Year ends with hardship and hope |

Year ends with hardship and hope

Staff report

Carson City may best remember 2007 as a year of financial hardship. With the housing market taking a downturn nationwide and state and city budgets hitting a shortfall, it hasn’t been an easy year.

But amid the difficulty, there is reason to be optimistic. A new movie complex, the only all-digital theater in the region, opened here. Tenants were finally found for the abandoned Wal-Mart and progress continues on both the Carson City freeway and the Virginia & Truckee Railroad.

And there are the countless stories – some that made it into the paper and many more that went unreported – of personal victories and acts of service.

We have compiled a list of some of the most newsworthy stories of the year.

State becomes major political player

Nevada has a piece of the limelight in national politics through the caucuses/straw polls on Jan. 19 – one of the first election events of the 2008 campaign season. The early caucuses were pushed through the national party by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

State Democratic chairwoman Jill Derby said the caucuses will put Nevada on the map as a player in the upcoming presidential elections. She said several Western states wanted the caucuses and, without Reid, Nevada would have had little chance.

Seeing the benefits of national exposure, the Republicans decided to hold their straw polls in Nevada the same day as the caucuses, further focusing attention on what Nevadans think about the list of presidential hopefuls.

Governor survives year of controversy

Gov. Jim Gibbons took office with an image problem because of an alleged pass at a cocktail waitress half his age and a federal investigation of his association with entrepreneur Warren Trepp.

He stumbled again amid conflicting statements about his secret midnight swearing in, then drew more criticism as he moved to block outgoing Gov. Kenny Guinn’s appointment of Keith Munro to the Gaming Control Board.

Controversy continued to dog him through the 2007 Legislature as he and his staff were initially unable to explain his proposed “Empowerment Schools” program and the homeland security “fusion center” he demanded for Carson City.

More eyebrows raised when he asked that his travel budget be doubled to send two security people with him on all trips. He was criticized for blocking recommendations to increase fees and some taxes to fund highway construction, instead taking part of the Clark County room tax revenues to bond for road construction.

And he drew fire for vetoing a bill designed to build a juvenile detention center for Churchill and Lyon counties because it raised taxes to pay the cost.

He was accused of holding education funding hostage to give businessmen a tax break. Several of his appointments were criticized – including one he didn’t make directly: His energy director’s decision to hire controversial former school teacher Joe Enge.

State faces budget cuts

Faced with slumping sales tax revenues, Gov. Gibbons called on his agencies to plan for budget cuts.

He’s far from the first governor to have to make cuts but he was roundly criticized for how his administration handled the issue – first calling a press conference to announce the reductions, then canceling it.

He then changed the percent cut from 5 to 8, then canceled the exemptions he originally granted to K-12 education and public safety so that the cut could be reduced to 4.5 percent across the board.

Housing marking turns downward

The housing market both in Nevada and nationwide continued a downward trend in 2007. The situation was most critical in Southern Nevada where developers and speculators pushed construction of thousands of new homes.

Realtors and speculators helped many into homes far more expensive than they would otherwise qualify for, using adjustable rate mortgages and other non-traditional loan instruments.

When the market flattened in a weakened economy, those adjustable mortgages increased dramatically and many owners started having trouble paying their mortgages. Speculators who bought several houses walked away in many cases and the market stalled.

By year’s end, contractors with unsold houses began to see their loans come due.

Nevada led the nation in foreclosures for most of the year.

Transportation needs, costs increase

It will cost Nevada an estimated $4 billion to meet transportation infrastructure needs between now and 2015, but the plan passed by lawmakers and the governor only generates enough to bond for $2.5 billion.

One sore point with Las Vegas lawmakers is the Interstate 580 project through Pleasant Valley and its now infamous Galena Creek bridge, which they see as unnecessary.

Energy options debated

The fight over how to increase energy production in Nevada continued with utilities pushing for cheap coal-fired plants in Ely and others advocating solar, thermal solar, wind and geothermal renewable resources.

Gov. Gibbons originally said he supported “clean coal technology.”

Meanwhile, a factory to build equipment for solar thermal generating plants is being built in Southern Nevada.

JohnD Winters dies

Fourth-generation Nevadan JohnD Winters died March 30 at the age of 97.

JohnD and his wife, Kay, owned the Santa Maria Ranch and Ophir Mill Ranch in Dayton. While his father and grandfather entered politics, he preferred to not run for office but was actively involved in civic matters and community groups.

His name will forever be preserved in Carson City, in the form of JohnD Winters Centennial Park, which was created partially from what used to be his land.

Many other longtime Nevadans passed away in Carson City and elsewhere in the region.

