Residents promise old-fashioned activism |

Residents promise old-fashioned activism

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
File photos by Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal, illustration by phil wooley/nevada appeal LEFT: The oldest school house in Nevada was destroyed by fire July 7, 2004. RIGHT: Ron Reno talks about the plans to rebuild the Silver City Schoolhouse. Rocks and hand-made bricks from the original 1867 construction have been saved to be used in the new building.

Residents of Silver City are ready to hold a sit-in protest and even camp out on the doorstep of an insurance claims manager to get their schoolhouse/community center rebuilt.

After two years and 27 days since the July 7, 2004, fire, more than a dozen residents of the tiny historic mining town came unannounced to the Lyon County Commission meeting Thursday to demand county officials do something to get the job done.

The 137-year-old Silver City Schoolhouse was used as a community center, housing meetings, fundraisers, youth programs and many other activities. A small room in the Silver City firehouse has been used for some of those activities since the fire, but residents say it is inadequate and is interfering with the work and training of the volunteer fire department.

County Manager Donna Kristaponis said the insurance carrier, ASC Business Insurance Services Inc. of Sparks, was still looking at a bid from Bison Construction for about $800,000 and was still debating what the county’s share of that would be.

Kristaponis said a meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 14 with Donna Squires, field claims manager for ASC, commissioners Bob Milz and Leroy Goodman as well as Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, at the Nevada Insurance Pool offices on Roop Street in Carson City.

She admitted that the county did not yet have an agreement or a contract with the company, but said that as soon as Squires received final figures from the contractor, an agreement would be forthcoming. Kristaponis said ASC was demanding $75,000 from the county, an amount she said was excessive, putting the figure between $8,000 and $10,000 as the county’s more likely responsibility.

“If it’s $8,000 or $9,000, then we’re ready to write a check,” Kristaponis said.

Grady was not satisfied.

“If this was your home, you wouldn’t stand by and wait for it for two years,” he said.

Erich Obermayr asked the commissioners to find “a new sense of urgency.”

He said the insurance company and the contractor are still debating what percentage of the cost is labor and what is materials.

“I’m ready to camp out on Donna Squires’ doorstep,” he added. “If it takes three calls a day, I’ll do it. And I mean it, I’ll go sit on her doorstep.”

Theo McCormick, chairman of the Silver City Town Board, promised a sit-in at the Aug. 14 meeting.

“We’ll bring the kids down there for a two-hour event,” he said.

Larry Steinberg, a member of the town’s fire department, reminded the commissioners that the fire station was the only public building Silver City had, and it wasn’t designed for such uses.

“We try to take care of our own,” he said. “We rarely come before you unless we’re desperate. But this is tearing into the stability of the last true community in Lyon County.

Larry Wahrenbrock, who has lived in the tiny town since 1973, directed his anger at the board.

“You have dishonored your positions as keepers of the public trust,” he said. “You are charged with managing the capital resources of the county. You are charged with protecting them from casualty loss and chose to accomplish that through joining an insurance pool. On your watch, a tragic accident resulted in the total loss of one of those resources. Two years later that loss has not been compensated.”

Wahrenbrock said that when the schoolhouse burned, as a result of a fire believed caused by welding torches used by county employees installing air conditioning, the commissioners assured the residents they would rebuild the building no matter what.

He said residents donated thousands of volunteer hours cleaning up the site, salvaging what they could, doing an archaeological dig and cataloging what was found.

“Now we are no closer to having the schoolhouse rebuilt than we were a year ago,” he said.

Renate Victor, a Silver City resident and member of the Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey Counties, said the community has lost thousands of dollars in federal grants for youth programs because they do not have an adequate facility.

The commissioners could offer little more than a sympathetic ear, however, since the insurance company hadn’t acted. They reaffirmed their commitment to rebuilding the schoolhouse.

“It’s not Silver City versus the commissioners,” Milz said. “We’re partners in this.”

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.