Clerk/Treasurer Bev Conley reported the County began the month of January with a balance of $52,609,441; saw revenue of $1,653,720; disbursements of $2,909,207; leaving an ending fund balance of $51,353,955.
Conley reported on having made a new investment with First Empire with whom the County has done business in prior years. Conley noted the broker comes with a high recommendation from Elko and Humboldt Counties. Conley said, “It’s a step up coupon. It starts at .625 percent and that’s better than we’re doing.”
COUNTY FACES A $2 MILLION REVENUE DROP
During opening public comment, County Assessor and Budget Director Mike Mears said, “I was going to save this happy news for you for this afternoon’s budget meeting, but I think it’s relevant to your entire day.” Mears said, “That is what we’re forecasting, we’re projecting for General Fund revenue. I compiled this for us yesterday.”
Mears directed the Commissioners to “look under General for what revenues we’re as of June 30th of 2014. So, you have a $12.6 million figure, was our general revenue last year; as you can see when you return to the front page, we’re looking at $10.5, a roughly $2 million drop; and most of that is related” to “sales tax revenue is down, taxable sales are down in Eureka County right now; and that’s the forecast that we’re getting from the Department. We already saw a down-tick as I told you in November’s” sales “tax revenues by about $200,000. We hope that doesn’t continue but, based on their projections, that’s a very real possibility we’ll see that decline continue even through this year. I wanted the Board to be aware so you’d be aware.”
“Is there a motion to adjourn?” Chairman Goicoechea laughed in response.
“Close the doors,” joked Sharkozy.
“I was hoping we could just do that. I’m sorry to start your day off on a bummer, but,” said Mears, “this is what it is.”
“Thanks for the heads up. Well, I’ll keep this in mind as I go through the morning and obviously our budget meetings this afternoon; that’s where we’ll start,” said Goicoechea. He asked for more public comment “with good news,” but received none.
On Feb 9, Chairman Goicoechea met in Carson City with the Governor’s staff and members of the Department of Conservation/Natural Resources in “some on-going situations with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.” Goicoechea said on the same day the Home Rule Bill “was up” and he assisted “NACO in getting some testimony and stuff ready for that and clarifying that we were not asking for fiscal home rule.” Goicoechea said, “That was a NACO bill. If you guys don’t know what home rule is, it pretty much says that if it isn’t restricted or forbidden by statute then we can do that at this county level so that way you don’t have to go back to the legislature every two years and say ‘look we need to change the way we do things, will you guys grant us the authority?’; we can just do it with an ordinance.” Goicoechea thinks, “To be completely honest, I think we’re about twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years late. There’s not a lot of things that haven’t already been granted to the counties or done, but it is what it is.”
That afternoon Goicoechea and Ron Damele had a conference call with NDF regarding the Wildland Fire Protection program and determined a contract is needed to cover White Pine with the Ely District BLM who are not members of the Wildland Protection Group. “There’s going to be a few things we have to work through with our neighbors, with Elko, Eureka and White Pine” as “there’s a lot of working together.” Goicoechea said the sage grouse issue is very frustrating as they try to get ready for dealing with wildfires.
On the 17th, Goicoechea attended the Veterinary Medicine Association meeting in Vegas where he was elected president. February 18th, Jake Tibbitts and the Chairman were in Minden to attend a biochar seminar. “That was very educational for me,” the Chairman said. They testified on SJR5 (which according to the Legislature website, “Expresses support for the 2014 Nevada Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan developed by the Sagebrush Ecosystem Council and urges the United States Fish and Wildlife Service not to list the greater sage-grouse as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973,”) asking the State to accept their state plan and to ask Congress to give ten years to demonstrate effectiveness before the F&W and BLM “pull the rug out from under us.”
BLM FISH CREEK HORSE GATHER
Regarding the BLM Fish Creek Herd Management Area wild horse gather and fertility control treatment, Natural Resource Manager, Jake Tibbitts noted that while there are supposed to be 101 to 107 wild horses on the Fish Creek Herd Management Area there are 529 and even though the BLM has committed to removing 200 horses, “foals will be hitting the ground in two weeks” and Tibbitts characterized the ranchers as taking the brunt of the impact. In fact, the Commission room was full of concerned ranchers. Goicoechea expects only a net population decrease of 30 horses in actuality. “That’s not acceptable for the amount of money. We’re going the wrong way.
Kevin Borda thanked the Commissioners for addressing the issue. “They’ve got our hands tied.” Borda said, “They didn’t even want me to turn out this year,” of the BLM.
