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Carlin senior semi-finalist in Presidential Scholars Program

CARLIN – A Carlin High School senior is a semi-finalist to win an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C.

Kyra Neptune has advanced in the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Career and Technical Education Program. If she is chosen, Neptune will be presented a medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House in June.

The Presidential Scholars program plans to recognize 20 CTE students this year, and each state can nominate five candidates for recognition for excellence in CTE through the Chief State School Officer, according to the program’s guidelines.

The winner will be announced in May.

Neptune, 18, said she was informed of the contest by her counselor, Ryan Smith, who told her she would “be an awesome candidate due to my academic background and experience in CTE programs such as welding.”

“My counselor does a really good job of searching for scholarships that fit my classmates and I. He really pays attention to all of our personalities,” Neptune said. “I am honored to be a candidate for the Presidential Scholars Program.”

Smith said two students applied for the award, but this was the first time someone from Carlin Combined School was nominated for the Presidential Scholars honor. He added he was unsure exactly how many students from Nevada had applied.

“Overall, she is one of 600 semi-finalists nominated nationally and one of 86 semi-finalists from Nevada” nominated in the general, arts and CTE components, Smith said.

Neptune said she began taking welding classes as a sophomore and joined SkillsUSA, finishing in first place last year at the state competition for welding sculpture and advancing to the national competition.

“Being a part of CTE has changed my life,” Neptune said.

After graduation, Neptune plans to enroll at Great Basin College and join the millwright program, and work at either Barrick Gold or Newmont Mining Corp. but isn’t sure what career path she wants to explore yet.

“I have been interested in so many fields, I’m not 100 percent sure what I’m going to study after my first year,” she said.

Her junior year, Neptune was inducted into the National Honor Society and has participated in the STEM club at Carlin High School “since day one.”

“My first year joining I was an officer [and that] year I competed in the Science Olympiad and placed fifth in Protein Modeling Competition where my partner and I built a model of a protein,” Neptune said.

But it’s not all work and no play for Neptune. Throughout high school, she has been on the Railroader volleyball, basketball and softball teams and taken part in other activities.

“This year, I did winter and fall cheer on top of playing volleyball and basketball,” Neptune said.

Justin Munson, who teaches welding at CHS, said Neptune is a “very cheerful and dependable student” and has seen her get her assignments turned in on time amid her busy schedule.

“She can be relied upon to complete her assigned task, from the prom committee to the welding shop,” Munson said. “She enjoys learning and makes the most of her opportunities.”

For three years, Neptune has volunteered at the Little Red Caboose preschool, and works with the children “showing amazing confidence and excitement,” said Sara Anthony, Family and Consumer Science teacher.

“She really has the caring heart of a teacher and is a wonderful addition to the staff,” Anthony said.

Although she has a busy schedule, Neptune ranks second in her class with a 3.76 GPA, Smith said.

Smith said he gave Neptune the good news that she was selected as a semi-finalist.

“Telling her after all of the hard work she was a semi-finalist for the Presidential Scholars, the smile she had on her face said it all,” Smith said, explaining that Neptune’s long list of activities and accomplishments needed to be recognized.

“A student with this type of resume should be celebrated and praised for her continuous determination and work ethic that is second to none,” Smith added.

Neptune thanked Smith and her family, friends and teachers for their support.

“I am surrounded by people who inspire me every day. I credit all of these people for inspiring me to go for the Presidential Scholars Program.”

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Eight year-old receives letter from the president

ELKO – What do you do if you want to find out how the new president is settling into his job at the White House? How about writing him a letter?

Braylynn Vera, 8, of Elko wrote to President Donald Trump in April after he took office, inspired by her grandfather who voted for him in the 2016 election.

“It’s because my grandpa voted for him when he was elected,” Braylynn said. “My grandpa liked him.”

Kara Vera, Braylynn’s mother, said once she discovered she had the address to the White House in her school workbook, she decided to write to Trump.

“She decided on her own to write a letter to the President,” said Vera. “Basically, it she said that was excited he won, her grandpa voted for him, and said ‘I hope your family is doing well.’ It was a very nice letter.”

Dated April 15, 2017, Braylynn wrote on pink paper, “Dear president, I’m so happy because my grandpa wanted you to win and you did win.”

She asked Trump if he believed in God (“I do,” she said), how he liked living in the White House and how his family was doing, adding that it would be “asome for you to white back to me because it’s an onor to meet you...”

At first, Braylynn waited anxiously for a reply, but as time went by, she didn’t ask as often, Vera said.

When the letter arrived earlier this month, it was a shock to everyone, Vera said.

“I saw it was from the White House, but I didn’t think anything of it,” Vera said. “To be honest, I didn’t think she would get a response. My husband and I were shocked and excited at the same time.”

In the letter, dated Jan. 26 on White House stationary, Trump thanks Braylynn for her “thoughtful letter and prayers.”

“I always enjoy hearing from young Americans like you,” Trump wrote, going on to encourage Braylynn in her future endeavors.

“With your faith and determination, I have no doubt you can do anything to which you set your mind. Think big and dream even bigger! You are the future of our great Nation.”

Braylynn said she let her friends see it and took the letter to her third grade class at Mountain View Elementary School for Show and Tell.

The rest of Braylynn’s family were also very happy for her, Vera said.

“Her older brother was excited for her, and her grandparents were over the moon excited for her,” Vera said. “They said, ‘That’s why we voted for him. He cares for people.’”

Braylynn’s grandparents were also impressed that Trump responded when he obviously has so much else to do, Vera said.

