Monday, Dec. 7, Commissioner Sharkozy attended a Search and Rescue Meeting; Tuesday, Dec. 8, the Crescent Valley Fire Department meeting; and Saturday, Dec. 12 the Fire Department dinner; Tuesday, Dec. 15 the Crescent Valley Senior Center dinner; Friday, Dec. 18, the Eureka Christmas dinner; Saturday, Dec. 19, the Crescent Valley Parade of Lights, Dinner and Raffle with the “most we’ve ever seen get together for a parade, bonfire and all that. We served 150 plus people and we had a good time. There was at least ten floats all lit up.”
Chairman Goicoechea thanked the other Commissioners for covering for him on the 7th of December; on the 8th he attended a meeting with Newmont by phone. “The take home message from that is expect no Net Proceeds after the first quarter of the coming year until perhaps 2018.” Goicoechea said, “There is a likelihood that these mining companies inclusive of Newmont may ask for a refund from the State for monies that they have paid in as we roll from pre-pay to actually post-paying of Net Proceeds. Next year could be very interesting to say the least; so we need to be very mindful of that as we go forward. We are making the moves we need to financially; but the last thing we need is about a $5 million bill to come floating across the desk and that is going to upset the apple cart substantially. That is why we don’t budget Net Proceeds in this county but unfortunately when they do come in we spend them; and the State has been allocating this money to us and we spend them as they come in the next year; but that is what it is. The night of the 9th, NRAC, I participated in that meeting by the phone as well. My cell phone bill is going to be pretty big for the last couple of weeks. On the 17th and 18th of this week had lots of phone calls” as the Legislature went into Special Session and Goicoechea, Tibbitts and Walker worked hard on water language.
On the 18th, Goicoechea met with UNR Cooperative Extension to go over the applicants for the Extension Educator position of whom two will be interviewed in a public process during which candidates will be asked to do a public presentation. They’ve been asked to do a presentation on water management, conservation and alternative crops with the Drought Forum going on and Diamond Valley, “I think if they want to have any idea of what we’re dealing with down here.” Goicoechea said there “are a couple of really good candidates” even as the 4H Coordinator has resigned. On the 18th Goicoechea met with the lawyer regarding the sage grouse issue and then met with NACO and said there are a lot of negotiations going forward as far as “who is in or out.”
Goicoechea said there was a meeting on the 10th and 11th of December at which new maps were adopted. “The process is what we’ve got to focus on here” and is “really getting tired of everybody here thinking that the next set of maps is going to save everybody. There is some major habitat expanded out here along Hwy. 50 along back towards Mineral Point that wasn’t there in the original maps. The part of town is cleaned up because we’ve been complaining about that but it’s the on the ground process that we need to focus on. I think people are finally starting to understand that.”
Goicoechea said, “If it’s not habitat; it’s not habitat. The Feds want to use our maps but they want to use it for a thumbs up or a thumbs down based on what that map says and they’re not accurate; there’s just no way we can do that.” Goicoechea said, “There’s a million dollars available right now for conservation projects” for private property projects to do habitat conservation and projectS “to be put on the ground right now for sage grouse across the State of Nevada. The State is running that and that is State money we’re putting on the ground; not Federal money or anything else.”
In considering the 2016-17 budget, Chairman Goicoechea thanked all the employees for participating in the survey and for their comments and noted that the budget will be worked through with the Budget Director and said the last few months “have not been fun times.” He said, “The Net Proceeds thing scares me to death, but we’re getting there. I know it sucks at times you lose employees and employees move around, but thankfully we haven’t had any pink slips.”
Goicoechea said, “We’ll work through the budget with the Budget Director” and said he will “not support any lay-offs through this Fiscal Year. We have budgeted for it; if anything is going to happen it will happen as a result of what we budget for the next year starting July 1. I see absolutely no way I could support lay-offs before July 1 based on where our budget is; but saying that I don’t know what the next budget’s going to look like; that’s why it’s under the budget cycle. That fair enough? Make sense to everybody?”
