The following are highlights from today’s Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting:
1. Registrar of Voters presented Early Voting locations for General Election:
Coincidentally scheduled on National Voter Registration Day, Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula presented an overview of Early Voting locations and a timeline for the 2020 General Election. The final day to register to vote without a Nevada-issued I.D. is October 6, which impacts new residents, students, and those who do not have a Nevada driver’s license or I.D. Early voting will take place October 17-30 and voters will be able to drop off their ballots at one of any 30 ballot drop-off locations or vote in person at one of any 15 locations. View locations and schedules here.
“Dropped-off ballots will be scanned in, and they are returned to the elections office every day where they are verified that the number that was scanned is the number received, and then we have a location to secure them in our office until we can count them,” Spikula said. “All our ballot drop-off locations will be staffed. You don’t just drop them off and walk away, they will be scanned in by a real person.”
The Registrar’s office will also launch new technological tools to help streamline the voting process and reassure voters of the security of their mail-in ballot. Voters can sign up with BallotTrax, a service that tracks ballots just like FedEx tracks packages. Voters who use BallotTrax will receive notifications at each point their ballot is scanned, from the Post Office to the Elections Office. If there is a discrepancy with the voter’s signature on their ballot or any other issue that flags their ballot, they will be notified and given the opportunity to correct the discrepancy.
“The most common reason for a ballot to be challenge is a missing signature on the envelope or a mismatched signature. We encourage everyone to use our wait-times app. We launched it in primary election, but as we all know, we only had one location for voting,” Spikula said. “We're very excited to promote that heavily this election, and we hope it will help with long lines and disperse voters to locations without long lines.”
“Register as early as you can, vote as early as you can,” Washoe County Manager Eric Brown added. “A lot of people unfortunately ran out of time during the primary. We are expecting large voter turnout, so get your vote in early by mailing it in, or at one of our drop off boxes or early voting.”
2. Commissioners approved the budget for the University of Nevada, Cooperative Extension: HollyGatzke, Washoe County Extension Education, Northern Area Director, presented the budget for fiscal year 2021, which totaled just under $3.4 million in expenses with just over $3.5 million in revenue. The budget includes building an outdoor facility for 4-H, gardening, and other activities, as well as new staffing to support two key areas that need additional support: Life-Skills Education and Community Economic Development for under-served populations.
There was discussion by the Commission about the approval structure for the Cooperative Extension, which is funded by taxpayers and defined by Nevada Revised Statute (NRS). Gatzke provided context for why the Board of County Commissioners approves this budget.
“Washoe County has collected property tax that is designated for Extension, so we do come to talk to you to discuss what it should be used for. It’s very much a partnership, and we are looking at how to help people try and change their careers and gain life skills,” Gatzke said. “We work with WCSD, and love to talk about and explain what our programming is: student achievement in struggling neighborhoods. We have programming to help meet these challenges.”
Commissioner Kitty Jung raised the question of going to the Nevada State Legislature to change the NRS. Chair Bob Lucey agreed: “We have no control over that because it’s based in NRS. The structure is confusing. In an effort to be collaborative, they’re working with us, but whether they get our approval or not, they get their funding. We’d like to see more complexity in regards to outreach to our centers that we’ve invested tens of millions of dollars in for these at-risk and vulnerable populations.”
3. Commissioners approved agreement to reduce flood impacts associated with the Steamboat Irrigation Ditch: Following the 2017 flood-water overtopping of the Steamboat Irrigation Ditch and subsequent impact to residential property and ranches located below the irrigation ditch, the Western Regional Water Commission approved a funding request for engineering analysis of a portion of the irrigation ditch. Today the Board of Commissioners approved aninterlocal agreement between the County and the Western Regional Water Commission (WRWC) to conduct that evaluation which will study storm and flood water flows, the upstream watershed that contributes to the impacts, and ditch capacity analysis. The resulting report will identify alternative ways to reduce flooding and mitigate downstream impacts of flood waters. The project is funded entirely by the Western Regional Water Commission and Washoe County Engineering and the City of Reno Public Works will work together on this project.
4. Commissioners accepted donation of a flashing beacon system to improve school crossing safety: Students walking to school this year in one Sun Valley neighborhood will do so with the added protection of a new “rectangular rapid flashing beacon system” (RRFB), donated to Washoe County by Renown Health/Safe kids Washoe County. A total of six beacon systems will be installed in the region, and today the Board of County Commissioners accepted the donation of one to be placed near Desert Skies Middle School.
“We want to thank Renown,” Commission Vice-Chair Marsha Berkbigler said. “They’re always stepping forward to help our children.”
5. A grant to clean up the Truckee River and support vulnerable populations encamped there was funded: Furthering Washoe County’s strategic objective to serve vulnerable populations, the Commission accepted a $179,932 grant from the Community Foundation of Western Nevada Truckee River Fund to support the work of the regional Built For Zero homeless initiative and improve water quality by reducing the amount of pollution in the river as a result of encampments along and near the Truckee River. The number of unsheltered people camped along the river is currently not tracked, so this project in partnership with the Karma Box Project will establish an outreach team to count this population by name and need and empower them to help clean the area and maintain it. This will also increase the number of individuals who can be placed in housing and other support programs and reduce the need for encampments by the river. The grant will also pay for collection containers for sharp objects to be installed and river cleanups conducted, which will lead to better water quality and better quality of life for all residents.
“This is a big part of our work through Human Services with the homeless and vulnerable populations, and it's been impressive how quickly Manager Brown has been able to mobilize individuals to take this one and really drive this,” Chair Lucey said. “I want to appreciate and recognize commissioners Hartung and Jung for their work on the river. We have to take care of the river, it’s one of our greatest assets.”