During public comment at the recent Caliente City Council budget meeting, Panaca Fire Chief Kerry Lee said, “Last week your fire department responded to help us on a structure fire. We really appreciate it. They came right up; they were a huge asset. It was actually one of our fireman’s houses and your volunteer department has already made a donation to him and his family, as are other fire departments. I just want to say thanks. You guys have a great department and great guys and we really, really appreciate it. We were super shorthanded that day.”
The Pioche Fire Department also responded.
Before starting on the budget there were items that had been tabled from the March 15 meeting and put on the agenda for this meeting, including the parcel map change for Rainbow Land & Cattle Company LLC and J&J Trust, affecting APN # 013-14-018 and # 013-14-019.
Because it was listed as two to three parcels, it was put back on this meeting’s agenda because two different entities are owners. As such, the council felt that there needed to be two separate maps showing the properties, because they have to be done separately.
The Planning Commision reviewed this in their meeting and all voted to approve the changes.
Though Councilmen John Ahlstrom and Cody Christensen and Accountant Dan McArthur had let the council know that they would arrive late at the meeting, Ahlstrom advised through Attorney Dylan Frehner that he was in favor of this action.
Another item on the agenda was approving/denying the recommendation to the council to issue a Conditional Use Permit (“CUP”) for cultivation and production for cannabis to MJ Distributing Inc., parcels 2A and 1A.
This was also approved. Ahlstrom again made it known through Attorney Frehner that he was against both of these actions, just for the record.
Another item was to approve/deny the recommendation of a CUP for cultivation and production of cannabis to Caliente Development Company LLC. This was Todd Davis’s group, from Colorado, and would be on the old golf course. The recommendation was approved by the council.
After a break, the meeting resumed with a discussion on the budget and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. The city pays the county $75,000 a year, plus gas and jetpacks for two officers.
Christensen brought up the question, “Why are we paying anything at all to the county for public safety when we ( residents of Caliente) get the same level of law enforcement as everyone in the county and we pay the same taxes?”
Lee, now speaking as the Lincoln County Sheriff, told the council, “You’re an incorporated city, and incorporated cities have their own police department. Caliente used to have their own police chief and two officers and their own jail. Now we handle all the dispatch and answer all the 911 calls and cover the city. I think for $75,000, you’re getting a lot.”
Christensen went on to say, “When I was first on the council, the county paid us a chunk of money, more than they do now. Then they quit doing that.”
Referring to the $90,000 in road tax that had been going to the city for years before the county stopped, he continued, “We’re still paying our county tax, just like the rest of the county. The county should be kicking in something. They took that money from us they used to give. I feel like we’re entitled to that. We get the same law enforcement here in Caliente as any other place in the county. We pay the same taxes for it. I feel like we’re paying for it twice. If you live in the city of Caliente, you pay for law enforcement two times, once in your property taxes and here again. If they can’t pay us the money, then they need to pick up the tab for public enforcement. We’re paying property taxes that are used for the sheriff’s department already. It doesn’t seem right; it’s not fair to the citizens of Caliente.”
Christensen added, “We love the sheriff’s department, don’t get me wrong.”
Councilman Victor Jones stated that there are concerns, seeing as the city provided an office upstairs and they don’t have the presence they used to have. They also need someone from the LCSO at least once a month to provide the council meeting with a report.
Ahlstrom stated that it seems that, if the contract is for $75,000, “we’re paying more with the fuel and jetpacks.”
Frehner and Lee noted that neither of them can find a contract and have been working on a handshake. These items will be on the agenda in another budget meeting.
Water and sewer were the major concerns within the budget.
Auditor Dan McArthur asked, “We have just so much money to work with. Do you want to work within the rates you presently have and try to get things taken care of? Or are there things in the system that cause us to raise rates?”
The city clerk stated, “Part of the issue that needs to be discussed is the Water Line Project, which has been approved; we should be getting a letter from [Community Development Block Grants] to begin. If we have to pay out of pocket for supplies, this is not what we should be doing. The grant is, this is how much money you have and it’s for all your services and supplies. The ultimate theory is if it doesn’t cover the project, we cut back on the project.”
The project has been cut back, but there will still be out-of-pocket expenses. Also discussed was a $1 rate increase in water and standby fees for empty residences and properties, which would help cover the upkeep of city utilities.