“We may have lost a battle, but we have not lost the war,” Mineral County Economic Development executive director Shelley Hartmann explained to the Independent-News after hearing news that the Mineral County Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 to participate in the Sierra Region Development Authority.
Commissioner Garth Price had presented the agenda item requesting permission from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) to go with the Sierra Region Development Authority. The item was heard at the March 6 commissioners meeting. The item had been tabled at the request of Commissioner Christine Hoferer so that she could educate herself more on the matter at hand.
Hartmann discussed the history of economic development history for the State of Nevada. She explained that Mineral County is already part of the Sierra Region and if the commissioners choose to take funding and give it to Rob Hooper with Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA) out of Carson City, they may experience the same results as Churchill County who joined forces with Hooper to only later exit the services he gave.
Hartmann, who has served as MCEDA executive director for 15 years, stated that she is currently in “talks” with Top Rail to use the ARMS agreement at the Hawthorne Army Depot to store boxcars on the facility.
James Utterback, president of MCEDA, advised the commissioners that the rumor on the street to defund Highway 95 Rural Development Authority is just a rumor. He asked that the commissioners hold off on a decision until a decision regarding this funding has been set into stone. He is worried that Hooper would take Mineral County’s money and give no services.
“I feel what we have been doing for the past ten plus year’s isn’t working,” Price told those in attendance after being questioned as to why he would like to go with NNDA. “Rob has been successful everywhere he has gone from Storey to Carson City to Douglas.”
Hartmann explained to the Independent-News that her facility receives $61,000 in funding, currently. Taking these funds away from her not only hinders economic development but also that services provided for employment opportunities, business planning and even unemployment services such as helping people to build resumes and fill out applications.
After questioned by David Bowen at the commissioners meeting, Price explained that even if the commissioners choose to go with the Sierra Region Development Authority, a letter of approval from the governor’s office would first have to be received.
Sheri Samson questioned the commissioners if their records were subpoenaed, would there be serial meetings happening and would an open meeting law item be violated? Commissioner Christine Hoferer stated that was absolutely not happening with her. Commissioner Chris Hegg stated he had spent a full day in Carson City and a year, independently, working with Hooper. Samson asked if it was a personal vendetta and wanted to clear the air, publicly and on record.
Former Mineral County Commissioner Richard Bryant told Hegg and Price that they were young and inexperienced. “What has happened to Hawthorne? We are a one business town,” he told the commissioners. “Times are hard in Mineral County. We have the highest tax rates in Nevada with two assessments included,” he would also point out the drug problem and housing issues. “If you don’t support it – it’s not going to happen.”
Hoferer reiterated that she had not spoken to anyone outside of a commissioners meeting, having even invited those who had a stake in the item, to come to the meeting and discuss the topic in the open setting. She asked that Hooper come to the meeting and give his recommendations for Mineral County and stated she was not ready to make a decision regarding economic development given the information presented.
Cheryl Gonazles with Western Nevada Development District spoke up regarding economic development in rural counties and the funding these organizations. “Western Nevada Development District is out of the department of commerce and is federally funded,” she explained. She stated that one of the large funding that Mineral County received was the development of the Hawthorne Industrial Park.
Price told the Independent-News after the meeting, “After many years of nothing happening in Mineral County, I think it’s time we try something else.”
Hartmann was given the opportunity to speak after the meeting and said, “I believe it’s malfeasance when your county commissioners taken funding out of the local community and give it to somebody in Carson City who is only gonna be here one or two days a week.”
Price made a motion in the meeting to write a letter to the Governor’s Office on Economic Development requesting to participate in Sierra Region Development Authority. When asked for a second on the motion, Hoferer denied the request. Hegg seconded the motion. It passed with Hegg and Price voting in favor, Hoferer voted no.
“I am excited to finally be included in a regional discussion concerning economic development. NNDA not only has a tribal component but the many partners they bring to the table to assist our future goals and create a true concept of growth zones is an amazing opportunity. Our county will be well informed from here on with our direction and overall bang for the buck with NNDA is well worth the investment in my opinion,” Hegg explained on Tuesday after the commissioner meeting.
“The county, when they make it personal politics and hurt the whole community because of their personal politics, it’s a sad day,” Hartmann concluded.
As for now, Mineral County Economic Development Authority is still housed at the Hawthorne Convention Center and doing business as usual.