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Voters to decide on whether to make Warm Springs Valley a town

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Two petitions regarding an incorporated township for the Warm Springs and Palomino Valley area were given the go-ahead Tuesday by Washoe County Commissioners, who agreed to place both on the ballot in November.

The first petition requested a ballot measure. It was submitted to the Washoe County Registrar of Voters in February and signatures underwent verification in June.

The second petition, which was submitted in late June, requested the establishment of Warm Springs Valley via ordinance.

The proposed boundaries of Warm Springs Valley
The proposed boundaries of Warm Springs Valley

The proposed boundary on the first petition included Warm Springs and Palomino Valley, stretching north of Spanish Springs, but remaining west of Pyramid Lake and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation and east of the North Valleys planning area. The second petition outlined a smaller area.

According to state law, the minimum number of signatures for the petition to form an unincorporated town is 10% of the registered voters in its designated boundary who cast ballots in the preceding general election.

The required number of signatures to petition for a county ordinance is 51% or more of the number of voters within the designated boundaries who voted in the last preceding general election.

For the ordinance petition, there were 27 voters who voted within those boundaries in the 2018 general election. Of those signatures submitted for verification, 18 were deemed valid, which is 66.6%.

Commissioners received numerous comments via Zoom and voice mail from Warm Springs-area residents on both sides of the issue.

Julie Murphy said people circulating the petitions haven’t been forthcoming with plans.

“It appears a small and select minority are trying to incorrectly represent the majority,” Murphy said. “At no time have I been approached or received any information on this activity.”

Jeff Kuhn said he supports an incorporated township, which could mean more efficient postal service, and that the issue should go on the ballot for voters to decide.

“This petition has been legally submitted and I believe you guys are bound legally to step aside and for it to go on the ballot,” Kuhn told commissioners.

According to state law, services in an unincorporated town could include, but aren’t limited to, a cemetery, dump stations and sites, fire protection, flood control and drainage, trash collection, law enforcement, parks, street maintenance, and water distribution. It must also have an elected or appointed town advisory board with members who act as liaisons between their constituents and county commissioners. However, the county commission could make decisions that supersede the town advisory board.

Washoe County Commissioner Jeanne Herman.
Washoe County Commissioner Jeanne Herman.

Commissioner Jeanne Herman, whose district includes the proposed township, said residents there have struggled to communicate with Washoe County for the past few years.

“This is why the people in the valley decided to pursue this method of governing themselves,” Herman said. “We’d plan on eliminating the citizens advisory board and saving the county close to $50,000 per year.”

If a town is formed by way of the first petition, stated fiscal impact would require a special tax levy of approximately $.00011 for the residents that will be residing within the designated boundaries, according to Washoe County. However, the exact fiscal impact hasn’t been determined for this or the second scenario.

Washoe County Registrar Deanna Spikula said she’s been in contact with volunteers who are interested in writing pros and cons to ballot questions. She said such language would need drafting by mid-September so it could go in the sample ballots.

Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.

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