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Next Gen 911 funding just 'trickling in'

ELKO — The county is now up to speed about what needs to be done to modernize 911 service. Paying for it is the next hurdle, and collecting money is not going as well as planned.

The need for solid resources to bring installation to fruition prompted the Elko County Board of Commissioners to require monthly updates from staff regarding the collection of a telecommunications surcharge that seems to be lacking.

“The Achilles heel of this whole program is that money trickling in,” said Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi. “It needs to be coming in steadily so we can project.”

The 911 service in Elko County is three generations old. The area is one of about 12 entities in the U.S. that has basic 911 out of approximately 6,600 locations. Basic 911 does not provide a way to verify where an emergency call originates.

“We are just so far behind in the 911 game,” said Ben Reed, chair of the Elko County Enhanced 911 Board and Elko’s police chief.

At the March 7 county commissioner’s meeting, he reviewed a presentation given by Winbourne Consulting LLC. The group recently recommended that the county jump to Next Generation 911 rather than take the middle step of Enhanced 911.

Moving to Next Gen 911 is less expensive than opting for E-911, which is becoming obsolete. The initial cost for E-911 is estimated at more than $400,000 a year with annual fees of about $200,000. In comparison, Next Gen 911 is estimated at $200,000 at first with a $200,000 annual recurring fee, according to the consultant’s report.

“It’s not as expensive as some of the other ways to do it,” Reed said. “It is still what I would call expensive. But remember, you have the funding source. We have the funding source, which is the surcharge.”

Reed referred to a 25-cent monthly fee per phone line that telecommunications companies serving Elko County are supposed to be collecting and remitting. The county approved the surcharge sometime in summer 2016 and began sending notices in fall of that year.

The funding mechanism is in place, but the amount that will be available to implement the new system is unclear. Telecom companies’ payments to the county have come in sporadically, with start dates that possibly vary.

Total surcharge collections so far total about $46,000, Reed said, although the predicted amount for this stage was more like $150,000.

“I’m disappointed,” Reed said. “I wish it would have come faster and bigger and more. We have a lot in front of us, and the funding is just not there yet.”

Kristin McQueary, chief civil deputy district attorney, said the county needs to show they have notified the companies, which proved to be a challenge for county staff. The challenge was identifying all the small and large providers and finding the right person within the companies to contact, McQueary said, adding that it is not yet clear whether all the companies serving Elko County have been notified.

“So it’s possible that it slipped through the cracks, and they weren’t notified,” Commissioner Rex Steninger said.

In mid-February, assistant county manager and chief financial officer Cash A. Minor, who was not at the March 7 meeting, told an Elko Daily Free Press correspondent that he had not forgotten to send anything but didn’t have all the smaller companies’ names until recently.

Andreozzi said it is time for the commissioners to “turn up the heat.” He asked that county staff provide a spreadsheet to the board each month outlining which companies have been notified when, how many lines they have, and when they remitted payments.

“I would love to see that same invoicing,” Reed said. “Our feeling among us [on the 911 board] is, ‘Yes please do that.’ … I’ve asked Cash one-on-one to please make that a priority because it’s on county staff to have that interaction.”

Minor is expected to have the report ready for the next county commissioners’ meeting March 21.

“I just get this funny feeling that we have made a mistake here, and all we can do is fix it,” Steninger said.

Reed reminded the commissioners that overall, the consulting firm’s recommendation to skip the expensive intermediary level E-911 is good news. He also pointed out that the approximately $46,000 collected from surcharge, combined with remaining community donations, is sufficient to take the next step.

That next step is to develop a geographic information system that Elko County dispatchers can use to cross reference 911 callers’ information with public records, such as from each city’s building and planning departments.

Winbourne Consulting’s report recommended the county start that process with a contractor for an estimated cost of $80,000 and fund maintenance through ongoing surcharge collections — once the system is working as planned.

“We have to go slow and steady here at first to make sure we don’t get the cart before the horse,” Reed said.

