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Council approves water main extension in 3-2 vote

ELKO – City Council members accepted a revised cost to develop a water main under Interstate 80 at exit 298 with a 3-2 vote at their Nov. 28 meeting.

The motion faced opposition from Mayor Chris Johnson and Councilman Robert Schmidtlein.

“I’m not at $186,000 on this project,” Johnson said. “I feel that it should be closer to $117,000 for this water system. The project is viable because of the economic development due to the freeway and the traffic on the freeway, but I just do not want to motion on it.”

Council members Reece Keener, John Patrick Rice, and Mandy Simons approved the motion.

This decision was reached after a 45-minute discussion at the Nov. 14 city council meeting and subsequent discussion Nov. 28.

The developer wants to extend the water line from Cattle Drive down the full frontage of the property. It will serve a truck stop planned by Golden Gate Petroleum of Nevada, which is expected to include a gas station, convenience store, fast-food service and small casino.

The council advised the developer’s engineer to go back to the drawing board to decrease the city’s costs on the project at the Nov. 14 meeting, and he returned with revised figures at the Nov. 28 meeting.

The new agreement among the City of Elko, developer and subsequent stakeholders lists the total costs for the city close to $186,588. This breaks down into the $148,520.51 for the I-80 extension, and $38,067 costs for over-sizing the pipe from 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

Other stakeholders in the City of Elko special reimbursement agreement are Barrick Goldstrike Mines Inc., and Bruce and Sidnie Miller. Reimbursable funds from the city will be up to $52.32 per foot.

“What makes these negotiations of this project unique and different is the perpendicular alignment of the pipe to the interstate,” Assistant City Manager Scott Wilkinson said. “Usually these lines are parallel to the interstate, but here there is no true frontage on the property where it is based.”

Tom Ballew from High Desert Engineering requested reimbursement to cover the upgrade from a 10-inch water main to a 12-inch main, as well as an extension connection fee reimbursement at the Nov. 14 meeting, and answered subsequent questions on financing at the Nov. 28 meeting.

Ryan Limberg, city utilities director, presented the three parts of the developer’s proposal to the city council at the Nov. 14 meeting.

“The first part of the proposal is dealing with the oversizing with the 12-inch line where the minimum size needed is a 10-inch line, so the city will pick up the cost difference of $3,800,” Limberg said. “Part two includes an extension fee for the developer to pay to run the pipeline past other parcels and to reimburse those parcels, such as Barrick and Miller parcel, for the frontage development as a 50-50 split. The third part is the cost breakdown of the agreement … breaking down the deal where the city would split one-third of the cost with other parcels.”

Rice commented that he sees the advantages of the development on that portion of Elko but discussed at the Nov. 14 meeting whether certain portions of the project cost would be prorated back to the city.

At the same meeting, Simons also discussed her concerns about opening reimbursement possibilities for developers on future projects. Schmidtlein concurred with Simons, claiming that the city would set a precedent on this project.

Limberg made suggestions to cut several costs, such as engineering costs, administrative fees, and contingency feels.

The city does not often work with developers, making this project a special case that could open up the city to future development projects within the next few months, Limberg said at the Nov. 28 meeting.

The City of Elko initially will collect water extension connections for the project and pay for materials and labor construction for the project water line extension and over-sizing fees, but not for the mobilization, traffic and erosion control, contingencies, costs of design, construction management, or the minimum 10-inch diameter water line.

At the Nov. 28 meeting, Rice continued to comment on the economic development of the project, and Simons still expressed some resistance to using a private developer on this particular project. Limberg responded that it would cost more for the city to do the work than going through a private developer.

Schmidtlein said the City of Elko would receive tax returns and that the city would be reimbursed, but he could not agree to vote in favor of the project at the Nov. 28 meeting.

Rice moved to accept the new agreement for the City of Elko, and the motion was seconded by Keener. It passed with a 3-2 vote.

Work on the project is set to begin in early March, Ballew said.

Elko County fishery drains after dam gate breaks open

ELKO — Willow Creek Reservoir drained completely as of Nov. 21 with a total loss of the reservoir storage and associated warm-water fishery, the Nevada Department of Wildlife reported Wednesday.

Gate actuators and valves on the dam gate broke and stuck open, resulting in rapid reservoir drawdown and no repair options available without complete draining of the reservoir to access broken equipment.

Employees of Barrick Gold Corp., owner of Willow Creek Reservoir and the surrounding land about 75 miles northwest of Elko, contacted NDOW fisheries personnel and informed them of the malfunction and decreasing water levels in mid-November.

“In early November, during routine maintenance on the dam, there was a mechanical malfunction,” wrote Leslie Maple, Barrick communications and corporate affairs manager, in an email. “An actuator and valve on the gate broke causing the gate to be stuck open.”

NDOW fisheries personnel were unable to salvage game fish because of the wet weather this past week and unfavorable shoreline conditions associated with dropping water levels.

“Barrick attempted to fix the broken valve but the equipment could not be accessed for repair without full drainage of the reservoir,” Maple wrote. “Barrick reported the issue to NDOW on November 9, with hopes of being able to salvage the fishery. Wet weather and unfavorable shoreline conditions limited vehicle access to the reservoir and the salvage operation was unsuccessful.”

