(Jim Clark) – A couple of weeks ago, I described to readers the Washoe County “Fundamental Services Review.” County commissioners hired outside consultants to look for ways to cut costs and the survey, by Management Partners, Inc., was first released on June 22, without any review or comment by the county commissioners.
The summary is 9 pages long and includes recommendations to close the Incline Justice Court for a supposed saving of $147,901 annually (after an outlay of $2 million to revamp the entire Washoe county court system). Also recommended was the closing of Incline’s county repair facility and “relocation of (the) facility equipment and worker(s).” Swell! That’s where they keep the snow plows and road repairing equipment.
A couple of weeks after the report was released, the Nevada Supreme Court issued its opinion that the Village League to Save Incline Assets won its fight to prove that the county’s assessment method in Incline/Crystal Bay violated the Nevada Constitution. The court affirmed that the county owes every property owner in our community a refund of back taxes plus interest for as long as the nine years it took to get a final resolution of the matter. It was estimated this could exceed $40 million.
Locals reasoned that if the county was desperate to cut costs before the decision that they would chop our court, road maintenance and snow plows, things would really get grim with this latest turn of events.
It wasn’t until August 9 that the Washoe County Commission, for the first time, publicly received the Management Partners report and recommendations. The discussion opened with public comment and, not surprisingly, representatives of county department heads and employees’ unions stood up to plea for their respective empires. Incline was represented by Judge Alan Tiras, Gene Brockman and yours truly.
Commissioners went into executive session over another matter after lunch, which dragged on and on. The public meeting reconvened about mid-afternoon and began with a lengthy presentation by a citizens’ operational efficiency committee to whom a study of the report had been given earlier. This was followed by an equally lengthy presentation by Management Partners saying pretty much what was already in their report. Gene had to leave for another appointment.
When public comment reopened, Judge Tiras used his allotted two minutes to point out the faulty data the consultants had used and presented correct data showing the Incline caseload had in fact increased. When my time came, I sought to convince commissioners that there was no way they could reduce expenses by closing down courts because the case load would remain no how matter inconvenient they made it for litigants and defendants. I also quoted from Management Partners’ detailed summary (101 pages long), following their recommendation to close the county’s Incline maintenance facility. Their report stated: “An alternative approach would be to combine the Incline service and repair facility with another similar operation in the Incline Village area.”
When the commissioners began their comments, it was apparent that both Judge Tiras and I had hit pay dirt. Commissioner Humke remarked that the courts have traditionally been independent and it is not time for the county to be tinkering with them. Commissioner Jung instructed the county manager to look at shared services and facilities for Incline roads and snow plowing, not moving them off the mountain. Following the meeting Assistant County Manager Dave Childs looked me up and said he will be meeting with IVGID General Manager Bill Horn and NDOT later this month to work on a shared services agreement. Of course, the matter may have gone that way whether or not Judge Tiras and I had showed up, but it’s always nice to look elected officials in the eye and speak your piece.
County staff is due to report back in September. Until then, we watch and wait.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates, a vice chair of the Washoe County GOP and a member of the Nevada GOP Central Committee)