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Commissioners hear first reading of vicious dog ordinance updates, details on  broadband improvements

By Kristen Hackbarth

The Washoe Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday heard the first reading of an ordinance to update portions of Washoe County Code Chapter 55 dealing with vicious and dangerous dogs. 

The reading proceeded despite the objection of Commissioner Jeanne Herman, who requested the agenda item be postponed.

“I’ve had a lot of calls on this from citizens and they’re concerned about the possible lack of authority on the part of the employees in animal services having the legal stature to arrest people…and decide whether it’s a misdemeanor or not,” Herman said.

Commission Chair Vaughan Hartung disagreed with postponing the reading, noting that the changes had been recommended in February by the Animal Advisory Board. 

Commissioners started the process to update Chapter 55 in late June.

Regional Animal Services Director Shyanne Schull said some of the changes to the code clarify existing items. One of the larger changes is the identification of vicious dogs in addition to dangerous dogs, which are already defined in the code. 

“Currently we only have dangerous, and so everything gets lobbed into that categorization, which isn’t really fair if the dog attacks the neighbor’s chicken or if the dog attacks the neighbor’s child,” Schull said. “Adding that second tier of vicious…mirrors [state law].”

Commissioner Hartung asked why the county’s code needed to be updated if state law already has the tiers for dangerous and vicious dogs in place.

Schull said the state law is vague and doesn’t have any requirements animal owners have to adhere to based on whether their dog falls within one of those tiers. She added that since 2015 with the last round of updates was made to Chapter 55 they’ve been able to find where the weaknesses are in the code and refine it.

Another area animal services worked on, according to Schull, is “expanding the opportunities for compliance and giving people the opportunity to really be responsible pet owners if they do have a dangerous or vicious animal.”

Changes to the ordinance would make it unlawful for an owner to refuse to quarantine a dog that’s bitten a person or has been in close contact with a known or suspected case of rabies  and been ordered to be quarantined by an animal control officer. 

Other changes include definitions of dangerous versus vicious dogs, rules for euthanizing a dog determined to be vicious, requirements for registering, relocating or transferring ownership of dangerous or vicious dogs, and updating criminal and civil penalties for violating codes within Chapter 55. 

A second reading of the bill will be heard Sept. 13. 

Broadband infrastructure and equity programs discussed

Nevada is receiving “a generational amount of money” to improve broadband access, according to Brian Mitchell from the Nevada Office of Science, Innovation and Technology (OSIT). Mitchell presented to commissioners on broadband infrastructure projects the state is working on in portions of Washoe County.

Commissioners in June approved a contract with Digital Technology Solutions and agreement with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe to expand broadband service from Nixon to Gerlach. That project is funded in part by OSIT. 

Now  OSIT is making plans for building broadband plans across the rest of the state, including other parts of Washoe County. 

“We’re going to have to be very efficient with the use of funds… We know there are many needs and the needs are far-flung in the state,” Mitchell said. “We want to focus on making long term investments.”

A map of broadband locations in the portion of Washoe County between Pyramid and Tahoe lakes. The green and blue note better broadband access, while yellow/orange/red indicate worse access. Image: OSIT
A map of broadband locations in the portion of Washoe County between Pyramid and Tahoe lakes. The green and blue note better broadband access, while yellow/orange/red indicate worse access. Image: OSIT

Areas considered underserved by broadband within the county are largely in the North Valleys and rural areas between Spanish Springs and Pyramid Lake, as well as the southernmost parts of the county. 

Commissioner Alexis Hill said Lake Tahoe is also underserved, despite what the map in Mitchell’s presentation showed. 

“It’s an area that gets overburdened actually because of the tourism that comes in there and that’s a problem if there’s an emergency or people or trying to get public transit on their phones or all those other services,” Hill said. 

Mitchell said his team is well-versed in the broadband challenges at Lake Tahoe and is already working with the Tahoe Prosperity Center to find solutions. 

