The following are highlights from today’s Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting:
1. Washoe County security administrator presented an overview of election safety: With the 2020 General Election just around the corner, voter safety and election security is top of mind. Washoe County Security Administrator Ben West presented an overview of the county’s precautions for Election Day. The Registrar of Voters has been in close communication with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and police departments of the City of Sparks and City of Reno.
“The culture surrounding this election season and COVID-19 have made this a unique election for everyone. I’ve had meetings with the registrar of voters and Allied Universal Security that started back in February this year. We then went into meetings with the Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies this summer,” West said. “We created a resource guide for our election polling place managers, and that provides an easy guide that is specific to each polling location. Security preparation is in place with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office including monitoring voting locations throughout the day.”
Commission Chair Bob Lucey added: “I appreciate all of the work and time you have worked with the registrar of voters. I’ve heard about all of the cooperation at our sites, security has been tremendous, inviting and friendly remaining calm. As we move through the next week, we are in good hands between the security administrator and the Sheriff’s Office.”
2. Washoe County manager presented a summary of CARES Act federal assistance passed and allocated so far this year: Manager Eric Brown provided information on the county’s use of CARES Act funding. Washoe County, City of Sparks, and City of Reno received regional funding from the federal CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) in the amount of $86.1 million. Of that amount, Washoe County received $20.2 million. The first half, $10.1 million, was allocated to Washoe County earlier this year, with the second half expected to be received in the coming months. As can be expected in a health crisis, most of the funding in the first $10.1 million allocation (64 percent) was used to address public health and medical expenses including a quarantine facility, personal protective equipment (PPE), protections for the homeless, public outreach, COVID testing, contact tracing, and alternate medical care.
A plan for a second allocation of funds of just over $10 million builds on the foundation of public health and safety, paying for contact tracing within the school district, quarantine facilities, and a large regional homeless shelter to mitigate the risk of disease sweeping through the unsheltered population. Other expenses in the second allocation of funds include building up the regional stockpile of PPE ($1.25 million), the cost of technology to expand remote hearings and trials at the courts while adding infrastructure to support in-person jury trials, and augmenting the county’s technology to support telework for its more than 20 departments.
“As the CARES funds are supposed to be directly supportive of COVID-19 efforts, one of the things we’ve asked of staff is to roll out messaging. When you look at the areas most impacted by COVID-19, it’s imperative we get messaging out to those areas,” Chair Lucey said. “So many individuals may not be prepared and will propagate the spread of the disease. So we need to do massive outreach and contact them about testing, sanitation, quarantine, and I’d like to see that outreach get going as soon as possible.”
The Commission also approved a subgrant of CARES Act funding of just under $58,000 to the Nevada System of Higher Education, Washoe Cooperative Extension, for distance learning training and support. Washoe Cooperative Extension teaches health and nutrition and provides economic development educational programs for the community. It has identified a gap in achievement and opportunity as disadvantaged youth fall further behind due to a lack of access to education. This grant will help to bridge that gap and address the needs related to distance learning.
3. Commissioners approved a resolution to support the Governor’s Bowl Park as a regional emergency homeless shelter location: COVID-19 social-distancing protocols have reduced capacity at the Community Assistance Center in downtown Reno. Women and families moved to the newly opened Our Place campus in August 2020, and an emergency shelter was established for the remaining residents, but it is temporary and will not provide adequate shelter through the cold winter months.
Governor’s Bowl Park has been identified as a new emergency shelter location and was unanimously supported by the Community Homelessness Advisory Board (CHAB) on September 14. The City of Reno passed a resolution of support on September 22, City of Sparks passed a similar resolution October 26, and today the Washoe County Board of County Commissioners also unanimously passed a resolution of support.
“I am in support of this and we need to continue to address the homeless needs of our community as this keeps growing,” Chair Lucey said. “The location is great, near bus stops and public transit areas. There is a lot of access for regional staff and caseworkers to get to this property. Vice-Chair Marsha Berkbigler has been a strong advocate on this issue and represents this Commission on the CHAB and done a lot of work on this. This is one of those issues that all three entities agree on and are working on together.
4. Nevada Rainbow for Girls made a donation to support children in foster care: County Commissioners accepted a $2,500 donation from The Nevada Rainbow for Girls to Washoe County Human Services Agency in support of children in foster care. The Nevada Rainbow for Girls teaches many life lessons, such as the importance of giving back to communities, leadership skills, time management and sisterhood.
“Throughout the year, our members on the local level, choose different organizations to serve and raise money for,” said Public Relations Co-Director of The Nevada Rainbow for Girls Megan Sakelarios. “We hope that our donation and collections have been beneficial and will make a difference in the lives of countless children at Kids Kottage.”
5. Commissioners approved the nomination of Jason Geddes to the Board of Directors of the Nevada Clean Energy Fund: The Nevada Clean Energy Fund was established by the Nevada Legislature in 2017 to improve the standard of living by promoting clean energy projects and increasing investment in such projects, along with several other mandates related to clean energy. Jason Geddes, Ph.D., was appointed to the Board of Regents by Gov. Kenny Guinn in 2006 and has worked in various environmental fields and roles since 1990. He holds a doctorate in Environmental Sciences and Health Environment Chemistry Option and a B.S. in Biochemistry.