The Lincoln County Regional Development Authority (LCRDA) held a meeting June 10.
During public comment, Colleen Cottam discussed the need for a new roof at the Alamo Senior Center and said the estimates to replace the existing roof are between $10,000 and $20,000. Cottam said because the building is owned by the county, it’s not eligible for grants, and the county is against using volunteer labor. She was advised to meet with the Regional Development Authority for suggestions on how to fund the roof replacement. Additionally, it was suggested she contact the contractor from Ely who is replacing the roof on the elementary school in Alamo to get a cost estimate.
Commissioner Varlin Higbee said the board of county commissioners is aware of the need for a new roof but does not have funding. Development Authority Executive Director Jeff Fontaine said he was planning to see Toni Acuff to discuss the roof project.
Fontaine referred to the June 4 financial report and noted the changes since the last financial report that was approved April 29. He said that with less than a month remaining in the fiscal year, LCRDA’s budget is in good shape. A motion was unanimously passed to approve both the financial report and invoices.
Next there was a discussion about possible approval for authorizing Fontaine to submit a proposal on behalf of the Authority to the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) for funding. Unaware that the Authority is required to apply every two years for funding, Fontaine missed the May 21 deadline. GOED gave him an extension and he submitted the proposal on May 27.
Fontaine thanked Councilman Regan Gubler and Higbee for their support and noted he sent an email with the application to the board members.
Representatives from GOED had planned to participate in the meeting via teleconference, but when they didn’t call in, Fontaine went on to discuss the new positions for the Caliente Youth Center (CYC) that were approved by the legislature. There was discussion by board members regarding current vacancies at CYC and whether it will be possible to fill new positions.
Chairman Dave Hurd suggested LCRDA reach out to the community through the Lincoln County Record and other channels to try and recruit former residents back to the area to fill the positions. Tommy Rowe suggested inviting the CYC superintendent to the next LCRDA meeting to discuss how to fill the vacancies.
Next, Rodney Mehring from Blue Lizard Farm in Panaca provided some background on hemp and described its uses for food, fiber and medicine. He said there were at least ten hemp grows in Lincoln County last year. He also said the 2014 Farm Bill authorized state departments of agriculture to regulate hemp and that nationally, the hemp market was $561 million in 2018 and projected to be $22 billion in 2022. Mehring said hemp requires less water than alfalfa and 14 times less water than cotton. He sends his product out of the county for processing because the processing equipment is not readily available, and it’s also expensive.
There was further discussion between Stephen Clarke and Mehring about the processing equipment and use of hemp as a biomass. Mehring concluded by saying that from a local farming perspective, alfalfa farming can yield $1,500 per acre per year while organized hemp grows can yield $50,000 per acre.
Clarke said he had a very good meeting with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) district office in Ely regarding the Pinyon Juniper Utilization Concept his company, Quan Verge Inc., is pursuing. He said the next step is for him to meet with the State BLM Contracting Officer to discuss a long-term contract to harvest pinyon juniper. There was discussion about possible locations for Clarke to set up pilot plants to process pinyon juniper. Fontaine said BLM Ely District staff suggested county gravel pits would be good locations.
Clarke said it would be best to conduct his pilot study on public land, so he knows what to expect. He said the concept is to use mobile pilot plants in shipping containers. Higbee offered to assist with the BLM contracting and Jay Schofield offered to assist with assembling the equipment needed to chip the pinyon juniper.
Next, Fontaine confirmed no logo ideas were submitted by local high school students in response to the Authority’s contest and, at the previous meeting, the board subsequently directed Ben Rowley to develop some concepts. Rowley said that after researching other development authority logos, he developed several designs that were printed and available at the meeting. The board discussed the need for the logo to reflect the economy of Lincoln County. A motion was passed to select the logo depicting the State of Nevada with Lincoln County highlighted by a star with the modification of the background color to a light green.
Fontaine said he was aware of some issues related to the lack of infrastructure at the industrial parks and asked the board to direct him on how to proceed with marketing. Gubler said there is water, sewer and power available at the Meadow Valley Park but the main problem is the high cost of accessing the Union Pacific main line. Higbee said there is no water to the Alamo Park. Emilia Cargill suggested that Fontaine investigate whether designating the areas as Opportunity Zones would help bring in private investment.
Fontaine said he applied on behalf of the Authority to have Lincoln County designated an Opportunity Zone last year, but the governor didn’t approve. He said one of the projects in that application was to bring water to the Alamo Industrial Park. Cargill suggested that Fontaine revisit the Opportunity Zone designation. There was further discussion about the importance of having rail access to spur development in the County.
Chairman Hurd then read a report prepared by LCAT Chairman Marcia Hurd.
Next, Chairman Hurd mentioned an online survey about resource needs being conducted by the Lincoln County Resource Conservation District.
Fontaine said he was invited by GOED to attend the first ever Reno Venture Conference. He added that the CDBG Advisory Committee approved funding for the second phase of the Caliente Depot’s restoration project.
Fontaine said Congressman Steven Horsford contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and was waiting to hear back about funding for the Alamo and Panaca airports.
The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) sent Fontaine preliminary plans for the multi-use path between the Caliente Depot and Kershaw-Ryan State Park and he said he would forward them to the county and city for any input prior to NDOT’s public workshop in Caliente in July.
In response to a question from Hurd about Coyote Springs, Cargill said they continue to push forward against State Engineer Order 1303 and have a report to show there is an adequate and sustainable water supply for the subdivision of land at Coyote Springs.
The UNR Cooperative Extension has begun searching for a replacement for Holly Gatzke as the Lincoln County agent. The position requires a minimum of a master’s degree, with a PhD preferred.
The next LCRDA meeting will be held July 22 as a teleconference.