“They couldn’t believe that someone at that level of importance would take the time to respond to a little girl in Elko,” Vera said, adding that she felt the same way.

“I can’t image all of the mail the White House receives and then to take the time to respond to her. I was really pleased with that,” Vera said.

Although Braylynn received a response from the President, she said she isn’t planning to write letters to other politicians.

“I don’t think so. My grandpa was really excited that he won and that’s why I wrote to the President,” Braylynn said.

When Braylynn was asked if this letter would be something she would keep for the rest of her life, she didn’t say a word, but with a big smile, nodded yes.

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GBC Talks presents 'Religious liberty in the 21st century'

ELKO – Religious liberty and the law are discussed at the upcoming GBC Talks at Great Basin College.

“Religious Liberty in the Twenty-First Century” will be 7 p.m., Feb. 21 in the Greenhaw Technical Arts building, room 130 on Elko campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Interactive video connections will also be available at GBC centers, including Battle Mountain, Ely, Pahrump and Winnemucca.

The GBC Talks event will look at the issues these controversies have raise and discuss the role religious liberties play in modern society.

The rights of religious liberty are some of the cornerstones to American history and culture, and are enshrined in the Constitution’s First Amendment. Yet few issues have generated such perennial debates and controversies.

Over the last decade, a series of conflicts between religious liberty and issues of equal access and personal choice have spurred serious discussion and legal action. Court cases such as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, and others have raised new concerns about where the boundaries of religious liberty should lie in modern American society.

To what extent does religious liberty conflict with federal and state laws on a range of issues, or even personal choices? How should such conflicts be resolved?

Leading the discussion will be short presentations by Zach Gerber of Gerber Law Offices LLP and president of the Great Basin Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society; Dan DuSoleil, pastor at the Christian Center of Elko; and Dr. Kevin Hodur, GBC English instructor.

Following the presentations, the floor will be opened to general discussion to explore these issues together.

City working with construction company to avoid environmental fines

ELKO — Elko City Council is giving housing developer Braemar Construction a chance to avoid legal action over violations related to control of sediment that runs into storm sewers and may reach the Humboldt River.

The council voted to direct city staff to work with Braemar on a corrective action plan and stipulated that staff could pursue legal action if there is one more violation. Mayor Chris Johnson abstained from voting because of a business conflict.

Braemar has had multiple violations during development of subdivisions in the city, and the city is concerned that the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection will fine Elko for failure to enforce regulations enacted to protect the Humboldt River.

“We take this very seriously,” said Jeremy Draper, Elko’s development manager.

City Attorney Dave Stanton said he and city staff felt the council should be the decision-maker on whether to pursue civil or criminal action against the construction company because the issue is past the appeal-hearing stage.

Dusty Shipp of South Jordan, Utah-based Braemar told the council that the company has had seven violations over six years, and the first few were because the company dumped top soil for landscaping on city streets temporarily.

“I wasn’t really aware of how this affected storm drains,” he said of the earlier years, but he said the company has hired an outside inspector, bought street sweepers and special bags to protect storm drains.

Shipp also said the company has sent staff for training and has “been trying hard to work with the city,” but didn’t appeal notices because it thought the problems were worked out.

He said Braemar has obtained 237 building permits in the city and spent $1.7 million on permits in six years.

“I know how to build houses but didn’t understand about the river,” Shipp said. “That’s why we own sweepers now and also bought a water truck for dust control. I feel we still have work to do, but we’re trying to do better.”

Staff reported the most recent violation was just a couple weeks ago when Braemar moved loads of dirt from a site on West Jennings to use at its Golden Hills development without working with the city.

“We thought we were doing best practices,” Shipp said, by hiring trucks to do the work in less time so there would be less dirt left on streets during the travel time.

Councilman Robert Schmidtlein said it is “hard to prevent track-out,” but the staff has put together a legitimate history of violations.

In the continued discussion, Assistant City Manager Scott Wilkinson said he would recommend a criminal complaint against Braemar that would “demonstrate to the state that we’re taking it seriously.”

Councilman John Patrick Rice told Braemar representatives that they are saying they are trying, but “you don’t get to try. You have to do.”

Howard Schmidt of Braemar told the council the company has “learned a lot. We are not taking this lightly. We appeal for some grace on this.”

Councilman Reece Keener made the motion to have staff work with Braemar on a corrective action plan and give staff authority to file action if “there is one more violation, subject to appeal.”

Tax cut could mean lower power bills

LAS VEGAS – Nevadans could be seeing lower utility bills as a result of federal tax cuts.

In a filing submitted Feb. 14 to the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, NV Energy requested to pass through to all its Nevada customers a revenue reduction of $83.7 million as a result of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Among other things, the act reduces the federal income tax rate paid by corporations from 35 percent to 21 percent.

If approved, the average northern Nevada single-family residential customer will see a reduction of $2.81 per month, or 3.19 percent. The average northern Nevada single-family residential gas customer will see a reduction of $0.47 per month, or 1.18 percent.

NV Energy has asked the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada to allow these bill reductions to go into effect starting April 1.

“The federal tax reform bill has resulted in a direct reduction in our tax obligations, and as opposed to waiting until the next general rate reviews, which are required by law every three years, passing these savings on now is simply the right thing to do,” said Paul Caudill, NV Energy chief executive officer. “The prices our customers pay today are very competitive when compared to the regional and national markets. This opportunity is an important one in our commitment to keep prices low for another decade.”