One of the programs Mitchell said is already in place is the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal program that provides a $30 per month subsidy for broadband access to low-income families. Mitchell said about 35% of those who are eligible in Washoe County are already signed up for the program. 

He said Nevada OSIT will work with Washoe County to raise awareness about the program to get more eligible people signed up for the subsidies. 

Mitchell said expanding fiber to state and other government buildings is also a priority, followed by expanding the fiber internet infrastructure to connect unserved homes and businesses. Neither of those projects will happen for at least another year. 

Other commission business

Provided by Washoe County and edited by This Is Reno

Board approves settlement with family of Joel Edwards. Commissioners approved a $459,317 settlement with the family of Joel Edwards to be paid from the county’s risk management fund. Edwards was killed Oct. 16, 2020 when Washoe County Sheriff’s Office deputy Jade Brinson turned into Edwards’ lane while responding to a call. According to reporting by KRNV, Brinson did not have his lights on and said he did not see Edwards’ vehicle. Brinson pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter, a misdemeanor, in November 2021 and paid a $1,200 fine. He is back to work for WCSO. In the settlement Washoe County claimed no liability in the accident. 

Board approves agreement for law enforcement services during Burning Man. Commissioners approved an agreement between Burning Man Project and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office to provide reimbursement for extra staffing in the Gerlach/Empire area during Burning Man, which starts Aug. 28. The cost is estimated around $130,000. More than 70,000 people gather on the Black Rock Desert for the annual event, which increases the demand for law enforcement and personnel in the communities near the event.

Washoe County presents bill draft requests for 2023 Legislative Session. Washoe County is permitted to introduce two bill draft requests (BDRs) each legislative session. Of six suggested BDRs, Washoe County staff is recommending two. The first would provide authority to the commissioners to pass an ordinance that would allow the Recorder’s Office to review county records and redact discriminatory language and covenants. In 2021, this discriminatory language came to light, and Commissioner Alexis Hill allocated funding so that homeowners could submit a denouncement of the discriminatory language on their property records. Due to the current law, the language could not be removed. The second BDR would allow county vehicles used for construction, maintenance and road repair to use blue tail lamps to enhance roadway safety. 

Commissioners proclaim September as National Emergency Preparedness Month. National Emergency Preparedness Month is observed by governments throughout the United States as a reminder to prepare for any type of emergency, natural or man-made. County Emergency Manager Kelly Echeverria introduced community partners such as fire departments, Sheriff’s Office and school district. “None of what we do as a program could happen without these entities standing here with me,” Echeverria said. “I thank them for their participation in helping our community become more prepared, and as a result, more resilient.” Echeverria also presented each of the commissioners with a challenge coin as a thank you for the proclamation.

Commission Chair recommends District Special Funds to Reno Sparks Pop Warner. Three youth members of the Reno Sparks Pop Warner football program joined commissioners on the dais for the first portion of Tuesday’s meeting. They were there as part of a proposal to distribute $5,000 of District 4 Special Funds, proposed by Chair Vaughn Hartung, to the organization. The boys visited Hartung’s home selling chocolate bars on a hot day, spurring the proposal. “These gentlemen came to my door selling chocolate bars for Pop Warner. It was 100 degrees outside and they could have been doing anything other than this, but they were out soliciting donations for their team,” Hartung said. “They were working as a group to fund their team. I’m extremely proud of this kind of effort because youth sports builds that team spirit and continuity, and builds leadership, and helps them function as a group, even when they disagree.”

Board approves grant for Lemmon Valley flood and stormwater plan. The Nevada Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, awarded $450,000 for the Lemmon Valley Flood and Stormwater Advance Assistance Design and Planning Project. Washoe County will match the award up to $150,000, either in cash or in-kind. This grant will be used to plan, analyze and develop a design for construction projects to address the flood and stormwater needs of Lemmon Valley. The funding will also allow for identification and planning for upstream sedimentation basins and enhance new and expanded wildlife and wetlands areas.

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