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Cares Campus land purchase delayed after Housing Authority adds hundreds of conditions to sale

By Bob Conrad

The Washoe County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday delayed the purchase of nearly five acres adjacent to the Nevada Cares Campus. 

The vote to delay the $5 million purchase came after a deputy district attorney said the property’s owner, the city’s Reno Housing Authority, added nearly 300 conditions to the sale at the last minute.

The property will be used for homeless services as part of the Nevada Cares Campus.

But six underground fuel storage tanks at the site may be contaminating the property. Had commissioners approved the purchase, the county would be on the hook to clean up any potential contamination.

Assistant District Attorney Nathan Edwards said RHA added nearly 300 conditions to the sale at the last minute, which did not give attorneys enough time to review suggested changes prior to the commissioners’ meeting.

“Yesterday evening at around 5:30 Reno Housing Authority’s staff sent over to county staff a list of changes from RHA,” he said. “RHA’s [legal] counsel had done a review of the purchase and sale agreement and made recommended additions and changes and moving things around, and things of that nature. That came over to us this morning at about 5:30 a.m.”

One of the proposed changes was for the county to do an environmental assessment on the property “but the county is responsible for the clean-up costs if contamination is revealed by the assessment,” Edwards added.

He further said informal discussions with city and RHA staff indicated RHA could share clean-up costs. 

“Now the provision is essentially saying, ‘County, you buy it, you own it, it’s your cleanup, it’s your cleanup cost,’” he told commissioners.

That was on top of 278 other changes to the agreement proposed by RHA. 

The phased development of the remainder of the Nevada Cares Campus includes permanent supportive housing, labeled here as Phase 4, on property the county plans to purchase from Reno Housing Authority. Image: Washoe County

Commissioner Vaughn Hartung said commissioners need more time to review that many changes.

“I know there is a great deal of desire to move forward on this … so I want to look before we leap,” he said.

Commissioners voted to revisit the contract at the July 12, 2022 commission meeting. 

The county is leasing the property now, and RHA could, prior to the next commission meeting, sell the property to another seller.

“Hopefully they’re not going to turn around and sell this from under us,” said Commissioner Alexis Hill.

RHA’s executive director said the item was placed on the agenda prematurely.

“RHA continues to negotiate the sale of property located at 1775 East 4th Street to Washoe County.  The details of the Purchase and Sale Agreement had not been finalized by both parties before the item was prematurely placed on the Board of County Commissioners agenda,” said Heidi McKendree, RHA’s interim executive director. “The revisions presented to Washoe County earlier this week were RHA’s first revisions to the Purchase and Sale Agreement.

“The number of revisions stated during the meeting reflected even minor changes in punctuation which are not uncommon during preliminary review of such a document.”

Other commission actions

The following is provided by county staff and edited by This Is Reno.

Broadband access at Gerlach

Washoe County is expanding broadband internet access to the rural areas of Washoe County. The board approved a contract with Digital Technology Solutions (DTS) and a memorandum of understanding with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. 

The project will construct and install fiber-optics cable from Nixon to the Gerlach Library that will provide high speed Internet access to the library, schools, network infrastructure, public safety entities, as well as further opportunity to offer high speed internet access to the community in the Gerlach region. 

The cost of the construction, $2.4 million, is funded by and in partnership with the State of Nevada Office of Science Innovation and Technology, the FCC’s matching and ERate Reimbursement Program funds. The ongoing monthly internet fees will be paid by Washoe County through the State E-Rate program which is 40% of the monthly fees in an amount not to exceed $12,588 annually.

Vicious dog code to get updates

The board started the process to change county code related to dangerous and vicious dogs. Washoe County Regional Animal Services requested the board initiate an update to Washoe County Code Chapter 55, the last update having been made in 2015. 

Possible code changes include the following:

  • Amend the county’s current definition of a dangerous dog to include two categories: (1) dangerous and (2) vicious; currently the only category is “dangerous.” 
  • Clarify definitions of “animal” to include dogs, cats, and livestock, “substantial bodily harm” and “provocation,” and refine the exceptions to a dangerous or vicious dog determination.  
  • Provide standardized, department-issued signage to be posted on properties containing dangerous or vicious dogs.  
  • Expand the approved housing for keeping of a dangerous or vicious dog to include the owner’s dwelling, and update requirements in the event an outdoor enclosure is needed to standardize the size requirements and allow wider use of commercially available kennels.  
  • Differentiate the liability insurance requirements: (1) $150,000 for dangerous dogs and (2) $250,000 for vicious dogs. (Currently $250,000 for all dangerous dogs).  
  • Strengthen requirements when the owner of a dangerous or vicious dog elects to relocate the dog within Washoe County, or move the dog outside of Washoe County.  
  • Strengthen requirements when the owner of a dog who has been declared potentially dangerous, dangerous or vicious in another jurisdiction elects to introduce that dog into Washoe County from another jurisdiction.  
  • Strengthen requirements when the owner of a dog that is awaiting a dangerous or vicious determination hearing elects to transfer ownership of the dog to another person.  
  • Specify and update requirements for keeping a dangerous or vicious dog.  
  • Clarify when a dog who is awaiting a dangerous or vicious dog determination hearing can be impounded, as well as when a declared dangerous or vicious dog can be impounded.  
  • Add a new code section to grant authority to a Washoe County Administrative Hearing Officer to order a dog be euthanized if WCRAS requests that the animal be euthanized prior to the hearing (notice + opportunity for dog owner to be heard at hearing), and egregious specified criteria is proven at the hearing.  
  • Repeal a section in current code that criminalizes the harboring or transferring ownership of a vicious dog, as this code section is duplicative of state law.  
  • Update the penalties section of WCC Chapter 55 to reflect current practices.  
  • Clarify that it is unlawful to refuse to quarantine/surrender for impoundment for purposes of quarantine a biting animal or animal suspected of rabies which the Rabies Control Authority has ordered to be quarantined.

Board extends Cares Campus property lease

In December 2021, Washoe County leased a 2-acre facility adjacent to the Nevada Cares Campus from the Reno Housing Authority in order to provide emergency overflow shelter space and construction staging with the intent to fully purchase the property. The current lease is slated to expire June 30, 2022, so the Board approved an extension of the lease through Aug. 30, 2022, ending upon the purchase of the property. 

Washoe County plans to construct a 50-unit, supportive housing project on the eastern side of the RHA parcel as well as use the existing long structure on the southern side of the parcel for overflow shelter and a resource center. 

Construction is set to begin in July 2022 and the extended lease will allow access to the electricity supply located at the main structure on the RHA property immediately while the sale is in process.

Commission approves $4 million security contract

Since July 2018, Allied Universal Security has provided armed and unarmed security services for Washoe County.

Through 2022, these services were provided under a joinder to the State of Nevada contract for security services. 

On April 11, 2022, the Washoe County Purchasing Division released a request for proposals to provide security services. Four proposals were received, and Allied Universal Security was found to be the lowest cost responsive, responsible bidder. The one-year contract was approved for just over $4 million.  

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