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Silver Haze BBQ opens on Silver Street

ELKO — Silvery smoke pours out of an old-school smoker behind Silver Haze BBQ on Silver Street. In preparation for lunch and dinner service in mid-December, owner Kevin Babcock stokes the fire with applewood and checks tri-tip and ribs on the blackened belly of the metal cooker.

Carin residents Kevin and wife Italia opened the restaurant in October after a more-than yearlong stint catering and serving barbecue at events out of a food truck this summer. But Kevin’s affinity for delicious dishes goes even further back, having sprung from a love of food preparation as a child.

“I was always cooking, even when I was little,” Kevin says. “I finally got enough nerve to open a restaurant.”

Kevin credits his mother for showing him around a kitchen but says Italia encouraged him to pursue his dream.

“He just says that so I still come here on my days off,” Italia says, laughing as she rests on a barstool.

Italia is employed in the mining industry as a haul truck driver. When not working in the mines, Italia works in the restaurant helping manage their 10 employees, hostessing, waiting on tables and assisting in the kitchen.

“She’s always pushing me through it when I want to give up,” Kevin responds.

Italia adds: “I’m an optimist. I know he’s talented enough to pull it off.”

Not-so-subtle hints from their friends also put the fire under Kevin to become his own boss.

“Anytime I got invited to someone else’s barbecue, I would get handed a spatula,” Kevin says.

Now he wields his own spatulas in a commercial kitchen, serving up recipes of his creation including barbecue sauces and marinades, pork chili made daily, sandwiches, burgers and barbecue plates.

“I didn’t open a restaurant to serve frozen potatoes and [frozen] burgers,” Kevin says. “We wanted to bring fresh food” to Elko.

The fare features marinated and slow-smoked tri-tip, ribs seasoned with dry rub, Carolina-style pulled pork, sausages, 7-ounce burgers and more.

Complementing the entrees are sides such as a mountain of fries, coleslaw or cottage cheese, or classic go-to’s like macaroni and cheese, and salads, along with beverages from a full bar including 805 beer on tap. The couple still provides catering, and future offering will include brisket, smoked slowly under the silvery haze.

“We’ll always have love and care in our food,” Italia says. “If you put love into your food, it’s gotta be good.”

Newmont donates $100,000 to sports complex

ELKO — Newmont Mining Corp. established itself as a player in support of the Elko Sports Complex by delivering a donation of $100,000 this week.

“We were pleased to support the community with this sports complex,” said Jaymie Donovan, Newmont external relations representative. “It aligns well with our value of sustainability, and we’re excited to see that there is going to be a venue in Elko that supports recreation and wellness for our youth and their families.”

Plans for the $8.9 million Elko Sports Complex project feature three baseball/softball fields that can accommodate soccer and football to be constructed in Phase I.

“We really want to focus on Elko as a sports destination,” said James Wiley, Parks and Recreation director.

The complex will be built on part of an 80-acre city-owned property lined by Bullion Road on the south side of the Humboldt River west of Errecart Boulevard. The project includes wetland mitigation, and a future phase could incorporate the nearby geothermal activity at Hot Hole as a history tourism attraction.

“It brings a lot of different aspects to the city,” said Elko Mayor Chris Johnson, describing how the complex will fill a need for sports fields and is expected to attract regional players. “It goes along the same strategy of getting people to Elko, increasing the room tax and stimulating the local economy.”

The city put the project out for bid Dec. 15, will open bids Jan. 29 and could declare the award in mid-February. On that schedule, construction would start in spring 2018, and the first athletes might play on the fields in 2020.

“I think the community has been behind this project for decades, and it’s nice to see its realization now,” Wiley said. “Certainly without private donations like Newmont’s that we got today, the project wouldn’t be feasible.”

Barrick Gold Corp. also made a donation to the city toward the complex, and companies or individuals can contribute through the Elko Parks Foundation.

During the check presentation at Elko City Hall, City Councilman Reece Keener thanked the mining company for its support.

“It’s really terrific to get this community support from Newmont,” he said. “The important thing about getting private donations like this is that it really enables the grant funding to be leveraged.”

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Governor candidate decries state spending

ELKO — After the Legislature passed a bill in 2016 to allow a $2 million National Football League Stadium to be built in Las Vegas, Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz said he had to push through a crowd of lobbyists to leave the Capitol.

The experience led to what he called an “epiphany” that the state needed new leadership to better manage the state’s money and economy.

“I said enough is enough,” he said. “This is not the way this government should run.”

Schwartz is now running for governor in the Republican primary against Attorney General Adam Laxalt. After observing government operations as treasurer since 2015, his platform is that Nevada “is run by the lobbyists and political insiders with the fattest wallets and best connections,” according to his campaign website.

The candidate visited the Elko Daily Free Press office Dec. 14 before speaking at a private event for the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. During the interview, the treasurer criticized elected officials and appointees for mismanaging the state financially and politically.

“I’m going to put an end to the tax breaks and abatements and financings that the governor and particularly [former Governor’s Office of Economic Development Executive Director] Steve Hill have been handing out,” Schwartz said. “I think a stadium — a $2 billion stadium — makes no sense.”

Stadium supporters say that the tourists will ultimately pay for the stadium and stimulate the economy, but Schwartz argues that millions of state dollars instead could be used for purposes such as education.

He has been a proponent of parent choice of schools, including using funds in government-approved savings accounts, called Education Savings Accounts, to pay for alternatives. His other priority issues include creating jobs, controlling healthcare costs, prohibiting personal or corporate income taxes, and not spending tax money to finance projects such as the stadium, according to his website.

Instead of diversifying the economy by granting tax abatements “like they are going out of style,” Schwartz said, the market could be allowed to grow by promoting Nevada’s lack of income and corporate taxes, and low cost of living.

“Let’s market that,” he said. “Let’s build infrastructure. We don’t have to give away our tax base.”

With a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University and 35 years of financial experience, Schwartz said he would use “financial sense” to run the state differently. The Chicago-born businessman and lawyer pledged not to take money from lobbyists or political insiders, putting an end to what he dubbed “pay to play” operations of the government and his opponent.

The gubernatorial hopeful also said he’ll seek to unite the state’s divided conservatives by upholding core principles, then setting and adhering to an agenda for the Legislature. If it doesn’t follow the plan, Schwartz said he’ll rely on the governor’s right to veto.

“Dan Schwartz is small potatoes, but he has a very powerful Italian friend called ‘Veto,’ and ‘Veto’ is going to be a very close ally, and I’m not afraid to use it,” he said. “So we are either going to get something done for this state, or I am going to issue a very embarrassing apology to the voters of this state that, ‘We had an agenda, this Legislature decided they knew better, and they’re all going home without having done anything,’ and I am prepared to do that.”

Schwartz said his tactics consider the long-term well-being of the state that might even have an effect on the party.

“I’m hoping that a more rational, sensible element in the Republican Party, and one that stays true to its credos, will emerge,” he said. “I’d like to think we are in that process right now. Obviously, it’s not over.”