ELKO – This was a year of celebration for the City of Elko. It was also a year filled with small miracles, blazing wildfires, taking down the old to renew the growth of the city, and conversations about controversial issues that had everyone hanging onto the edge of their seats.
The Elko Daily Free Press recapitulates the 100th year of the City of Elko with the stories that had everyone buzzing in conversations with family, friends and neighbors.
Carbon Monoxide poisoning
The flooding in early February struck home for several Elko residents. For Assemblyman John Ellison, the Humboldt River flooding led to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in his home, poisoning Ellison.
Ellison thought he had a migraine, and was eventually hospitalized.
“I’ve never seen a community come together as well as that,” said Ellison after his ordeal. “God bless Elko, Nevada. I don’t think you’d have that kind of response anywhere else in the country.”
Ellison recovered only to return home to three feet of water still in his basement, and no flood insurance. In December, he was among 60 residents to file a lawsuit against the city and other parties for failing to prevent the flood.
Elko City Council faced a gigantic decision on where exactly to place a proposed Sports Complex in early March.
At that time, council members all had concerns about flooding on their minds, which affected the decision to propose a relocation of the project from the site off of Bullion Road.
Utilities Director Ryan Limberg pushed the council to make decisions on permits so the project would not continue to face delays, and so they could move forward with construction.
Assistant City Manager Scott Wilkinson explained that the project had been delayed extensively due to a lack of a permit from the federal government. The city received the permit in August, and started to seek bids in November.
Lost, but not forgotten
After making strides to improve the city, Elko lost one of its beloved community leaders, Dr. George Winch Sr., at the age of 95. Winch was a pioneering doctor and honored World War II and Korean War veteran.
Winch came to Elko to help his son manage his medical office, and managed to make a breakthrough in a study of women’s recovery times in laparoscopic hysterectomies in 2003, concluding that it took women about five hours to recover from those surgeries.
Winch also was a president of the Navy League in 2011-2012, was passionate about flowers, and maintained a full wine cellar in his tree street home.
Community members remembered him fondly, such as his friend Lina Blohm who said, “He was a very fine and intelligent gentleman and always appreciative of this small town environment. He really was a man to emulate.”
Elko celebrated 100th birthday
Spring hit new beginnings for the city as the citizens were “ready to party like it’s 1917” as said by native Elkoan and County Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi in May during a birthday party in the downtown corridor.
This celebration marked the day 100 years ago that voters agreed to incorporate the county seat and install a mayor and city council. Mayor Chris Johnson portrayed the first mayor of Elko, J.A. McBride, and read his proclamation in recognition of the city’s incorporation.
The Elko high School Choraliers performed “Home Means Nevada” during the ceremony alongside the Elko Basque Club and Elko Mexican Folkloric Ballet.
“While they sing, I ask you to reflect on this historic corridor right here and how it’s transformed from sagebrush to rail, creating a corridor of opportunity and commerce,” said Andreozzi. “May we always look to the future, capitalize on the present and cherish our past.”
The groundbreaking for the Mark Chilton Centennial Tower marked the beginning of a dedication to the man who removed the railroad tracks from downtown Elko through Project Lifesaver. At the Snowflake Festival in December, the tower was lit to complete this special monument for the city.
Firefighters to the rescue
The City of Elko Fire Department managed a handful of events that saved and brought life to the city.
Firefighter Jeff Hintz was called out to deliver a baby on June 10 when a woman who was expecting her second child wasn’t able to make it to the hospital on time. The delivery went without incident, and ambulance services arrived on the scene a short while later to help Hintz with the delivery.
A southside home was destroyed on the morning of Aug. 5. Fire Chief Matt Griego said the home was engulfed in flames and the 60-year old female occupant, a relative to the family who was out of town, had been taken to the hospital for treatment of second degree burns to her upper body and face.
The Elko summit fire sent flames dangerously close to residents and closed a major highway in September. The fire was caused by a lightning strike below the big “E” on the summit and moved up the hill toward Spring Creek. The Lamoille Highway was closed in both directions until the flames were stopped in the evening.
This fire caught the attention of every Elko resident who could see the flames, and had burned 279 acres by 8 p.m. despite rain showers that failed to extinguish the flames. Emergency vehicles were still able to get through and help people during the fire. No structures were harmed or needed to be evacuated.
“The firefighters have battled the blaze skillfully and tirelessly, and we are very grateful to them,” said Public Relations Director Steve Burrows of Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital. “We also are thankful for our law enforcement officers who maintained order during this stressful time. Days like today remind us how fortunate we are to have such incredible men and women working in our emergency services.”
In 2017, the City of Elko saluted those emergency service providers, firefighters, and officers of the law who work every day to keep the city and county safe.
Moon Bar sign rejected
In the month of August, the City of Elko Redevelopment Agency voted against issuing a permit for a sign at the Moon Bar that included the silhouette of a woman in the design. Local business owners were divided on their approval or disapproval of the design.
Lina Blohm said when addressing the advisory council that the signs in downtown should be appropriate for all ages. Councilman John Rice was the only Redevelopment Agency member to vote in favor of the permit, and said, “As long as we have brothels, I don’t have a problem with a silhouette.”
Mayor Chris Johnson believed that the image did not meet the code requirement that signs conform to the business or services that are being provided. Most of the surrounding businesses agreed.
City to ban marijuana establishments
The city council passed a motion in October that is expected to lead to a zoning ban on recreational and medical marijuana sales within the city limits.
The meeting was filled with public comments on an issue that has been facing the city for the past two years. Representative Terra White from Cannabis Consulting Group, a PACE Coalition representative, Felix Ike of the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone, and Libertarian Party Spokesman Sean Fericks expressed multiple perspectives on the issue.
Councilman John Rice commented that more talks and workshops with the community needed to be done, while Councilman Schmidtlein was opposed due to his concerns for employers, especially those who work in the mines.
The council passed the proposal onto the Elko City Planning Commission to discuss at their meeting Dec. 5, and the commission voted 4-3 against the ban. The proposal is expected cycle back to the city council in January for further discussion.
Landmark comes down
In November, the building that housed the Church of Latter-day Saints beginning in 1951 and was purchased for the Elko Police Department in 1986 was demolished by Q&D construction crews.
It took the company five hours to reduce the building to rubble. The asbestos had been cleared out prior to the demolition, and the backfilling of the hole left by the foundation took about two weeks to complete, according to City Development Manager Jeremy Draper.
Draper said the city has no plans for the site, but is looking to make it another green space to compliment the park.