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Commission candidates compare platforms

Fielding questions about consolidation, consultants, gaming and taxes, the four candidates for Douglas County commission spoke at the Sierra Nevada Republican Women’s monthly luncheon on Wednesday.

County commissioners David Brady and Nancy McDermid face challengers Lee Bonner and Lawrence Howell in the Nov. 2 election. All four are Republicans.

The recent issue over water consolidation prompted the first question asking what value taxpayers received from a $144,000 rate study for consolidation of the county’s water systems.

Bonner said he would have liked to see more options from the consultants and more consideration before consultants are hired.

Howell said the county won’t know what the value of the study will be until after the county has dealt with the water issues.

“This is a primary issue in the county and will have an effect on the county for years to come,” Howell said.

Brady said the consultant provided good information for ensuring the fees for the water companies were adequate to support them.

“What I think we lost sight of in retrospect was that we need to consolidate the Lake separately from the Valley systems.”

McDermid said no study had been done on the water companies.

“We tried to find a local company, but there wasn’t one,” she said. “It showed us the pros and cons of consolidation, not just for water, but for other things as well.”

Expansion of gaming and support of business prompted a second question that specifically mentioned the debate over Hamdog’s request for a gaming overlay.

Howell, who’s chairman of the planning commission, said he voted for Hamdog’s gaming expansion and against an ordinance that would require casinos with nonrestricted licenses build 100 rooms.

“We only have 41 percent occupancy, we don’t need them to build 100 rooms,” he said.

Howell was the only vote against the ordinance by the planning commission or the county commission.

Brady said he supported the ordinance, saying it was about supporting gaming that was already here.

“Gaming is a dying industry,” he said. “Having a bunch of mom and pop casinos creates a dilution of the market.”

He pointed out that giving Hamdog’s its gaming overlay would have been spot zoning, which both he and McDermid agreed was not in the county’s interests.

“Requiring the rooms creates a draw and levels the playing field,” he said.

McDermid said requiring rooms is compliant with Nevada law, which permits Washoe and Clark counties to limit gaming to properties bringing 200 rooms or more.

She said one of the problems with requiring something else of applicants is that it’s subjective rather than objective.

Bonner said the problem in the Hamdog’s case was that the owner wanted to expand into the movie theater next door to set up 15 slot machines and allow smokers to get their food in the restaurant.

“It’s hard for me to agree with making a rule requiring 100 rooms,” he said. “Adding 100 rooms is not the reason for the rule.”

He said the county shouldn’t discourage businesses from coming here.

All four candidates agreed the county should continue to fight the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new flood maps.

“We are pursuing every avenue to make them change the maps,” McDermid said.

On the issue of the nickel gas tax rejected by voters, Brady said the county had a credibility issue.

“We did have a road fund that was swept into the general fund,” he said. “We need to identify funding for roads and have it stay. If there is a tax there had better be a benefit received by the taxpayers.”

It was pointed out that after Carson City implemented its gas tax, Douglas stations raised their prices to the same level.

Bonner said because gas tax is a static number, as the price increases, people purchase less gas, or buy more fuel-efficient cars.