Pending solid financing, the idea is to have Next Gen 911 live by 2019, according to Winbourne Consulting’s timeline.

Native foods for health, healing

ELKO — The smell of parched corn filled a classroom at Great Basin College as Native American chef Nephi Craig toasted kernels in a pan. He provided a lesson about indigenous foods during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering last month that continues to be relevant to Elko audiences.

“His presentation was very inspiring, and I think it speaks to any native person who wants to develop any kind of profession,” said Samuel Broncho, a Western Shoshone language instructor who grew up in Elko. “No matter where he went or what he was doing … he always kept in mind the teaching of his people.”

Broncho attended Craig’s discussion, which blended history and the culinary arts with a message about healing. He said the way the visitor of Apache and Navajo heritage spoke was reminiscent of how the Shoshone elders speak about sagebrush and pine nuts.

Craig held up a yellow kernel and described how Native Americans have had a millennial relationship with corn. He called the seed an “indigenous microchip” and said “the indigenous people are the ones who can benefit the most from inserting that chip.”

For those willing to perceive it, Craig said, that seed also tells a story. “I am able to hear these little messages,” he said, as if the corn were saying, “‘Pssst, Nephi.’”

He described how when the seed is planted, it grows and lives, gives life, then dies. “I basically recounted the creation story through corn,” Craig said. “When you don’t have that, it hurts.”

Indigenous people’s culture was interrupted through colonization, Craig said. The interruption separated them from their historical foods, resulting in loss of tradition and nutrition. He said colonization led to historical trauma from which subsequent generations are still recovering.

Broncho said he appreciated that Craig conveyed history in a way that was not preachy or mystical but inclusive. “It’s really romanticized, and the way he presented it is very true,” Broncho said.

To “make us remember the ingredients of our lives,” Craig started Café Gozhóó, a Western Apache café and learning center in Whiteriver, Arizona. Through the center, Craig offers not just chef training but emotional and spiritual support. He said the inner transformation must happen before embodying a physical change. He also offers substance abuse recovery, saying that addiction, violence and poverty are the physical manifestations of historical trauma.

“If colonization is a disease, how can I recover from it?” he asked. “On the larger scale, we are all recovering from something.”

His message suggested that returning to native foods provides healthy options and a chance to reconnect with the messages within.

To conclude his presentation, Craig handed out samples of a mixture containing corn kernels, sunflower seeds, squash seeds and pine nuts — indigenous foods — that he said represent ancestral knowledge and intelligence.

“All along they’ve had messages,” Craig said. “It’s always been there.

Q&A with Sam Mori

ELKO — Third-generation Nevada rancher Sam Mori is the 38th president of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, an 83-year-old organization created to protect the interests of the state’s cattle producers.

The Mori Ranch, operating in Tuscarora and Lovelock, has been an association member since the 1950s. Mori grew up on the family ranch then went to the University of Nevada, Reno, to earn a degree in farm and ranch management with a minor in accounting. After college he returned to the ranch, where five generations of the Mori family now help with the cattle and feedlot business.

In Mori’s two-year term as association president that began in December, he consults with a team of officers and a board of directors that work together to protect the ranch and agricultural industry across the state.

The association has about 400 members who are mostly ranchers and farmers, along with some related businesses and supporters.

How is the association useful to you and other ranchers?

I feel the biggest advantage to members of the association is the association is a voice for the cattle business and agriculture in general, both home and nationwide. Not everybody’s got time to attend a lot of meetings or communicate with our congressional delegation, or help set policy, regulation or laws. Therefore, the association is your voice to the things that you need to have addressed. You can’t be there but the association is there representing you.

What are the major issues affecting the association members this year?

The No. 1 challenge for everyone that’s a member of our association is government regulation. We are working with the new administration in a direction that has some positive signs and hopefully we’re going to either reduce regulation or make existing regulation livable and something that you can continue to stay in business with.

What is a specific example of a regulation you’re working to change?