Mike Sullivan, EMS Coordinator, reported, “Calls have been pretty steady to below normal which is surprising with the weather. We’ve had five each in Eureka and Crescent Valley Ambulance Services. That takes us to 125 so far this year in Eureka and 60 in Crescent Valley. That’s ten below this time in Eureka and nine above in Crescent Valley for a total of 185” which “is one below last year.” Volunteer staffing in Eureka remains stable with six Advanced EMTs, six EMTs, three Drivers and one applicant Driver. Crescent Valley is critically shortly staffed with one Advanced EMT, two EMTs and one applicant driver. Three recent graduates of Cortez Mine EMT class who’ve expressed interest in volunteering. All EMTs license applications are being turned into the State. In 2015 Eureka County EMS conducted training worth 33 CE hours, sponsored educational opportunities including refresher courses. 30 CE hours are required over two years for EMT certification.
In considering the Eureka Airport Lighted Wind Cone Project utilizing 2013 and 2014 FAA entitlement funds, with a $5,000 local County match, for a total estimated project cost of $75,000, Ron Damele explained, “A couple of weeks ago Kim and Mike Bennett was on the phone with the FAA” and went over all the grants and entitlements and there is a balance of $42,582 left over from 2013 and Eureka has until July 31, 2016 to use it or lose it and they recommend Eureka County follow through with the wind cone upgrade project which would entail putting in two additional wind socks.
“If we want to do this as the whole project” the cost would be $75,000 that was not budgeted for this year. To follow-through, a $5,000 county match would be required. “The other thing you need to know, we need to get started on the Environmental Review for that project right now.” Damele said there is a big issue on how grants are collected on. “The majority of the $75,000 will be expended before you get your money back so we have to have that money paid out before we get reimbursed. They don’t cut you a $75,000 check and then you go spend it.” Damele said, “We would supplement that with 2014 and 2015 grant money. It would still be for the most part an entirely FAA funded project and what you’re looking at is a $5,000 commitment” but “when it’s all said and done, you might have to spend $75,000 and then we’ll end up getting reimbursed.”
Complicating matters further, Damele then let Kim Todd explain that Eureka County received a letter from the System for Awards Management through whom Eureka receives grant funding stating that Eureka has been identified as a Delinquent Federal Debtor and Medicare has placed a claim with the US Treasury against Eureka County. This is due to a Medicare claim on a patient and Medicare paid the claim as primary insurer instead of St. Mary’s and instead of St. Mary’s being charged as the primary insurance carrier, Medicare was charged and overpaid it by over $9,000. Eureka County has been informed the claim has been paid to Medicare by St. Mary’s, but Medicare is not showing it as paid and has filed the claim. Eureka County can get an FAA grant but will be flagged as a Delinquent Federal Debtor. The claim is up to $10,675. Until the claim is settled when a grant is presented and the Eureka County DUNS number is searched that will show. The County is working on getting a cancelled check from St. Mary’s to prove it has been paid, but the County is dealing with the Federal Government and has a ‘red flag’ stating the County is a Delinquent Federal Debtor. As the County does not have such monies budgeted the wind sock project was denied.
Clerk & Treasurer, Bev Conley, reported the General Fund Balance starting November was $14,173,265 with revenue of $522,480, expenditures of $752,850 leaving an ending General Fund Balance of $13,942,896. Conley expects a “fairly good month in January” and “March as well” but foresees declining balances from April through July.
Natural Resources Manager, Jake Tibbitts, reported that on the 23rd he’d be attending the first Gold Bar EIS conference call and those will be happening either every other week or weekly; on Jan. 4, he’ll be speaking to the Planning Commission to present the Water Resource Management Plan; on the 5th, he’ll be attending the Eureka Conservation District. Tibbitts noted that he’ll be bringing water rights applications from Kobeh Valley Ranch and Barrick and applications to move ag water out of Diamond Valley before the Commission in January for action.
Tibbitts noted Nevada water law is being rewritten through a special session applying to any project that would bring over a billion dollar value to the State over a ten year period. Tibbitts said that would circumvent water law. Tibbitts listened to public comment and said “there was a group of individuals that applied for a two acre foot water right in this exact same area in this industrial park. They wanted two acre foot to put a little business there and they were denied that.”
