move forward could serve as the template in future endeavors as the city looks to better utilize its history while welcoming new growth, including the restoration of the V&T Railroad and the proposed addition of a Chinese Railroad Worker’s Museum.

Looking ahead

Jan. 1 – 10 a.m. Carson City and state elected officials sworn into office at the Nevada Supreme Court

Jan. 1 – 3 p.m. Supreme Court Justices take the oath of office, at the court

Jan. 2 – 11 a.m. Inauguration ceremonies for Gov. Jim Gibbons at the Capitol

Jan. 4 – Congressional officers sworn into office in Washington, D.C.

Jan. 9 – Anti-meth television program to air on all local channels

Jan. 11 – Carson City Community Coalition meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Carson City Senior Citizens Center, 911 Beverly Dr.

Jan. 22 – Gov. Gibbons gives his first State of the State address

Feb. 5 – 74th session of the Nevada Legislature begins

Feb. 8 – Bids opened by the Nevada Department of Transportation from contractors seeking to build the next phase of the Carson City Freeway

June 4 – Final day of the 2007 legislative session

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.