One that probably is going to affect a lot of the members and ranchers in the Great Basin in the state of Nevada is the sage-grouse issue. What we’re working on in reference to that is to try to make the regulations and the policies less restrictive and actually better for the bird and better for the cattle. We are trying to get the point through that science has proven that they can coexist and complement each other. It’s a challenge.

What do you hope to accomplish as president of the association?

The most important thing to me is the ranchers that are at home and putting their trust in our officer team and leadership team can be satisfied with the job that we’ve done at the end of my term.

Who was most influential in shaping your life as a rancher and why?

It was definitely my father because he instilled in us that no matter how big the challenge you get just a little bit tougher. He was always fairly level-headed and an in-depth thinker, where he didn’t overreact to adversity. Through hard times, if you use that theory, it seems to be you come out pretty good in the long run.

As an association member and then getting into association leadership, Dr. Boyd Spratling has been my biggest influence there. He’s a lifelong family friend of ours and past president of the association — very well-respected in agricultural circles. My dad and Dr. Spratling are the two guys that have helped me and instilled in me the direction that I think we should be going as an industry.

Is there anything about the association that you would like to add?

There is one thing that is very important. That is that if you’re a member, we appreciate your membership. We’re working hard to represent you in a way that best helps our industry. If you’re not a member, we’d welcome you to join us because we need you in these challenges.

No verdict for Elko County attorney association

ELKO — Three attorneys made a case to have the Elko County Commissioners forgive their association’s late letter requesting to engage in collective bargaining for the next fiscal year. Their March 7 testimonies, sounding like the opening arguments of a trial, did not garner a verdict.

Benjamin Gaumond, president of the 12-member Elko County Public Attorneys Association, was joined by fellow lawyers Mark Miller and Jeff Slade at the meeting. Curtis Moore, another deputy district attorney, sent a letter of support for waiving the deadline requirement.

“I accept responsibility,” Gaumond said. “I’m not going to share it with anyone else. It’s on me to give that notice.”

The deputy district attorneys asked the board to consider timely their Feb. 8 notice to the county requesting the ability to negotiate financial matters, such as salaries and vacation time. The county’s legal labor counsel responded in a Feb. 14 letter that the request was due Feb. 1, according to the Nevada Revised Statutes, and that negotiations could not proceed.

“We don’t think over a seven-day delay that this should not be enacted and that basically we have to take a pay freeze,” Gaumond said.

After Slade appeared before the commissioners two weeks ago, the county’s labor lawyer from Carson-City-based Allison MacKenzie wrote to the association again saying that the deadline is a “bargained for issue” and the county would not be able to discuss the agenda item. The firm also stated that an attempt to negotiate with the elected officials outside of labor negotiations is “an unfair labor practice.”

The association did not rescind the agenda item as requested. Instead, the trio addressed the commissioners during the public meeting with rhetoric of possible consequences, a past case, perceived ethics and legal definitions.

“What’s going on here, the only thing that’s going on here, is they’re exploiting a missed deadline by seven days in order to say, ‘Oops, you missed a deadline. We’re not even going to negotiate with you. You’re out of luck because you missed a deadline,’” Mills said, adding that the county had not clearly explained how missing the deadline caused harm.

Gaumond told the board to consider the consequences of not attempting to retain experienced public attorneys: They could move elsewhere, leaving less experienced professionals to the task, he said, and that could lead to mistrials or lawsuits against the county. Gaumond has 15 years of experience, including five years with Elko County as a public defender, and he asked to be appreciated for his service.

“But I don’t feel the love in this letter here. Does this reflect appreciation for what we do for this community?” Gaumond asked. “I would argue, ‘No.’ This out-of-town law firm doesn’t represent that, whatsoever.”

Slade also returned to the lectern to say that commission inaction would be contrary to common sense.

“We’re just hoping with a little bit of forgiveness and the ability to go forward this year to do what we can,” he said.

Despite the arguments, the county commissioners stood by their labor lawyer’s advice to abstain from discussion. Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi delivered the conclusion:

“We will not discuss or take action on this item because these provisions are a negotiable item in the body of the agreement and could be construed as unfair labor practices.”