A majority of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners shrugged off the threat of legal action to approve the Buckeye Farms specific plan and using a reimbursement for coronavirus expenditures to fund final design of Muller Lane Parkway.
County Commissioner John Engels kicked off the last meeting of 2020 claiming the reimbursement of $1.1 million the county spent dealing with the coronavirus lockdown before June 30 was a violation of federal law.
Engels read a letter before the meeting that connected approval of the CARES reimbursement to the design of the parkway and approval of the specific plan.
County officials said that the reimbursement is just the first of several that will come before commissioners.
During the meeting, County Manager Patrick Cates reported around $3.5 million the county spent before it received the federal grant to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Chief Financial Officer Terry Willoughby said the expenditures had been discussed at the Nov. 30 meeting between commissioners and the Audit Committee.
After voting to transfer the funds, commissioners then voted 3-2 to spend $1.1 million to complete design work for Muller Lane Parkway.
Cates said the county is obligated to build two lanes of the parkway by 2025 at a cost of $12.4 million.
Engels and Dave Nelson voted against Parkway design work and the specific plan for Buckeye Farms, which is the development proposed for 1,044 acres of receiving area northeast of Minden.
The plan proposes an agrihood with 448 acres proposed to be used for farming, ranching and pasture.
Of the 2,500-unit cap imposed by a development agreement, 2,218 units are proposed for the project. Another 190 units were approved in Ashland Park, which was covered in the agreement but not the specific plan.
Thursday was the last meeting for commissioners Barry Penzel, Larry Walsh and Dave Nelson, along with Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Lewis.
On Jan. 4, 2021, commissioners-elect Danny Tarkanian, Mark Gardner and Walt Nowosad will be sworn in.
The new board will likely alter the balance of power on the commission in Engel’s favor.
Commissioners heard an update on the expenditure of $8.9 million in CARES Act funding approved by Congress.
Any portion of the money not spent or allocated by Dec. 30 will have to be returned. Cates said Thursday he is confident the county will spend the money by the deadline.
He said public safety payroll expenses will provide the county with the opportunity to claim salary costs.
Cates said there’s a possibility Congress will extend the Act.
“But they’re still making sausage,” he said.
He said that 65 Douglas businesses received $507,000 in grants from a program designed to help them survive the lockdown.
The county set aside $1 million for the program.
Minden chiropractor Chris Blaha said that he closed his office while waiting for funds to be available only to be told that because his office was closed he didn’t qualify.
County commissioner Larry Walsh asked if there was something they could do under the Act to help the businesses that closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Cates reported that the county knew of nine businesses that closed as a result of the outbreak.
“That’s not the final count by a longshot,” he said. “There are a lot of conversations about what we could do if the money is extended. We’re waiting to see what happens.”
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