County Manager Q&A: Feb. 13
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 March 13 at 10:30 a.m. For a full transcript of the last forum, go online at recordcourier.com and search “County Manager Q&A: Feb. 13” Here are excerpts of the last forum: Q: What is all the underground work along Buckeye, Toler, portions of East Valley all about?A: The underground work is part of a major high speed broadband connectivity project, also known as Digital 395. The project is being paid for with federal funds and includes underground fiber along the Highway 395 corridor from Barstow, Calif., through Bishop and Douglas County, and ending in Reno. The purpose of the project is to provide access to high speed, low cost broadband connectivity for rural communities. This project has been a high priority for the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce for a number of years and will allow for greater connectivity for residents and businesses.Q: Is there a set timeline for NDOT and the County to study the Airport Road/395 intersection and will it come back to the Board of Commissioners for further discussion before a recommendation is made?A: NDOT has completed traffic counts at the Highway 395 and Airport Road intersection, which is the first step in collecting the data needed to determine the best solution to traffic safety issues. NDOT has stated that it has not made a final determination on the type of improvement that should be made at that intersection, but they are looking at two options: 1) create more seperation between the north bound travel lane and the right turn deceleration lane on Highway 395, or 2) install some level of traffic signal lights at the intersection. Both options need to be studied by NDOT’s traffic engineers. The additional studies will likely take several months. We anticipate NDOT will work with the County to host a workshop on recommended solutions and that the issue will come before the Board of Commissioners before a final design.Q: There was a statement made at last week’s commission meeting about the long-range planning not being a virtue of government and a question raised about the County’s ability to repay the debt that has been issued for the construction costs of the Community Center. Can you comment on this?A: That comment, as it relates to Douglas County, is not supported with facts. Douglas County is responsibly planning for its future. Here are the facts on our long range planning efforts: We have a 20-year Master Plan, a 5-year strategic plan, a 5-year Capital Improvement Plan, a 5-year Transportation Plan and 5-year financial forecasts. All of our planning efforts are updated regularly and conducted in open public meetings with extensive public input. Here are the facts on the County’s ability to repay the Community and Senior Center debt: There have been approximately 22 public meetings on the Community Center project over the past two years. A detailed financing plan, including a responsible debt repayment schedule, was presented and approved by the Board in several public meetings. The funding for the project is from a combination of bonds, medical indigent reserves and room tax reserves. The medical indigent and room tax reserves will fund approximately 25 percent of the project and are County funds that are currently available for use on this project, and approved by the Board in previous public meetings. The bonds that were approved by the Board to fund approximately 75 percent of the project will be paid back with dedicated and stable revenues sources. The financing plan and debt repayment schedule was presented to Standard and Poor’s as part of the required bond rating process. Standard and Poor’s rated Douglas County with an A+ bond rating, specifically referencing the County’s strong and imbedded financial management practices, strong reserves and ability to repay debt. The bonds have been issued on the public market and through a bank placement. These actions occurred because the County demonstrated a responsible plan to repay the debt with stable revenue sources.Q: What will be done with the old senior center? Any talk of it being used as a veteran’s hall?A: The future use of the old senior center will be determined through a public process. The public process will utilize the Senior Services Advisory Council and the Young At Heart senior citizens club, with a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners on the highest and best use. The recommendation to the Board will likely occur prior to the old Senior Center being vacated. The county has received interest in using the facility from several community groups. Use of the facility as a veterans center would be an appropriate use and will be evaluated along with other requests.Q: Does the County support the Town of Gardnerville’s intent to acquire the Eagle Gas parcel, particularly with the transition of tax-generating commercial property with highway frontage even though it’s currently an eyesore?A: The Town of Gardnerville has requested and the Board of Commissioners will discuss the possible acquisition of the property by the Town at the Board’s meeting on Feb. 21. We understand the town is seeking to acquire the property to create a gateway entrance into the historic portion of the Town. It appears that commercial development at that parcel is limited by site constraints, such as Highway 395 access, as well as parcel size and configuration. Historic gateway entrance features are consistent with Main Street Gardnerville goals and could spur additional commercial development in other areas of the historic downtown.Q: With the Walmart center now open, have you received any further developments in terms of other businesses locating/building there?A: The County recently approved a design review application by Golden Gate Petroleum for development of a gas station and an attached sandwich shop at the southeast corner of Grant and hwy 395. We have not received any other applications to date.Q: Also, about the Walmart, we’ve had several inquiries into how/when that property initially got its commercial zoning. Was that something that preceeded Walmart coming into the picture? If so, when did that happen? Or was it re-zoned specifically for Walmart?A: I hope you’ve had your coffee. Here goes: The Walmart site and surrounding commercial area, which are part of the Virginia Ranch Specific Plan, have been identified as a receiving area in the Master Plan since 1996. A receiving area allows for a variety of zoning districts if zoning rights are transfered from another area. As a result, in early 2009, the property owner (Sierra Nevada SW) requested a commercial planned development overlay for approximately 24 acres, which established the commercial zoning. In September 2009, a design review application was approved by the County and Town of Gardnerville for the development of the site where Walmart is located. In summary, the property owner had the right to request commercial zoning in the area under a conceptual plan, without a specific business or retail user being identified.Any public officials interested in participating in a similar online forum can contact The Record-Courier at email@example.com or 782-5121, ext. 212.