ELKO – A crash in the westbound Carlin Tunnel damaged six vehicles and injured two people, including one who was life-flighted to a hospital.
Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Jim Stewart said the collisions at about 11:50 a.m. Thursday forced the closure of the westbound lanes of Interstate 80 for more than three hours. Traffic was diverted along the old highway bypass until the tunnel was reopened around 3 p.m.
Stewart said two SUVs collided in the icy tunnel. A semi tractor-trailer entering behind them slowed down and another truck behind that one swerved in an attempt to avoid a collision. It struck the first truck which then hit one of the SUVs, tossing it onto its top.
Another vehicle plowed into the back of one of the semis.
One of the occupants in the crash was injured with a possible broken leg, Stewart said, and additional occupants had minor injuries.
Traffic was backed up to near the Hunter exit halfway between Elko and Carlin at one point.
The tunnels have flashing lights to warn drivers when icy conditions may be present. Light snowfall coated roads across northeastern Nevada Thursday morning.
“The problem is the tunnel doesn’t get any sun on it and all of the water lays down on that cold, cold pavement, and when the wind goes through it ices up,” Stewart said.
The crashes left debris and spilled oil that had to be cleaned up before the tunnel could reopen.
ELKO — Winbourne Consulting LLC is slated to present a report to the Elko County Enhanced 911 Board on Monday that recommends the county aim for Next Generation 911 rather than take the middle road of Enhanced 911 to provide the best service to residents.
“Many critical components of E911 are no longer offered by 911 service providers, as these components have reached ‘end-of-life’ status,” Winbourne writes in the report to be heard at the 1:30 p.m. meeting Feb. 26 in the Nannini Administration Building.
“In addition, E911 systems are not compatible with emerging technologies (multimedia such as text messages, pictures, audio files and video) as the system was designed for wireline phones,” the report states.
Moving to E911 “makes little sense from an economic point of view. The money spent on implementing E911 would eventually be followed by money spent on moving to NG911,” Winbourne also writes in the executive summary.
Winbourne estimates the standard cost for Next Generation 911 would be $432,000, with annual recurring costs of $151,474. The company will explain cost estimates at the upcoming meeting.
Elko Police Chief Ben Reed, who chairs the Enhanced 911 Board, said this is one of the first times the consultants have recommended to “someone like us so far behind in technology to go straight to NextGen.”
Elko County formed the Enhanced 911 Board to look at options for improving 911 service that currently is geared to landline telephones and provides no accurate location information for wireless callers, even though most calls are from cellphones.
Winbourne writes that the county only has rudimentary “work-around” location information for the cellphones, and Next Generation 911 is rapidly replacing Enhanced 911 around the nation.
Financing for the improvements is coming from donations and a 25-cent surcharge that companies providing landline and cell service in Elko County must charge and pass on to Elko County. Those collections have been slow to reach the county, which raised questions at the Feb. 7 Elko County Commissioners meeting.
“It’s just a time factor, and I don’t think some people are happy with the time factor,” said Cash Minor, the assistant county manager and the one handling the collections.
Minor said earlier this month he has sent letters notifying all cell-service providers, and Winbourne provided additional listings of small phone companies that service the county.
“We’re trying to get the process rolling. Under the statute they actually have almost a year to put stuff together,” he said. “Everyone thinks you can just turn a switch on and the money starts coming in. Part of the problem is with these big corporations, it is tough to find the right person to talk to.”
Reed said the one-year mark kicked off last spring once the county adopted a five-year plan.
Minor provided a spreadsheet on Feb. 20 that shows $6,211 in surcharges has been collected so far, including in fiscal year 2017, but a big check is coming from Verizon.
“We should get a check from Verizon in the next day or two for $32,000,” he said on Feb. 20. “That covers January 2017 to January 2018.”
Frontier started collections in December, and AT&T was supposed to start Jan. 1 “so we should see that check by the end of February,” Minor said.
The figures provided by Minor show that the Enhanced 911 fund had $196,450 in donations in fiscal 2017 and surcharges of $195.75 collected, while expenditures totaled nearly $161 for a total of $196,485. For the current fiscal year that began July 1, new donations totaled $9,783 and expenditures $26,480. Surcharges of $6,015 for this year so far brought the total in the fund to roughly $185,803.
The $26,480 expense in the current fiscal year is “the first invoice from the consultant and was recently paid by Elko County,” Minor said in an email Thursday.
Winbourne’s bid for the 911 project was $161,280, which included planning enhancement of 911 and providing advice on obtaining new equipment and on the installation and setup of an improved 911 system.
The surcharge has been estimated to bring in $170,000 a year.
“Funding will be an issue regardless of whether Elko County decides to implement E911 or NG911. Although local Ordinance 2016-3 calls for collection and remittance of 911 surcharge money for the county, mechanisms have only recently been put in place for the revenues to go to Elko County 911,” Winbourne writes.