The Commissioners approved Tibbitts request to dedicate $7500 funding of Natural Resource and NRAC funding to continue addressing the issue.
Mike Sullivan, EMS Coordinator, related that rather than using epi pens for delivering epinephrine, Mike Boharsik made up kits using his own vacuum sealer which include everything needed to administer the medication to replace the epi pens. Boharsik was given a certificate of appreciation for the modification which will save County taxpayers almost $5,000 and improve medical care by being able to deliver more of the medication safely during a time of reduced budget. Boharsik was met with applause.
Sullivan suggested, “This kind of activity from our employees should be encouraged” and said that when he was in the military they had a formal suggestion program that would pay a percentage of cost savings documented to the taxpayer to the innovator; and he urged the commission to “consider something like that to the entire County” to give recognition and incentive. “They actually gave cash based on a set percentage and we had some enlisted guys that got pretty hefty checks.”
“I’ll give them Altoids instead; that’s all we can afford right now,” Goicoechea said.
“Well, I understand that,” Sullivan said.
“We’ll buy them a pizza,” said Etchegaray.
COUNTY NOT NEGATIVELY IMPACTED BY AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
Kim Todd of the Medical Clinic Advisory Committee, reported that the Affordable Care Act specifies that casuals or seasonal employees would have to be offered health care if they worked over a certain number of hours during the time period. Todd said Eureka County falls under the guidelines and casuals are limited to 1,040 hours a year for non-benefited status. “We do not have anything to worry about as long as our casuals do not work over the 1,560 hours a year. So, that’s going to be a huge cost savings to the County to not provide insurance.”
Goicoechea noted, “We weren’t spending it anyway; we just wanted to make sure we didn’t have to.”
Todd said the Affordable Care Act specifies 30 hours a week and “our casual employees work 19 hours or less; so we were already meeting that.” Part-time employees who work 20 hours a week receive benefits while the Federal guidelines are for coverage of employees working 30 hours or more a week. Todd said supervisors must make sure casuals don’t work over the 1,040 a year.
“One positive from the Affordable Care Act for Eureka County. You’re welcome, J.J.,” Todd said.
“No, that was not a positive from that Act. We dodged a bullet from that Act!” Goicoechea said.
COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Kicking off a discussion with Eureka County Economic Development Program (ECEDP) Board members about the status and direction of the ECEDP in relation to the upcoming budget year; the status of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), and the status of the funds returned to the County by the Community Development Corporation (CDC), Karen Rowley and Diane Wise of the Economic Development Board addressed the Commission. “What we’ve come before the board for is some direction from the Eureka County Commissioners. We would like to know what your vision is for the development.” Rowley said, “Dec. 19 we presented a letter and in that letter we said we were in the process of doing research and that; and then we backtracked to see where your vision is before we utilize our resources, make decisions. Do we need to have your blessing first or should we present it separate? And now that the CEDS report has been done [and approved by the federal government] we’re looking at where the $1.2 million should be allotted and because of the budget and it needing to be approved we need some further discussion with the board, with you.”
Goicoechea asked, “What $1.2 million are you talking about, Karen?”
“I’m talking about the CDC fund that was turned back to you.”
Goicoechea said, “Andy [Rossman], I had a meeting with you two weeks ago and gave you the direction that I kind of thought we were going.” Rossman had communicated Goicoechea’s thoughts to the ECEDP at their last meeting. He said, “The vision that I shared. Obviously, we have to diversify in Eureka County; there’s no doubt about it.” Goicoechea noted there is a $2 million projected shortfall from last year already for the upcoming budget year “so the status quo isn’t working.” Goicoechea said he and Tibbitts are working on getting an industry to bring in pinon-juniper biochar industry to the County. “Tourism we’ve played that game” in Eureka. Goicoechea said the County needs to focus on mining projects “that will keep us going for the short term, the next ten, while we look: are we looking at biochar, are we looking at renewable energies down the road? That’s where we need to be focused in my opinion; and then in the North End light industrial or anything on that rail. We should have a rail port.”
Etchegaray said, “Yeah, it would be nice to get a spur” down to Eureka.
Rawley asked if the County is prepared to “earmark funds for those purposes.”
Goicoechea said, “You guys are an advisory board. You guys go out there; you make some recommendations. You’ve got a guy that’s interested in bringing this in; should we pursue it?” Goicoechea said the CDC money is sitting there for economic development and the monies could be used for matching funds. “I have faith in our advisory board” and perceives the County as being able to provide matching funds. Goicoechea observed that the CDC had functional problems including the perceived public airing of people’s finances.