Tibbitts said, “There’s a whole laundry list of things they have to meet” including 50 percent or more employees have to be Nevada citizens. Tibbitts said, “What was testified is rather than every time there’s a Tesla or Faraday in future that they don’t want to have to have special sessions” so the legislation is a “laundry list of criteria” for projects to be approved. “As long as they meet the criteria then all these things allow the Executive Director from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to do all these things; so it was written for Faraday Future but it never named it: it’s not specific to that document.” Tibbitts said, “With that, it could apply anywhere in the State.”
Goicoechea noted there were gaming and mining exclusions in the bill. Tibbitts said the water side applies to the five basin area where the State Engineer has an order years ago where the five basins are managed as one and “the language in the final bill that was passed doesn’t call out those five basins but there’s no other place in the State it could apply and it put a time, a deadline, that area had to be designated prior to Dec. 15, 2015 so it’s not any other the State Engineer would designate in the future.” Tibbitts said, “It ended up being pretty positive in the end.”
Goicoechea noted, “One of the key things that was positive” was “the original language said you had to be a senior right to the right in order to protest it going forward so they were going to amend 533.” Goicoechea said what would have happened then would be if a company came in and bought the most senior right, for example, in Diamond Valley, “and then they wanted to transfer it for economic development in an inter-basin, if they were the most senior right, no one could protest it. Now it says you must have a water right or have a domestic well in order to protest; so, a county entity or an NGO can no longer protest if you don’t have a water right in that basin; but, again, thankfully it was defined to these five. But to me it was more telling of what we expect to see in a future legislative session. I think that language will surface again at some point to change Nevada water law.”
Tibbitts said there was a lot of “behind the scenes phone calls.”
Tibbitts discussed the County’s response to the Governor’s negotiations with the Secretary of Interior which was fine-tuned at the NRAC meeting on the 9th, on which the District Attorney also “weighed in” and the Attorney involved in the County’s law-suit also helping “massage it” prior to the Countys public response being put out. Tibbitts said, “When you have two or three different lawyers and Jake Tibbitts and JJ Goicoechea” what was presented “was stuff that needed to be said and it wasn’t meant as a press release” but rather “for the press to use if it chose” to “give them some points.” Tibbitts said, “Many papers have picked it up word for word and published the entire thing: the Elko Free Press did; the Eureka Sentinel did; the AP picked it up in multiple contexts.” In addition the Humboldt Sun and Battle Mountain Bugle picked it up as well.
Tibbitts said, “Things like this seem to be giving us some traction” in “address[ing] the whole host of issues” and “to get back to the whole process” and “bring that management closer to home.” Tibbitts believes the Governor may be starting to “evaluate the approach they’re taking isn’t the best for Nevada.” Tibbitts also mentioned the Federal Omnibus Bill: “the Christmas Tree where everybody adds everything they want on to try to keep the government running for a while. So, there was a lot of work behind the scenes and the Chairman did a lot of it himself about having language in there that defunds the BLM” in “moving forward with their Land Use Plan.”
Eureka County Commissioners approved:
Minutes of the Dec. 7, 2015, Commission meeting;
The Resolution from November 20, 2012 as null and void and that all revenues realized from loan interest shall go back into the General Fund;
Appointment of Kim Todd to the position of Comptroller to begin officially Jan. 1, 2016 at a salary of $63,500;
A limited duration independent services contract with McMullen McPhee & Company, LLC, to perform services as Budget Director and to prepare the Fiscal Year 2016-2017 Budget not to exceed $25,000;
Setting the first budget meeting for 1 p.m. Jan. 20;
An application from I. Claire Morrow for a ¾-inch residential water service and a 4-inch residential sewer service at 511 Robins Street in Eureka (APN 001-053-07);
Signing a commitment of funds letter to accompany the Community Development Block Grant application for a digital x-ray machine for the Crescent Valley Medical Clinic and for a back-up generator for the Eureka County EMS;
Accepting a recommendation from Benefit Intelligence Insurance Services to notify all supervisors about the ACA guidelines related to casual, seasonal, and temporary employees’ insurance benefit criteria by limiting the weekly hours worked to no more than 29 hours;
Accepting the resignation of Chad Sestanovich as an alternate member on the Planning Commission;
Authorizing Eureka Activities Coordinator to move forward with grant application for a message board/sign in front of the railroad car on Main Street in Eureka if there is no prohibitory clause on the lease and no county General Funds to be used other than Cindy Beutel’s salary.