The town without a center – two years, three months … 10 days later
October 16, 2006
SILVER CITY – Every morning before Erich Obermayr goes to work, he parks his Toyota pickup alongside State Route 341 and adds another day to the countdown.
On Monday, he marked “two years, three months and nine days” since the residents of Silver Springs have had a permanent place to feed local disadvantaged children or hold birthday parties or weddings.
The wooden sign along the road is a message of discontent against insurance bureaucracy, locals say.
“I think it’s a reminder to people in town that we have lost our community center, and we are in the process of fighting to get it back,” Obermayr said Monday.
On July 7, 2004, the 1867 Silver City Schoolhouse community center burned in a fire believed to be sparked by county employees using welding torches to install air conditioning. Recently, insurance company Lloyds of London offered the community $453,000 to rebuild. A representative from Alternative Service Concepts, which manages the policy for Lloyds, could not be reached for comment. The amount offered is a little more than half of what contractors say they need, Lyon County Manager Donna Kristaponis said.
Silver City has about 200 people, many working professionals who love the Comstock’s history and the solitude of the desert. With few public buildings, and even fewer businesses that offer space for recreation, it’s a town without a heart, one longtime resident said.
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“I got married right here,” said Ron Reno, while standing on a dirt and andesite rock mound that was once the community center. “When you look around, we’re in the center of Silver City – it’s the heart of Silver City.”
Just down High Street is the temporary community meeting center at the Silver City Firehouse. About 40 residents crammed into it Monday night – angry and wanting construction to start.
The Silver City Advisory Board decided to recommend to the county that it start building the center and cover the costs itself. It can sue Lloyds to recoup costs later.
“The Silver City community group has been inordinately good in bringing about political pressure on the insurance company,” said Kristaponis.
After hearing the residents’ input, Lyon commissioners could decide Thursday to accept the offer from Lloyds, or go to a binding appraisal process. This could be a loss for Silver City if the sole appraisal comes in much lower than the county’s $900,000 estimate of the schoolhouse’s value.
“Or we could sue,” Kristaponis said. “It would mean a long, drawn-out process.”
That’s the route the city of Winnemucca took – and won.
The city estimated it would cost $2 million to replace historic Nixon Hall after it burned down, said Winnemucca City Manager Stephen West. The city insurance company offered $1 million.
“We went into a lawsuit, and we settled and we did get our settlement,” West said Monday. “But the time from when the building burned down to when we received the settlement was about three years.”
Silver City residents don’t want to wait any longer.
Resident Cashion Callaway said Lloyds needs to pay, but right now they need a center.
“We care that the county not allow the insurance company to get off with out paying for the building,” she said. “It must be built, one way or the other.”
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.