The report states there remains uncertainty on the level of compliance with remittances from the carriers in the county that will cause a near-term shortfall of the anticipated revenues, but without the surcharge, the county can’t afford any modernization of 911.
Reed said Elko County is also at a disadvantage because federal grants aren’t available unless the state has a state 911 coordinator, and Nevada is one of two states that doesn’t have a coordinator.
“This hurts us,” he said. “It means it is on the backs of locals. Here we are in 2018, and we still have basic 911.”
ELKO – The report of an anonymous threat that prompted the closure of Elko High School has been determined not to be credible by police.
The threat, reported to officials Tuesday night, compelled the Elko County School District to cancel classes Wednesday and launch an investigation with local law enforcement.
“Police are still interviewing some students and reviewing their cellphones,” said Superintendent Jeff Zander.
Law enforcement determined late Wednesday that the threat was not credible, Zander said, adding that the district is continuing to do its “due diligence” in the matter.
“We’ve increased police presence at all of our schools in the district,” Zander said, “but our very best safety measure is parents, students, neighbors and staff.”
Elko High School reopened Thursday.
Since a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida more than a week ago, killing 17 and wounding about a dozen students and faculty, threats across the country have increased, Zander said.
“I think this is happening nationwide right now,” Zander said. “Other schools have closed and some districts have chosen not to close.”
“We’re exercising good judgment, evaluate any reports we have and react accordingly,” Zander said, explaining that there was not enough time to validate the threat before school opened the next day.
“We purposefully erred on the side of safety to close Elko High School yesterday,” Zander said.
White Pine High School also closed Wednesday after staff learned of “disturbing comments allegedly made by a student,” according to the school’s Facebook page.
The school said they “initiated an investigation and referred the matter to law enforcement.”
“At no time was any student or staff member in danger. At no time was there a weapon on campus,” the school said.
ELKO — Clint Koble spoke to Elko Democrats this week in his bid for U.S. House of Representatives.
On Monday, Koble told the intimate crowd at Duncan Little Creek Gallery about his childhood in a small farming town, and his work as a rural business adviser with the Nevada Small Business Development Center, securing $250 million in low-interest loans for farmers.
In August 2009 President Obama appointed Koble to state executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.
“Rural Nevada is part of my blood,” Koble said. “I’ve worked in rural Nevada 12 years. I connect with rural Nevadans; I am rural Nevada.”
“Rural America is where all our natural resources come from, like fresh water,” Koble said. “It’s hard enough living in rural America without taking away the things that make life easy.”
“We need rural America,” Koble said. “Towns get smaller and smaller, then the hospital closes, then the school, and then the town is dead. Another dagger in the heart of rural America.”
“Farmers can’t just grow food anymore,” Koble said. “They have to market it now, too.”
Koble suggested “Conscious Capitalism” for the 21st century. “Business, labor and the environment can all thrive together, if you’re set on it,” Koble said. “A lot of young people are carrying this message.”
As an example, Koble mentioned Nevada’s famous hunting areas, which attract tourism.
“Republicans are hunters, and Democrats are hunters,” Koble said. “I love target practice, skeet shooting. My nieces and nephews all do it.”
“I believe in the Second Amendment, but also in responsible gun ownership.” Koble said. “I’m anti assault weapons, but I’m also against bazookas, hand grenades and tanks.”
“President Reagan supported an assault rifle ban, saying no man needs a machine gun to defend his home or use it for the sport of hunting,” Koble said, referring to Reagan’s Feb. 6, 1989, speech at the University of Southern California.
“If you want to shoot an assault rifle, rent one down at the shooting range,” Koble said. “Go ahead – shoot it! We believe in the Second Amendment, but we also need to think about public safety.”
Koble noted Nevada’s ongoing loss of teachers, and proposed a tutoring system.
“Get college students tutoring high school kids in math and physics to pay off their student debt,” he said. “Our tribes are crying for tutors.”
Koble spoke against “dark money” in politics. “Like the kids in Florida making a list of people taking money from the NRA, there should be a list of people taking money from pharmaceutical companies.”
“Medication costs are part of the reason people are on food stamps after they retire,” Koble said. “There are people who can’t afford their medicine because they need to eat today. Pharmaceutical prices are always going up. Just to feed the board of directors? And let people die?”
Besides Koble, 2016 candidate Rick Shepherd also intends to run for the Democratic nomination again in District 2.
Koble said incumbent Mark Amodei receives only one percent of his donations from private citizens.
“Where does the rest come from? Dark money, with corporate taint. But how many people are willing to donate? That shows a growing base,” he said.
“I don’t need big money” Koble said, “Just lots of people.”
“We need people in Congress telling the administration, ‘We need to live within our means’,” Koble said. “People talk about ‘tax-and-spend’ liberals, but I say, ‘tax fairly, and spend wisely’.”