Willow Creek Reservoir was constructed in 1884, reconstructed in 1921, and restored twice — in 1999 and 2005 — and repaired in 2007, according to NDOW. Maximum total capacity is 640 surface acres at a depth of up to 40 feet.

The last state water resources department inspection of Willow Creek was in 2014, said JoAnn Kittrell, public information manager for the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, when the dam earned a “fair” rating on a scale of “poor,” “fair” and “satisfactory.” Barrick has since performed annual inspections and is up to date on its emergency action plan, Kittrell said.

The reservoir is used as an agricultural irrigation impoundment, primarily for ranch and livestock use, and had become a popular recreation destination for Elko, Humboldt and Lander county residents. Known for good catch rates and quality size white crappie, the fishery was rebounding nicely from the extended drought of 2012-2015, according to NDOW.

Restocking efforts of white crappie, channel catfish and black bass species had occurred, and the popularity of the fishery became prominent in the summer of 2017, with noticeable increases in angling and camping presence throughout the summer and fall.

Beginning in spring 2018, in coordination with Barrick, NDOW will begin the rebuilding and restocking efforts of Willow Creek Reservoir if habitat conditions and equipment infrastructure allow. It is estimated that it will take three to five years under ideal conditions to return warm-water game fish populations to sustainable levels.

“Barrick is eager to see the ranch reservoir restored for community use,” said Nigel Bain, executive director of Barrick U.S.A. “We will continue to coordinate with NDOW to repair the failed valve and restock the fishery as soon as infrastructure and weather conditions permit.”

Former UNR President Joseph Crowley dead at 84

RENO (AP) — The longest-serving president in the history of the University of Nevada, Reno has died.

Joseph Crowley’s daughter, Theresa Crowley, confirmed he died in Reno on Tuesday at the age of 84.

He was hospitalized earlier this month with pneumonia.

Crowley served as president of UNR for 23 years, from 1978 to 2001. He was president of the NCAA from 1993-95.

Crowley also served as interim president at San Jose State University for a year after his formal retirement in January 2003, and later returned to that role at Nevada from December 2005 to June 2006. He first joined Nevada’s political science faculty in 1966.

Most recently, he worked as president of one of northern Nevada’s first medical marijuana dispensaries.

U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said he met Crowley when he was a freshman and Crowley was director of the political science department.

“During his tenure at UNR, Dr. Crowley served as a professor, department chair, and as acting president before eventually becoming president in 1979,” Amodei said. “Without a doubt, Dr. Crowley’s strong leadership and dedication has done great things for UNR and Nevada and he will be greatly missed.”

“Joe’s focused, inspired, and determined leadership has made UNR into the proud institution of higher education it is today, imbuing students with a love for the arts, sciences, and a dedication to active participation in civic life,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev. “His dedication to Reno and Northern Nevada inspired generations of UNR alumni, and every Nevadan touched by his example.”

I was fortunate to consider him a mentor and will always remember his quiet dignity and strength of character,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval. “He presided over the University with poise, class, and integrity and I am proud to have been one of the countless students served by this remarkable man.”

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Spring Creek water customers are still waiting on refund

SPRING CREEK – Great Basin Water Co. is meeting some of the compliances ordered by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, but is considering another appeal of the decision that told them to refund water customers for a meter reading issue last year.

GBWC filed a 137-page compliance report Nov. 15 detailing the company’s plans for improvement in several areas including staffing in Spring Creek, meter reading, training field technicians and installing smart meters. It also included a copy of the company’s field technician training manual for 2017.

The company also was ordered to reprice Spring Creek customers’ water bills between the months of January and October 2016 at the rate of $3.47 per 1,000 gallons by Nov. 21, which was 60 days from the issuance of the order.

“The repricing under the order has been completed and has been submitted to the commission staff,” GBWC said on Nov. 27.

“The company will provide an explanatory letter to customers,” GBWC said.

“A filing has not yet been received by Business Process Services for processing,” said the PUCN in a Nov. 29 email.

Spring Creek resident Greg Brorby, who submitted three letters to the PUCN documenting his issues with the water company, said on Wednesday he had not received any notice from GBWC.

In the compliance report, GBWC explained changes to analyze customer bills by volunteering as a pilot group for “new software that allows for better reporting capabilities.”

The company also outlined eight steps to reach out to Spring Creek customers. Among those tasks, GBWC discussed attending Spring Creek Association board meetings and water committee meetings, participating in community events and hosting an annual GBWC career day at their water/wastewater treatment plant.

The report also described implementing a survey link to evaluate customer satisfaction twice a year for three years starting in 2018, efforts to provide education about water consumption, expand promotion through the media, and schedule meetings once or twice a year in Spring Creek.

The repricing and additional compliances were ordered by the PUCN Sept. 21 when the agency denied GBWC’s petition stating that their resolution of the meter reading issues in Spring Creek was consistent with its tariff.

The order issued by the PUNC came after months of debate between Spring Creek water customers who questioned high water bills and incorrect meter readings at a consumer sessions attended by PUCN and the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in April and September.

In October, the GBWC filed an appeal with the PUCN, asking the agency to rehear and/or reconsider the Sept. 21 order. On Nov. 8, the PUCN denied their request for a rehearing.

However, GBWC “is considering further judicial review,” of the decision, GBWC said.

According to the PUCN’s processes, the company can take that avenue if it chooses and “the party may appeal a denial to the district court.”