Les Groth, Carson City’s first paid fire chief, died May 17. He was elected to the position in 1959 after working his way through the ranks as a volunteer. He was 83.

Others lost in 2007 were Mike Donovan, a surveyor from Silver City who surveyed most of the Comstock at one time or another; Gene Minor, a longtime rancher and longtime Dayton resident; Red Watson, a banjo player from Virginia City; and Lyon County Sheriff’s Lt. Jeroen J. Wynands, from Mound House.

Drought continues to plague state

In a move to help ranchers and farmers get low-interest loans and other assistance, Gov. Gibbons has asked for a federal disaster declaration because of drought conditions and a bad fire season in Nevada.

Boyd Spratling, head of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, said the declaration sought for all 17 counties in the state would help ranchers get funds to make up for loss of production and to transport livestock to other areas where there’s more feed.

Wildfires burn nearly 900,000 acres

According to statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center, 777 wildland fires in Nevada this year burned about 895,000 acres.

The acreage doesn’t include the Angora fire that burned 3,100 acres and destroyed 254 homes on the west side of Lake Tahoe in California.

While the fire season has been a bad one, this year’s Nevada total is less than the 1.3 million acres charred last year, and well below the record 1999 fire season when 1.6 million acres burned.

All-digital theater opens at Casino Fandango

Galaxy Theatres opened a $15 million movie theater at Carson City’s Casino Fandango in August.

The all-digital, 10-screen multiplex boasts a steady, sharp and more colorful picture than traditional 35-mm film.

It is the first all-digital theater in the region.

The theater is part of a $50 million expansion by Casino Fandango that will include a new hotel, an Italian restaurant and an expanded gaming area. The entire project is expected to be done in early 2008.

Mayor arrested for drunken driving

Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira was arrested March 5 on suspicion of drunken driving. He pleaded guilty April 13 and was sentenced to 46 hours of community service, a fine of $650 and at least $200 more in related fees.

City manager asked to resign

Mayor Marv Teixeira asked City Manager Linda Ritter to resign in July. Ritter responded by contacting an attorney and writing to Teixeira that his actions had exposed the city to “serious liability.”

She also agreed to resign if the city paid her the full salary on her contract up until its expiration in April 2009, approximately $200,000.

The two had different explanations for their rift. In a letter Ritter wrote to Teixeira on July 10, she states the mayor was angry over her reassignment of his wife, Liz Teixeira, who was the city’s community relations officer. Liz Teixeira later resigned.

Mayor Teixeira denied that was the reason he asked Ritter to resign.

“I felt that she could no longer be effective,” Teixeira said. He said there were “a number of issues” about her performance that bothered him, but he wouldn’t elaborate on them.

Ritter continues to serve as Carson City manager.

Child’s body found in burned-out shed

A distraught family and dozens of tired rescue workers had their worst fears realized in the early morning hours when the body of 9-year-old Patrick Ryea was found Nov. 1 inside the remains of a shed fire.

Patrick had been the subject of an intensive overnight search after his family discovered he was missing shortly before the shed fire was spotted. It’s believed that the boy was playing with fire and got trapped inside his neighbor’s shed.

Meth takes top priority

The methamphetamine crisis came to the fore when Carson City created a task force to find ways of dealing with everything from treatment to law enforcement.

Gov. Gibbons and his wife, Dawn, also made methamphetamine a priority.

He put $17 million in the budget for that effort and formed a state task force to make recommendations.

That group just finished its report to the governor.

Strawberry meth seized in search

A new kind of methamphetamine that allegedly has a strawberry flavor and bright pink coloring was seized Jan. 28, for the first time in Carson City during a search of a Como Street apartment, an official said.

Police never confirmed that the methamphetamine had strawberry flavoring, though it was an unmistakable bright pink color.

Deputy shoots woman

A Carson City woman armed with a laser-sighted handgun was shot and killed by a deputy on Feb. 22 after she allegedly confronted officers who were called to her Marian Drive home on the report of a domestic dispute.

Deputy shot by suspect during service of search warrant

A Carson City Sheriff’s deputy was shot Feb. 1 in the wrist during a drug search at a Fall Street home.

Mark Daniel Fiddler, 50, pleaded guilty to battery with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to three to eight years in prison in July.

Arsonist arrested in window shootings

Convicted serial arsonist David Scott Killen was arrested Feb. 2 in the Gardnerville Ranchos after a rash of shootings in which the windows were shot out of dozens of businesses in Carson City, Stateline and Carson Valley.

Killen pleaded guilty to one gross misdemeanor for property damage. He is also facing mail theft charges in Carson City.

Man sentenced to life in prison for 1982 murder

A Trinidad man was sentenced on Sept. 11 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1982 rape and murder of a Douglas County teen.

