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Small plane missing in Ruby Valley area, search resumes today

ELKO – Searchers from the Elko County Sheriff’s Office and the Civil Air Patrol were out for the fourth day Monday attempting to find a small aircraft that went down near the Ruby Mountains.

Undersheriff Ron Supp said the pilot, a 26-year-old from Mississippi, contacted the airport around 8:30 p.m. Thursday and said his plane was icing up.

There were strong wind gusts in the area at the time.

The twin-engine Piper was reportedly transporting aerial photography equipment from California to Salt Lake City. No passengers were in the plane.

The Nevada Department of Emergency Management contacted the sheriff’s office about the plane Thursday night. The incident occurred just before an officer-involved shooting in Spring Creek, in which a man shot and killed his wife and was killed by officers.

A ground search was launched but turned up no sightings.

Searchers scoured the vicinity of the Ruby Marshes and Harrison Pass on Friday and believed they had spotted the plane in the Ruby Marshes but that report turned out to be false.

“Right now we’re speculating that he might be further east,” Supp said Monday morning.

Several parties have been helping with the search, according to Sgt. Nick Czegledi. They include Reach air ambulance, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge and volunteers.

The sheriff’s new drone team also has been involved with the search.

Czegledi said winds on Thursday night were measured at 60 knots, which is roughly 70 miles per hour.

It also may have been snowing at the time, and Czegledi said the pilot may have climbed above 9,000 feet to avoid it.

Looking ahead to the next 50: GBC explores new ideas, programs

ELKO – What does Great Basin College need for the next 50 years?

About 50 members of the community along with GBC staff and faculty met Jan. 11 to form teams that will explore revitalization, athletics, the Latino student population and new programs at the college.

It was also broadcast to GBC centers through interactive video to Battle Mountain, Ely, Pahrump and Winnemucca.

The teams will meet January through March and present their final recommendations to GBC President Joyce Helens.

The goal is to implement those ideas for the fall semester, said Helens.

“It’s a short-term, intensive look where we match it up with the student expectation, and then we try it for the fall.”

Explaining that she was “in a listening mode” last semester after coming on board as president, she received many questions and comments from people about the direction of the college and began to sort through those ideas.

“People love the college and they feel invested in the college,” Helens said at the first meeting of the task force committees on Thursday.

Referring to the college’s 50th anniversary, Helens said she was aware of the history of the institution.

“How do we continue and build upon that legacy so that the college remains strong and still responsive to everyone we serve,” Helens asked.

Helens said she sorted the comments into four areas that seemed to come up repeatedly: revitalization, athletics, Latino student population and new programs.

“What I want are these four areas to be looked at by our community, our college and our students,” Helens said.

Finding out what students at all campuses expect from the college experience is one question to be asked regarding revitalization, Helens said, adding that it led to questions about an athletic program at GBC, yet she said she was told not to get hopes up about developing it because of the expense.

“I’m not going to let the ‘you’ll never’ or ‘it’ll never happen because it never happened before’ get in the way of that. It has to be what makes sense,” Helens said. “Not all athletics are really expensive and there are others in the community, business and industry, who told me that they would be willing to support certain athletics.”

Helens said 25 percent of the student body of GBC is Latino, which led to questions if that population was being served enough.

“Have we been attending to that population,” Helens asked. “Why are people coming here and are we offering things [they need]?”

Finding out what new programs are needed, and which ones may need to be sunset, was the fourth area Helens said she wanted the task team to explore.

“There are things that have a life cycle, and we shouldn’t be afraid of that because there’s always something new that will take place that we really need and that our community needs,” Helens said.

“This is really important work,” Helens said as people were signing up for a team. “We’re talking about the sustainability of the college. That’s definitely what’s at stake.”

Mary Anne Martinez, community health advocate at PACE Coalition, said because of her work with the Latinos in the community through the organization she attended the meeting, and joined the task force that addresses the Latino student population.

Jeanine Bailey, grants director at GBC, joined the task force with Martinez because of the increase of Latinos on campus.

“We need to determine different things to serve this particular population,” Bailey said.