Goicoechea said, “That money can be used to kick start something” and to make sure it works within the Master Plan. “If you needed a piece of it, he or she, I think we could get something done that way.”
“And to be a loan department is a tough thing to do,” Sharkozy said. “Why do we loan it to someone who can’t get a loan from a bank?” Sharkozy said, “Matching funds is a different story.”
Goicoechea advised the Economic Development Board to “come up with some ideas. Bring them back to us; but bring them back to us kind of on a regular basis as well that ‘hey, we had some interest in solar; we had some interest in bio-mass. We had some interest in some industrial stuff.’”
Rowley asked about Title 7 and asked whether the board should be taking an active role in implementing the goals to implement the program and a budget. “Should we be helping Andy to promote.”
“Yes,” Goicoechea said, “give us a scope of work. Where are you guys going? What are you going to be doing? And guys when it comes to budgets, be prepared” and “don’t be looking for pie in the sky” and he advised the ECEDP recognize the County has “to get some stuff on the ground that starts generating revenue.”
NHC ASSESSED PENALTY
The Commission approved a $5700 penalty for the second quarter of 2015 against Nevada Health Centers based on non-compliance reflecting the non-availability of a second provider in Eureka; a figure agreed-upon by both NHC and the County Medical Clinics Advisory Committee.
In addition, Garney Damele, Chair of the Medical Clinics Advisory Committee reported that there is a waiver in the performance audit for recruitment for 6 months which as of March 19th will be concluded and NHC will be assessed $600 a day for lack of a physician. Damele spoke with NHC’s Cheryl Temple to see where they are “with recruiting our physician” and “they don’t have anybody on-line. They had two possible doctor positions” and “both of them have declined.”
Goicoechea said, “This is starting to look like rats off a sinking ship.”
The penalty amounts to $156,000 a year versus when there was a physician in Eureka which costs the County about $350,000. Goicoechea said NHC is saving money by not having a doctor in Eureka.
Sharkozy asked whether the contract is too hard for NHC to comply with and Todd said NHC has been asked that.
Damele said the Committee wondered if the Commission would like another audit of NHC.
Goicoechea wants to relook at restructuring the penalty in the new contract. “Pay them for what they do; not what they don’t; and it’s just a restructuring of it rather than penalties.”
Jake Tibbitts reported to the Commission some items the Natural Resource Advisory Commission wants funding for including for sage grouse related challenges; and RS2477 claims in case there’s a case or controversy; and review of BLM regional assessments upon which BLM plans are based. Tibbitts said NRAC want to become more involved in water-related issues and wants to have NRAC members on water boards such as the Central Nevada Regional Water Authority. NRAC members also want to focus on pursuing decreasing federal land ownership. Tibbitts said NRAC is envisioning the creation of a multiple use preservation plan with some ideas on how to pay for things. Tibbitts said, “We know things are tight,” but said, “there’s ways; part of our budget we’re working this in.” Tibbitts said the USGS study with its cost of $100,000 is complete, meaning the Mitigation Fund monies can be directed towards what the NRAC wants to do.
Eureka County Commissioners approved:
- Expenditures of $801,296.07 including payroll; and a $396,618.54 pass-through to the School District; as well as $2,263.99 in Yucca Mountain expenditures
- Adopting a resolution honoring Ronald Rankin for his many years of service on the Eureka County Planning Commission;
- Accepting a Temporary Road Maintenance Equipment Operator I job description at Range 115 as a temporary position contingent on special funding; if the special funding ceases, the position will be eliminated and the employee will not be entitled to layoff right;
- An Interlocal Contract and Wildland Fire Protection Program Scope of Work between Eureka County and the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Nevada Division of Forestry, for a term of two years, and at a cost to Eureka County of $150,000.00 annually for a total of $300,000.00 for the term of the contract beginning July 1, 2015;
- A petition from Don Hull to join the Devil’s Gate GID for parcels 007-380-71 and 007-380-73;
- Printing 1,000 copies of the Eureka County phone book (32 pages each) at a cost not to exceed $3,000.00;
- Budget augmentations to the RTC fund, Yucca Mountain and the General Fund for Fiscal Year 2014-2015;
- Augmenting the budget by $4900 for the rest of the fiscal year for the Crescent Valley Activities Committee;
- Setting the date and time of the next budget meeting for 2 p.m. on the 4th with possible overflow to the Commission meeting on March 5.