Pace of Carson City activity to increase in 2016
City government progress on downtown, enhanced transparency and community economic improvements were among 2015 highlights for Carson City, according to top Carson City management.
As for 2016, City Manager Nick Marano talks of completing the Carson Street downtown streetscape facelift designed last year, providing even more government transparency with an upgraded website, and eyeing ways to finance a fire station to cope with past and probable city growth.
“We’re looking at different ways that we could fund that fire station,” he said. Marano acknowledged there’s a small, unstaffed fire station near Western Nevada College, but said it isn’t in an ideal location.
“That’s really our summer wildfire and all-year BLS ambulance spot now,” he said, using the acronym for basic life support emergency transport service. “We’re looking at an option near the (city government) corporate yard.”
That yard is where the Public Works Department, the Parks and Recreation Department and the new animal shelter, now under construction, are located in east Carson City. Marano said locating a fire station site likely will key on city development, which should pick up in the new year.
The animal shelter, approved in 2015 at more than $4 million and in early stages of construction, is another city accomplishment of this two-year period, Marano said. He said solutions on shelter options provided the “right design.”
For 2015, meanwhile, Marano also cited as a plus the $8.3 million multi-athletic center (MAC) that opened Wednesday. The project was more than a decade in the formative stages.
Despite all his pride with government accomplishments, particularly the transparency upgrades he says are taking the city into the 21st century, Marano seemed just as pleased with community economic recovery.
He said about 500 jobs were added here during 2015. He said 2015 began with 2,120 jobless here versus just 1,638 as last year was nearing an end. Looking ahead, he sees that employment trend continuing.
Also in 2015, he said, the recovery helped the Board of Supervisors find about $375,000 in additional tax receipts to put to work fixing city streets.
“That represents about a 30 percent increase,” he said.
He said city government looks forward to whether more money becomes available for deferred street maintenance and other local road needs via a vote of the people on gasoline tax indexing.
During an interview, however, Marano’s highlights for the past year and for the one that just started focused particularly on government transparency and movement on the downtown project. He tackled transparency in detail.
“Any resident has access to the city’s check book,” he said, noting it provides citizens ability to track both income and outgo.
He cited use of Granicus as well, noting it’s the same public video access software tool used by the House of Representatives, states and other municipalities. It now is used for public access to meetings of the Board of Supervisors.
“I’m going to expand it to all boards and commissions,” he said, noting it speeds video searches. “It will make it very easy for people.”
Other “good first step” transparency moves, he said, include Carson City Connect for citizens to access information or file complaints so government can provide quick answers or service.
“It brings city government into the 21st century in terms of providing residents a very easy platform for them to navigate,” he said.
“It’s working real well,” he added, saying, “feedback is extremely important to me.”
In 2016, he said, an overhaul of the city’s website is envisioned to make it easier to navigate. He said the current version is a decade old.
Marano said he will seek ways to increase citizen involvement on the site, including having residents post pictures, and the overhaul will be aimed at completing his efforts to enhance city government transparency.
The city manager was clear the downtown makeover on Carson Street and the accompanying Bob McFadden Plaza, on a closed block of West 3rd Street, will be a top priority for 2016.
“We’re going to be done,” he said, noting a deadline looms at the end of October. “Our goal is to have everything done by Nevada Day.”
He said a fall back position may mean all the “hard items” will be completed — the road, sidewalks, underground utility work — while some less crucial but important ambiance details will be handled during an overhang period later.
“At a very minimum,” he said, “we’ll be able to host Nevada Day in a very safe and pleasant manner.”
Marano said the Curry Street portion of the overall downtown project and a subsequent upgrade for East William Street will come in later years, though there will be some preliminary design insights possible for them during 2016.
“We’ve done some preliminary work on Curry,” he said, and a Greening of America’s Capitals grant helped at least kick off broad design ideas for William Street.
Marano said he and other city officials hope to make significant enhancements eventually on William Street, an important business corridor coming off the Interstate 580 freeway, but only as funds permit.
“We’re very aggressively pursuing federal grants,” he said.
Other major 2016 prospects on Marano’s radar screen include bringing visitors to Carson City for its outdoor opportunities, private development under way or imminent, and continuing to make gains on the employment front.
“We’re excited about the EPIC Bike Race in 2016,” he said in citing one example. It’s a June event that will bring hundreds of mountain bikers to compete on trails here. He said it puts the city on the map for the “outdoor venues that we really have in abundance here.”
Regarding development, he talked of housing both at the Schulz Ranch site on the city’s south side and more eventually around the Lompa Ranch area to the east. Community Development Director said Lennar Homes expects to begin building homes at the Schulz Ranch site as early as May this year. The first phase is for 100 lots; the full subdivision calls for more than 400,
Lompa Ranch, at more than 400 acres, could bring more later after developers submit designs this year. The city’s Master Plan would allow mixed single-family, multi-family and commercial development there.
“Potentially,” said Marano, “there’s a lot of new development coming.”
In terms of private sector jobs, Marano said, city government can help by clearing the way for and encouraging business growth in the capital community.
“Our objective in city government is to make Carson City ‘business friendly’ so all who want jobs have them,” he said.