GBC founder Dr. Hugh Collett attended the meeting and joined the new programs task force, explaining that it was important for the college to “continually adapt” to the needs of the students and the workforce.

“We’re adapting to change,” Collett said, using the example of how the college expanded to include online classes. “What makes a vital college is the realization that you have to continually adapt.”

Collett’s daughter, Jenny Oustad, said she also joined the new programs task force, putting forth the idea for adding Biblical studies. She said the initiative at Thursday’s meeting was similar to how the college began.

“Having a task force is taking on that same initial strategy that they used early on by saying ‘what if’ and throwing out big, hairy, audacious goals,” Oustad said. “If you don’t throw it out there, there’s no way you have an opportunity to look at it.”

Rice seeks support for pot moratorium instead of a ban

ELKO – City Councilman John Patrick Rice is seeking the public’s support in preventing a permanent ban on the sale of marijuana within city limits.

Rice was the lone councilman to vote against an ordinance to ban marijuana sales establishments through the city’s zoning law at the Jan. 9 city council meeting and at an October meeting in which the ordinance was sent to the city planning commission for review. Planners rejected the ban in a 4-3 vote, in part because city code already bans the issuance of a business license to a business that violates federal law.

The city has had a moratorium on businesses that sell medical marijuana since 2014, and it is set to expire in March.

Rice said he will propose extending the current moratorium on medical marijuana at the next city council meeting, along with adding recreational marijuana. Both would expire or need to be renewed in 2022.

In a commentary on today’s Opinion page, Rice explains why he believes a moratorium would be better than a ban. He also presents arguments against the reasons cited by fellow council members who voted for a ban.

Marijuana sales dispensaries have been legal in Nevada since July 2017 but possessing or selling the drug remains illegal under federal law.

The council’s next regular meeting is Jan. 23 at Elko City Hall.

The zoning ordinance must be scheduled for two public hearings before it can become law.

Making more, spending less: Audit shows Elko city financially sound

Elko came through the audit of the 2016-2017 fiscal year with more money than earlier budgeted for the year and good marks by the accounting firm that prepared the audit.

“There were no material weaknesses and no deficiencies to report,” said accountant Michael Spilker of Hinton Burdick CPAs & Advisors, who told the Elko City Council not many communities come away with a clean slate.

The general fund ended the fiscal year with a balance of nearly $6.29 million, but $4.5 million of that was committed to future expenses. However, a little more than $1.78 million of the balance was unassigned, and “can be used for anything in future years,” Spilker said at the Jan. 9 council meeting.

The general fund had a net increase in the general fund balance of $232,786 over the prior year while the city had budgeted for a little more than $2 million drop in the balance.

According to Spilker’s presentation, actual resources in the general fund were more than the final budget by a little more than $1 million and actual expenditures were roughly $1.2 million less than the final budget.

The differences were mainly because of higher consolidated tax revenues and lower contingency expenses, according to the audit signed out of the company’s St. George, Utah, office.

City government revenues from all sources totaled $44.3 million, and the cost of all city programs was $39.9 million, said Spilker.

“There has been fairly consistent growth over the last four years,” he said.

His presentation showed government expenditures as follows: general government, $2.26 million, compared with $2.14 million in the 2015-2016 fiscal year; public works, $4.26 million, up from $4.03 million the prior year; public safety, nearly $10.18 million, up from $10.06 million the prior year; judicial, $321,273, down $93 from 2015-2016; and health, $693,333, up $24,875 from the prior year.

The general government expenditures also included: nearly $3.18 million for culture and recreation, down $97,896 from the nearly $3.28 million from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016; $99,362 for community support and development, compared with $98,964 the year before; debt service, nearly $1.69 million, down more than $1 million from $2.75 million the prior year; and capital outlay, $3.72 million, compared with $9.33 million the prior year.

Spilker said overall governmental expenditures were down 19 percent, and debt service was down because the city paid off the 2005 facilities recreation bonds in the 2016 fiscal year. Capital outlay fell by more than $5.6 million because the new police station and other projects were completed in the prior fiscal year.

The council approved the audit.