Government employees and contractors working in Lemmon Valley have been directed not to engage citizens if they face harassment. That was the message interim County Manager Dave Solaro gave today to the Washoe Board of County Commissioners.
“I have directed the work crews to stop any work any time they feel unsafe based on the reactions of our citizens,” he said. “One of the things I want to make sure is our work crews go home every night. Safety is very important to Washoe County as a whole.”
Solaro’s comments come in the wake of ongoing flood issues in the area, a source of constant frustration for residents.
County Engineer Dwayne Smith in late August announced that road crews — employees and contractors — have been threatened and harassed while working on Swan Lake flooding.
Residents [were] purposefully going out of their lane to hit a puddle and splash their crew with water.”
“This has been a concern of mine, and I’ve also heard it voiced by the City of Reno,” Smith said.
Washoe County staff and contractors working in the area have experienced purposeful speeding up and driving toward them, cursing, yelling and other confrontational behavior, said county spokesperson Amy Ventetuolo.
“Last week our contracted driver reported people speeding up and swerving at him,” she said. “He actually came off the job and called us as he did not feel safe.”
A vendor handling pumping equipment said that “while working on Lemmon Drive, residents [were] purposefully going out of their lane to hit a puddle and splash their crew with water,” Venetuolo added.
A Lemmon Valley resident, commenting online, called Solaro’s statement today disingenuous.
“If there have truly been residents endangering workers safety and lives why are there no police reports?” asked Lori Beach. “From what I understand, it is a citable offense to endanger road crews. If residents are putting workers at risk, then yes, that must stop and those residents cited and held accountable for endangering the lives of the workers.”
Ventetuolo said that the crews “are working through weather and long shifts to have the residents and community treat them this way, [so it] is also impactful to their morale.”
City of Reno spokesperson Rebecca Venis confirmed today that their staff has also received similar reports.
“Road maintenance crews have experienced the following while conducting road and ditch maintenance work on Lemmon Drive: residents speeding up and driving towards them or very close to them, [and] residents cursing, flipping them off, and being confrontational with crews,” Venis said.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor, and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.