Douglas County Manager Steve Mokrohisky participates in a monthly question and answer forum online on The Record-Courier’s daily Running Commentary. Anyone with questions is welcome to participate in the next scheduled forum on Oct. 9 at 10:30 a.m. For a full transcript of the last forum, go online at recordcourier.com. Here are excerpts of the last forum:
Q: How did Monday’s emergency preparedness exercise go?
A: We had a very productive three hours of training. Approximately 100 directors, elected officials, public safety personnel and other staff attended the emergency training. We discussed roles and responsibilities of key officials, we played out certain scenarios and updated the actual emergency operations plan. It is very important for our officials to regularly engage in training efforts to ensure that we are prepared for emergency situations. The Bison Fire, Rim Fire, flooding in Colorado, Naval Yard shooting and other events drive home our need to be prepared.
Q: The county voted to take over Sierra Country Estates on Sept. 4 and the bills appear to be coming due, with $100,000 in legal and engineering fees before commissioners on Thursday. Is there an estimate on what more the county will have to spend before work begins to upgrade it?
A: There is work that needs to be done to bring the Sierra Country Estates water system to an acceptable standard, reconcile outstanding costs such as legal and engineering, and establish appropriate water rates. The Board of Commissioners is committed to ensuring that these costs are funded by the SCE customers, as well as possible grants. We are still working to analyze and calculate the costs associated with taking over this system. It is important to understand that the county was required to accept this water system as part of a legal dispute between the developer and the residents.
Q: It sounds like the county has completed some of the roadwork it had planned for the year. Are we just about done for the season, and is there work on major roads on the drawing board for next season yet?
A: The 2013 road seal and overlay program is substantially complete. County roads that were chip sealed or overlayed included Drayton Boulevard, East Valley Road, Fish Springs Road and Kimmerling. The Lake Parkway sidewalk project has been completed, including new sidewalks from US 50 to the rear entrance of Harrah’s Casino, which was funded 95 percent by NDOT. For 2014, the board tripled funding for preventative road maintenance to $1.3 million by shifting existing property tax revenue. We are planning to recycle and repave Buckeye Road from Heyborne to Orchard, which is approximately $1.2 million. The cost of this project compared to our annual funding reinforces our need to identify additional funds for road maintenance.
Q: Last week saw the joint NACO and League of Cities meeting at Lake Tahoe. We heard you were a speaker. What did you talk about?
A: I spoke on a panel with the Las Vegas City Manager about budget innovations in local government. Douglas County is the first county in the nation to implement Priority Based Budgeting and has had some early success in stabilizing our revenues and expenses through five year financial forecasting, engaging taxpayers in how limited resources should be spent, and shifting our budget process to focus on investing in the areas of highest priority to the community. The board’s action this year to shift over $1 million in property tax funds to road maintenance, as well as ending some lower priority programs, are good examples of how we can and should be spending tax dollars in a responsible and accountable fashion. We are now seeing other cities and counties around the country follow our lead. Placer County, Calif., and others have asked us to present our story to their leadership teams.
Q: We heard a thunderstorm sent mud and ash down Buckeye Creek over the weekend?
A: It is my understanding that small flash flooding in Buckeye Creek, east of Orbit, took place on Saturday night. Thankfully, the agriculture community, particularly Bently Ranch, worked aggressively to release the water flow into irrigation ditches prior to any significant property damage. There was some debris near Orbit, but that has mostly been cleaned up. This is a reminder of the significant positive impact our agriculture community has on diverting flood waters and mitigating the impacts of flooding events.
Q: You mentioned Buckeye Road in response to the question about road improvements for next year. It reminded me that, a few years ago, the county had wanted to purchase some land along 6th Street/Buckeye between 395 and Heybourne. Was that plan held up due to lack of funding or a change in direction?
A: It sounds as though you are refering to the Seeman Ranch private property that the county and the Town of Minden worked to acquire for flood mitigation, wetlands preservation and trail connectivity along the Martin Slough. The county did acquire a portion of the Seeman Ranch property within the last couple of years and is now working with the Town of Minden to plan for the trail.
Any public officials interested in participating in a similar online forum can contact The Record-Courier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 782-5121, ext. 215.
Q: They’re moving a lot of dirt for the Senior Center. What’s the progress on that project?
A: Construction of the new Community and Senior Center at Herbig Park is approximately 10 percent complete. The slab pours will be completed this week. The construction of the brick walls will continue for the next two months. The large steel columns will begin to be erected this week. Residents will see substantial progress being made on the building over the next two months, as the exterior of the building takes shape. The dirt piles on site are surplus materials from the footings and foundation, and will be spread on site as the project evolves. The project is on schedule and on budget.
Q: You’re delivering the fall state of the county address at the Critical Issues Conference next week. Any highlights you’d like to preview with us?
A: We can do it.
The focus of the State of the County will be our efforts to create financial stability for the County, understanding that we first have to get our house in order before we can do anything else. We will also discuss partnerships, local economic progress and challenges, infrastructure needs, conservation efforts, and revitalization of our main street environments.