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The $10 million question

Dave Frank
Appeal Staff Writer
Amy Lisenbe/Nevada Appeal Gary Luce, senior engineer and geologist at Geocon Consultants, Inc., explains part of the inspection process for the frame work on Tunnel Two of the V&T Railway Monday afternoon.
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The city will likely put Mayor Marv Teixeira’s $10 million advisory question on the November ballot, but some supervisors say he will have to work to convince voters it’s a good idea.

The board will vote Thursday on whether to ask voters if the city should give $10 million to the V&T Railway project through a one-eighth cent sales tax in exchange for 5 percent of the ticket sales.

Carson City has already given $21 million to the $55 million state tourist railroad through room and sales taxes.

Supervisor Pete Livermore said he wants to know more about the mayor’s proposal before he decides if he supports it, but thinks voters should be allowed to tell the city what they think.

Selling the idea to them, however, could be “a rough-go.”

“I don’t know the sentiment of voters,” he said, “but it seems pretty tough out there.”

The slow economy makes this a “very unfortunate time” to ask for the tax increase, said Supervisor Shelly Aldean, though putting the question on the ballot for a non-binding vote doesn’t hurt anything.

But a better question would give voters options on what to use the sales tax for, she said, asking them if the city should use it for a variety of projects including the V&T, economic development and public works. It should also ask if voters don’t want to raise taxes at all.

“I’m a big supporter of the V&T,” she said, “but Carson City has made a substantial investment already.”

The V&T question could also be contingent on other counties on the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway contributing, she said. Three out of the five counties – Lyon, Douglas and Washoe – have given little or nothing to the project.

“They’re driving the train,” she said, “but they’re not fueling the engine.”

The commission unanimously approved the plan this month.

The meeting will be a good place to ask more questions about the V&T project, Supervisor Robin Williamson said, especially because the expected project cost has risen millions over the past few years.

She said she “will keep an open mind,” but believes there are “many more investments that have more economic benefits as well as social benefits.”

City staff had talked about using the tax for street maintenance, though the public works department can operate without the sales tax money, said Ken Arnold, a department manager.

The city will have to increase rates or see the economy get significantly better for the department to be able to do any new projects, such as upgrading the sewer treatment plant, he said.

The V&T is the right place for the sales tax, Teixeira has said, because it will help pay back the money the city’s spent on the train, eventually giving it a steady source of revenue.

It is the right plan, he said Monday, and should not be modified.

Most of the business community supports the plan, said Ronni Hannaman, director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce, because it’s a “win-win situation” that will help the city and benefit business.

Also, most room taxes and 40 percent of sales taxes are paid by visitors, she said, so the money isn’t “coming out of city coffers.”

About a mile and a half of the V&T track from Gold Hill to the Overman Pit has been finished, and workers have started on about 4.5 miles from American Flat in Storey County south to Mound House in Lyon County, which is expected to be done in August.

The 18-mile track running from Virginia City to Carson City is scheduled to be done in 2011.

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

Other agenda items:

• The fire department wants to look at adding a 25-cent surcharge on phone lines to help pay to upgrade emergency phone equipment.

• The parks department wants to fill the open head lifeguard position.

• The fire and sheriff’s departments want to ask voters in the November election to raise property taxes to pay for $8 million in new staff and equipment.

If you go

WHAT: Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting

WHEN: 8:30 a.m. Thursday

WHERE: Sierra Room of the Community Center, 851 E. William St.

On the Net: A copy of the agenda and supporting materials are available at http://www.carson-city.nv.us. Go to the Board of Supervisors link under the City Government tab.