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County plans to launch reinvestment grant program

By Kristen Hackbarth

Washoe County expects to receive nearly $45 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds in mid-May to spend on projects through its Community Reinvestment Program. The funding is the second half of a total $91 million provided to the county since May of 2021.

The Community Reinvestment Program connects federal, state and grant funding to areas of need, such as infrastructure, nonprofits and community improvement programs. Funding sources have included the ARPA funds along with federal infrastructure funding, community development block grants and other federal grants and appropriations. 

County Community Reinvestment Manager, Gabrielle Enfield, on Tuesday provided an update on funding and spending plans for her program to members of the Washoe Board of County Commissioners during their regular meeting. 

Enfield said part of the plan is to provide community grants to local nonprofits with a focus on public health and reducing negative economic impacts through programs such as child care, homeless services, rental assistance or food security.

“What I would encourage this board to think about with the next group of money is how you’re going to help out your working and middle class families.”

Commissioner Alexis Hill suggested looking at nonprofits in the community and connecting grants with organizations and projects that can assist the work already being done at the county.

“I think there’s a real opportunity to find a great nexus and really do that transformational programming that we discussed at the beginning of this process,” Hill said. 

Enfield said that concept would be part of the grant application evaluation process. 

The initial round of grants is proposed to offer a total of $4 million, distributed in either small grants up to $50,000 or standard grants ranging from $50,000 up to $1 million. 

The process and procedures have yet to be set, but Enfield said she expects the grant application period to open June 1 and funding to be provided to organizations by Oct. 1. 

The remainder of this second portion of ARPA funds has yet to be dedicated to specific projects, Enfield said. Commissioners expressed concerns about the funding being used to support new staff members. 

“If we do decide to do staffing, what I want to see is a sustainability plan,” said Commissioner Vaughn Hartung. “I don’t want to go into this with hiring a bunch of [full time employees] and then we have no way to fund them when the economy turns down.”

Commissioner Kitty Jung also suggested looking at how ARPA funds are being spent across the community.

“I love what we’ve done with homeless services. I love the investment that we made into it because it’s the number one issue that people say is an issue here,” Jung said. “What I would encourage this board to think about with the next group of money is how you’re going to help out your working and middle class families, because they are paying this debt too.” 

Hill asked the Community Reinvestment team to look at parks and libraries as opportunities to distribute funding.

Other commission business

Commissioners Hartung and Bob Lucey began the meeting with another round of complaints aimed at the Nevada Department of Transportation. 

The comments came after Assembly candidate Tom Daly emailed Hartung on Sunday about “a tremendous crash of a pickup truck and a mid-size SUV on Mt. Rose highway.”

An advance warning signal on the Mt. Rose Highway near Thomas Creek Road. The signal was recently removed as part of a handful of changes made to warning lights on the highway. Image: NDOT

“NDOT’s actions are contributing to more, not less, accidents on SR431,” Daly wrote.

NDOT recently removed some advance warning signals (AWS) on Mt. Rose Highway, including the one near Thomas Creek Road. 

“With all of these changes that NDOT has unilaterally made on their own without any input from the community…we continue to have issues up and down the Mt. Rose Highway corridor, especially now that the AWS is out going up the hill,” Lucey said. 

Hartung said he’s seen an increase in skid marks leading up to every single stoplight on Pyramid Highway in recent weeks since the AWS lights were removed from that road as well. 

“It has made the highway more dangerous,” Hartung said, adding that NDOT didn’t take into account the speeds on the highway when making the decision to remove the AWS.

Hartung also said he and Lucey are awaiting the incident reports for the accident Daly mentioned.

Additional briefs provided by Washoe County and edited by This Is Reno:

Commissioners approved a transfer of $7.5 million from the general fund contingency. The funds will largely be used to support homelessness projects including $3 million for renovations at Our Place and Women’s Crossroads and $3 million for operating expenses at Nevada Cares Campus. An additional $300,000 will be used to cover increased caseload for Conflict Counsel, and the remaining $1.2 million will serve as a match for road construction projects near Gerlach. 

Approval was granted for 24 early voting locations and 57 election day vote centers for the June primary election. In addition to the early voting locations, a ballot drop box will be located at the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. Early voting is May 28 – June 10 and Election Day is June 14. 

County moves ahead for negotiations with two emergency foster care providers. Two providers – Three Angels Care and Call to Compassion – responded to the Human Service Agency’s request for bids for emergency foster care providers and were selected to move forward in negotiations. Both organizations have worked with HSA in the past, Three Angels Care since 2017 and Call to Compassion since 2017. 

Washoe County plans to address recreational shooting. Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding to work with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service to address recreational shooting in the region. There is currently no plan to address recreational target shooting, which impacts non-shooting recreationists and wildlife and can pose a wildfire threat.

“This is a way for all three agencies to be more coordinated with our response to changing needs. One of the first things we plan on doing is getting on the citizen advisory board meetings to talk about a survey for our community related to areas they’d like to see us study,” Assistant County Manager Dave Solaro said. “This is a really good way for us to continue the conversation in a meaningful way to make sure that the use of our federal lands is appropriate and safe.”

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