Land key to Fernley’s success
September 30, 2004
Located in north Lyon County, Fernley incorporated in 2001. Indian Hills in north Douglas County is considering incorporation and the towns are similar in some ways, different in others.
Fernley had its own public works and parks and recreation department when officials began the process, much like Indian Hills. When it came to incorporation, those facilities provided an advantage, said Gary Bacock, Fernley’s city manager.
“The more public facilities in place, the smoother the transition,” he said.
Located in north Lyon County, Fernley is one of Nevada’s newest and fastest-growing cities. The growth rate is expected to approach 20 percent this year and development revenues have played a major factor in keeping Fernley’s property tax rate one of the lowest in the state, at 15.8 cents per $100 assessed valuation, Bacock said.
Fernley’s population stands at about 13,000 people, scattered across165 square miles.
County Manager Dan Holler said Fernley’s growth has been key to its success, but Indian Hills does not have the land and will not see the same rate of growth. And Fernley’s assessed value, which is directly related to property tax revenues, is $303 million. Indian Hills assessed value is $95 million.
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That’s not to say, funding was not a problem in Fernley, Bacock said.
“Two days before incorporation the clerk-treasurer gave me a check for $360,000, the town’s money for the city,” Bacock said. “On Monday when we opened, at least we had some money in the bank for payroll. We had 14 employees.”
The success or failure of a newly-incorporated city depends in part on the financial choices made. Fernley officials have opted to contract out many services, including police and fire, in lieu of investing in the expensive infrastructure necessary for these services, Bacock said.
“We haven’t established new departments at top rates,” he said. “We haven’t created a lavish city.”
Many obstacles crossed the path of officials before cityhood, including the creation of a community development/building department. An agreement with the county to handle these services could not be reached, so Fernley officials contracted with two private companies.
Bacock credits Pete Wysocki, once a community development director in Douglas County, with the development of this department.
“With his help, we transitioned the private contractors out, then hired the staff,” Bacock said. “This service is critical in Fernley and the department was completely new. Getting things started was a little rough, but we made it. We got lucky.”
Susie Vasquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 782-5121, ext. 213.