David Winfield Mitchell, 63, was a handyman at the Lompa Lane complex where the body of Sheila Jo Harris was found.

Twenty years after the murder, DNA evidence identified Mitchell as the suspect.

Parents charged in infant’s death

Paul and Aurora Anderson, the parents of a Carson City infant who died of a skull fracture in 2006, were arrested Feb. 16 in their son’s death.

Paul Anderson ultimately pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in exchange for charges against Aurora being dismissed. He was sentenced to 12-30 months in prison with credit for time served of 230 days.

Three arrested in assault on officer

A captain with the Nevada Department of Public Safety who was attempting to break up an argument between two men and a woman outside Parole and Probation offices on West Nye Lane was jumped by the group, one of whom then wrestled away his gun Nov. 14.

The three – William Nattrass, 21, Raymond Nattrass, 17, and Vivian Leman, 28 – are awaiting trial on numerous felony charges.

Top Lyon and Storey County Stories for 2007

Lyon County manager firing and hiring

On Feb. 15, Lyon County Manager Donna Kristaponis was fired by the Lyon County Commission after a public hearing. The vote was 3-2.

A contract was entered into with Bob Hadfield to serve as interim county manager until Aug. 15, when Dennis Stark of Charlotte, Mich., was hired to replace Kristaponis.

Lyon County budget shortfall

Lyon County found itself earning far less in Consolidated Taxes than it had budgeted for and spending more on county services than anticipated. The budget was balanced only after department heads voluntarily cut their staff requests dramatically. They also cut back on overtime and supplies.

Lyon County housing slowdown

The nationwide housing slowdown has meant fewer water connection fees, fewer building permits and less money in county coffers. Fernley and Dayton had been booming in terms of growth, but that growth slowed dramatically, negatively impacting government budgets.

Silver Springs GID takeover by Lyon County Commissioners

Lyon County Commissioners in June dissolved the Silver Springs General Improvement District after months of discord following the 2006 election. GID board members accused each other of illegally serving on the board, misappropriating funds, verbal abuse, sexual harassment and many other charges. Lyon County Commissioners became the ex-officio GID board following two public hearings.

Highway 50 Corridor Study complete

An 18-month study of the Highway 50 corridor ended in October with plans to make the state highway from the Carson City Freeway to Leeteville Junction an expressway, with traffic lights and improved intersections, turn lanes and striping.

Cordevista subdivision rejection by Storey County

Reno developer Blake Smith in February said the increased construction and job creation of Storey County’s Tahoe Reno Industrial Center made it imperative that Storey County allow housing on his property – he asked for a master plan amendment and zone change to allow about 15,000 homes on 11,000 acres he would call Cordevista.

County residents, in particular those from the Virginia City Highlands, objected to what they called a “city” in their rural county that would alter their way of life.

The Storey County Planning Commission and Storey County Commissioners listened to the residents and rejected the Cordevista subdivision, after which Smith promptly sued the county.

Dayton bridge considered

The possible location of a new bridge over the Carson River in Dayton brought more than 150 residents out in February to object to the bridge going over Chaves Road and a loop put in to route traffic away from Dayton Valley Road.

In March, the Lyon County Commissioners chose Cardelli Road as the location for a second bridge, when the county could afford one.

Dayton wife killer formally sentenced to life with parole

Christopher Deyerle was sentenced Nov. 5 in Lyon County to two terms of life in prison with parole after 20 years. He shot to death his estranged wife, Heather Deyerle, in her parents’ driveway last year and then led police on a 16-hour manhunt.

School districts see turmoil

Both Lyon and Storey county school districts saw 2007 as a tumultuous year, with Lyon County Superintendent Nat Lommori fighting for his job in April during two hearings by the board on his fitness for duty.

Lommori survived the threat to his job only to announce his retirement in September.

In Storey County, controversial Superintendent Rob Slaby got the support of the board but the anger of residents and parents when he forced out popular Hugh Gallagher Elementary School principal Sue Moulden, then in August fired theater arts teacher William Beeson, who was accused of improperly touching a student.

The board also clashed with residents over open meeting procedures and free water at football games.

Sierra Pacific Power Station rejection and relocation by Storey County

In May, Sierra Pacific Power Company sought to place an “Emma” substation in Mark Twain, along with a 345,000-volt powerline connecting it to the Tracy power plant in the north end of Storey County.

The substation would be on Borda family property obtained through eminent domain. But residents organized to fight the measure on the grounds that it would diminish their property value, ruin their view and risk their health.

The Storey County Planning Commission and County Commissioners heeded the residents’ wishes and rejected the substation, after which Sierra Pacific sued the county.

The suit was dropped when the utility found a more acceptable location for its power station.