The Lincoln County Regional Development Authority (LCRDA) held a teleconference meeting April 20.
During public comment, Dr. Don Deever of the University of Nevada Extension announced the University of Nevada, Reno, will be hosting a town hall for small businesses. Deever said people who are interested should send him an email and he will forward the Zoom link. He also said the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be hosting a Zoom seminar on Wednesday of every week to help producers tap into funding for agriculture producers.
Budget items were discussed. Commissioner Varlin Higbee noted the county is facing a possible $1.4 million shortfall due to the loss of the detention center contract with North Las Vegas and a possible 30-percent reduction in consolidated taxes.
A motion was unanimously approved to table the budget for the time being.
Executive Director Jeff Fontaine said he has been participating in weekly meetings with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), other regional development authorities and federal and state agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA), regarding updates on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He thanked Ben Rowley and Deever for working with him and on their own to post information for businesses in Lincoln County. He said Rowley and Deever have agreed to continue posting information on the Lincoln County Facebook page and other popular Facebook pages in the county.
Fontaine said there are a lot of resources and information available to Lincoln County business owners, but many do not have listed email addresses.
Additionally, Fontaine discussed a few SBA programs, and other pertinent data he had been briefed on over the past several weeks and encouraged board members to let him know of any businesses in need of relief which may be unsure of how to apply for assistance. Lastly, he said a recovery package is anticipated that will include funding for two projects. He mentioned the Panaca and Alamo airports each received $20,000 to continue operations under the CARES Act.
Fontaine then discussed the Federal Lands Access Program grant application, which was sent to the Federal Highway Administration. A meeting is planned this month to select projects for further scoping. The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) indicated there could be a two-year delay in completing the Caliente to Kershaw-Ryan State Park multi-use path under the Transportation Alternatives Program grant. This could result in a possible construction timeline for summer 2022.
Work is ongoing on the Recreational Trails Program grant. Rowley has completed the countywide trails map and is continuing to work on individual community maps.
Banners have been ordered for the Off-Highway Vehicles Program Grant, and the kiosks in Alamo, Panaca and Pioche need to be installed. Fontaine said locations have preliminarily been identified in Alamo and Pioche but not in Panaca. He also said he will work with the Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) Commission to procure another two-sided kiosk for Barnes Canyon. Fontaine noted an agreement between the NDOT and Caliente for maintenance of the Meadow Valley Wash. Lincoln County’s application for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for $752,00 for flood control improvements on Airport Road in Pioche was approved. The Board for the Fund for Hospital Care to Indigent Care also approved $140,407 to help Lincoln County pay its Medicaid Match assessment for long-term care.
In response to a question from Chairman David Hurd, Councilman Tommy Rowe said the city approved using the second-ranked bidder for work on the Caliente Depot funded under its CDBG grant.
NDOT is continuing work on its state rail plan and is now using online meetings. Fontaine and Caliente Building Inspector Ken Dixon are participating and hope that others who have been invited can also participate. The goal is to have a coherent rail-based economic development and business growth plan. The belief is that there is ample private-sector capital that can be attracted to fund rail infrastructure in Nevada. Fontaine said the NDOT and its consultant, Strategic Rail Finance, recognize the need and potential for rail access and Lincoln County is one of six regions in Nevada being studied for rail development. NDOT is planning to hold a workshop to discuss the statewide plan in Caliente May 27 at 1:00 p.m.
Fontaine and Dr. Stephen Clarke of QuanVerge have been participating in teleconferences with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s Ely District Office regarding pinyon-juniper harvesting. The BLM is supporting a stewardship agreement with LCRDA with the goal being for LCRDA to perform the project for its own purposes rather than to benefit the BLM.
A key provision of the Federal Grant and Cooperation Agreement Act of 1977 establishes government-wide criteria for determining the appropriate criteria for funding activities and projects. Fontaine said QuanVerge will work through LCRDA to send BLM the plan of operations.
Fontaine and Clarke both thanked Higbee for participating on the last call and for his help and support with the project. Clarke said they can now draft language between BLM and LCRDA, along with a separate contract between LCRDA and QuanVerge. He said there are established players that want to contribute to the project.
A large-scale deployment will require a one-quarter to half-a-billion-dollar investment. Clarke said QuanVerge will get characterization of pinyon-juniper from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
Lincoln County Authority of Tourism (LCAT) Chair Marcia Hurd provided a written update on LCAT activities and said grants and funding through the Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) have been detoured, and therefore some promotional activities are on hold. State parks are closed. She said the good news is Lincoln County is still planned to be a “Destination Pilot” and LCAT is a member of the NCOT’s Director’s Group. Hurd said their biggest concern is how to maintain the tourism website. They may ask LCRDA to provide financial support.
Rowe said he has noticed a lot of people in the canyon, including multiple people mountain climbing. Higbee said the BLM has asked the sheriff to patrol Tule Desert for the same reason. Hurd asked about the status of oil and gas leases and Fontaine said he was not sure but would check into it.
Higbee asked about the possibility of charging a recreation fee in Lincoln County.
Board member Eric Bernal indicated he would talk to his boss about going to the rail workshop and said Lincoln County Power has the capability to provide single-phase development service to Crestline if it is selected for a rail siding and development.
Fontaine said he has been invited by Gerri Schroder from Workforce Connections to be on the leadership team to help certify Lincoln County as a Workforce Ready Community. He will need to attend a two-day training session. Higbee said he was supportive of the program and Workforce Connections would probably pay for travel. It was decided the next meeting will tentatively be May 27 at 4:30 p.m. at the Depot, to coincide with the NDOT Rail Summit. The date could be changed if the Rail Summit is not postponed or rescheduled.