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Organizers Cameron Kasky, left, and Jackie Corin, student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, address fellow students Tuesday before boarding buses in Parkland, Fla., to rally outside the state capitol in Tallahassee.

Policy change could save Nevada prisons millions

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada’s top prison official has changed an old policy that required two officers to accompany prisoners to the doctor.

The new policy requires only one correctional officer per inmate and one officer to provide “relief” as needed — in case an inmate must be moved or taken out of restraints. If there are four inmates at the hospital, for example, five correctional officers would need to be there.

The change is expected to save $3.5 million in six months as overtime costs continue to mount, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

A recent audit revealed overtime costs for the Nevada Department of Corrections officers have skyrocketed 34 percent in the last two years. The state paid $15.5 million in overtime costs in fiscal 2017 and $12.5 million the prior year.

Nevada prison officials blamed the increase on transporting prisoners to doctor appointments and to the hospital. The former policy required two correctional officers to accompany each inmate — and to stay with them the entire time, including overnight hospital stays.

“We’re not budgeted for watching inmates in the hospital,” said James Dzurenda, director of the Nevada Department of Corrections. “So when they stay overnight or get admitted, every single minute is overtime. You have someone who comes in for a DUI case that gets 13 months in prison, and we’re sending him to the hospital because he’s having a problem with his liver. He’s in there for five days. When you multiply that by two officers for each shift, that’s a lot of money.”

Gene Columbus, a retired corrections officer and president of the Nevada Corrections Association, blamed soaring overtime costs on administrators for improperly scheduling officers and mismanaging resources — and, he said, they “should be held accountable.”

The audit also found that the department could cut costs by scheduling overtime based on actual hours worked, encouraging officers to volunteer for overtime and reassessing staffing levels.

John Locher  

This April 2016 photo shows guard towers at High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs.

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State issues tentative certificate for medical marijuana dispensary in Wendover

West Wendover is edging closer to having Elko County’s only medical marijuana dispensary since the state has granted a tentative medical dispensary certificate to Deep Roots Medical LLC.

“Now, we have to finish our process and then go back to the state for a license,” West Wendover City Manager Chris Melville said.

Deep Roots is completing a revised application to present to the West Wendover City Council for approval needed for the Nevada Department of Taxation to issue the medical marijuana dispensary license.

“I should have that within a week, and it could be on a March agenda,” Melville said on Feb. 15. “I think by summertime we will have a clear picture of where Deep Roots is going. It will just be a matter of construction time.”

The company had earlier presented an application to the West Wendover City Council but action was delayed while the state worked out details for license applications.

The state accepts applications once a year.

West Wendover will permit only one medical dispensary.

Once the steps are completed, Deep Roots plans to build a dispensary in West Wendover in the first phase that would also include a warehouse, Melville said. The second phase could be a cultivation and production facility, if the company receives separate state approval.

The state’s recent action was only for opening a medical dispensary, however, and there are at least three applications to the state for a cultivation and production facility license in West Wendover.

Melville said the city expects to hear in April what happens on the cultivation and production applications.

Wells also sent applications to the state for a marijuana cultivation and production facility, and should also hear from the state in April. Wells isn’t looking at a medical dispensary, however, Wells City Manager Jolene Supp said in January.

Deep Roots already has a cannabis cultivation and production facility in Mesquite, so the company could build the medical dispensary and bring product from Mesquite to sell while building the growing facility or if the state grants the certificate to another company.

“Sure, they want to have the other, and I am sure they will be a strong contender,” Melville said.

He predicted that by this time next year the medical dispensary would be operating, and a cultivation and production facility might be under construction.

A medical dispensary in West Wendover could ease concerns among the people in the Elko area who use marijuana for medical reasons and were urging the Elko City Council at its Feb. 13 meeting to allow a medical dispensary so they didn’t have to drive long distances to buy the marijuana.

West Wendover is less than two hours from Elko.

Elko City Council voted 3-2 at the Feb. 13 meeting to prohibit medical and recreational dispensaries inside the city limits, after hearing pleas from roughly a dozen people and reading comments from another dozen mainly urging the council to allow medical dispensaries.

Elko Councilman Reece Keener said at that meeting Elko isn’t “prohibiting anyone from using” marijuana for medical purposes, and they can receive delivery from Reno or grow their own, but that the majority of the council “sees more bad than good” to come from marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Melville said the West Wendover council heard also from a lot of people “between here and Winnemucca” in support of the medical marijuana dispensary.

“I know people in Pilot Valley who drive to Sparks now,” he said.

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Woman accused of hacking player's club credits at Elko casino

ELKO – A former casino promotions employee is accused of using credit from patrons’ player club cards for her own benefit.

Rhonda P. Serrano, 44, of Elko was arrested Feb. 15 at 554 River St. on a warrant charging unlawful felony act regarding computers, theft by conversion, and principal to theft by conversion. The charges stem from an October investigation by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

The investigator concluded “it’s clearly demonstrated that promotions employee Rhonda Serrano repeatedly manipulated the player’s club card system at the Red Lion Hotel and Casino in Elko, to fraudulently collect thousands of dollars in free play, free meals/beverages, free hotel stays, and free fuel for her, her friends, and her family,” according to Elko Justice Court records.

The casino reportedly determined that Serrano manipulated the player’s card database, causing a total loss of about $3,000 between June and September 2017.

The Gaming Control Board report said "It is common practice of the Red Lion Inn and Casino to reimburse patron’s player’s club card accounts when their points have been fraudulently used."

Serrano was booked at Elko County Jail on $30,000 bail.