Reno City Council members on Wednesday interviewed four candidates to fill the Ward 3 council position and selected Miguel Martinez for the appointment.
On Oct. 12, the four finalists were selected from a list of 19 applicants to take the place of the Council member Oscar Delgado’s vacated Ward 3 seat. The finalists were Kyle Edgerton, Miguel Martinez, Courtney McKimmy and Christopher “Sean” Savoy.
Martinez is a Truckee Meadows Community College coordinator who has lived in Reno for 30 years. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish from the University of Nevada, Reno, and his Master’s of education from Virginia Tech.
The mayor and all council members, with the exception of Council member Jenny Brekhus, voted in favor of appointing Martinez. Brekhus voted against the selection, stating that she didn’t believe the ward seat should be filled by appointment because the appointee would feel that they “owed” something to the members who appointed them.
Recently appointed Ward 5 Council member Kathleen Taylor took issue with the comment, stating that she did not feel she owed anything to anyone other than the citizens of Reno.
Reese appointed to Regional Transportation Commission
Council member Devon Reese was appointed to a position on the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) board, on which former Council member Neoma Jardon served.
Council member Brekhus did not support the appointment, stating that she had wanted a spot on the RTC board for many years, and that it was “stingy” not to appoint her. The appointments should be “shared,” she said.
“I’ve been on this body 10 years,” said Brekhus. “I’ve long sought it. But I understand last week Mr. Reese was appointed to the Board of Health – that’s a real big one. I just think it’s rather stingy to not distribute those two out.”
Grant funding extended for emergency housing placements
Council members heard an update from the Housing and Neighborhood Development department on programs to provide emergency housing and street outreach to get homeless people sheltered.
Each year, Reno receives Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Due to the pandemic, the city also received additional funding to provide housing resources for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
The amendment brought before the council was for the agreement between the city and Volunteers of America’s Restart program, reducing the total dollar amount, up to $1.4 million in ESG coronavirus funds, and extending the term through Sept. 30, 2023.
The Restart program focuses on serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness who have serious mental health disorders and/or substance abuse disorders.
The contract includes funding for a rapid rehousing program in addition to case managers, a housing navigator and outreach positions, according to Hettie Read of the Housing and Neighborhood Development department.
Through the Restart program, there are three categories of help: rapid rehousing, bridge housing and street outreach.
Through the rapid rehousing program, 40 individuals have been housed for an average of $25,000 per month for operations. Under bridge (transitional) housing, 95 individuals have been served, including 45 veterans, for an average of $35,000 per month. Finally, under street outreach, 389 people experiencing unsheltered homeless have been served for an average of $8,000 per month, which covers two full time outreach workers and costs an average of $500 per client helped.
According to Read, the bridge housing program will be ending next month, and clients are being moved into more permanent housing or transferred to other programs. Around half a million dollars have been spent so far on the bridge housing program.
The amendment will allow rapid rehousing and street outreach to continue through September 2023 or until grant funds are expended.
“It costs a little under $10,000 per month to house each client [in rapid rehousing],” said Read. “While we expect these funds will serve more clients, the majority of the funds will likely go to keeping the people housed that we have currently.”
Council member Reese applauded the program. “This is definitely something we should be proud of.”
In a separate agenda item, an additional amendment was approved for an agreement with rapid rehousing under Safe Embrace for the same period through Sept. 30, 2023 for $165,776, which provides emergency housing to survivors of domestic violence.
$11.5 million approved for police technology purchases
Council members approved spending $5.9 million to purchase body worn cameras, Tasers, fleet video, cloud storage, virtual reality training, redaction assistant and other software for the Reno Police Department.
Council also approved extending the existing service plan with Axon Enterprises, the technology supplier, for 10 years. The approval of the $11.5 million cost of the contract is contingent upon approval by the state’s Department of Taxation.
The $5.9 million would be paid in a lump sum, while the remainder would be paid in yearly installments. Both will be paid for using federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars.
The city’s Director of Finance Vicki Van Buren said the agreement will ensure the police department has the most up to date technology on the market with automatic replacement included in the agreement.
Van Buren added that through the agreement, the city will see savings through items such as virtual training, cloud storage, replacements and upgrades.
“Public safety is a top priority for the Reno City Council, and today’s monumental meeting bolsters the ongoing investment in our police force,” Mayor Hillary Schieve said. “In addition to the police personnel and resources we’ve added in the last year, this new technology will be a game changer for how we respond to and solve crimes. The Public Safety Center represents a long overdue investment in our police infrastructure. These investments will improve transparency, communication and partnerships with the community, building trust with the citizens we serve.”
Van Buren also said she didn’t see another viable avenue for funding the purchases at this time.
Council member Brekhus said she would not be supporting the item because she did not know where the money for the purchase agreement would be coming from. Van Buren told council members all of the information was available within the packet provided to the council.
However, the vote to approve the purchase agreement with Axon was unanimous.
Law enforcement surveillance technologies approved
Council also approved a three-year contract with Forensic Logic for $172,380. The company makes COPLINK, a software program that integrates law enforcement databases such as computer aided dispatch, report management systems, license plate reader records and jail management systems.
COPLINK acts as a search engine that allows agencies to search this data across the United States and provide “instant access to information to assist in increasing situational awareness, facilitate collaboration across jurisdictions, engage in crime-prevention efforts and assist in active investigations,” according to the city’s staff report.
The council also approved a three-year contract with Fusus for computer software, hardware and related equipment for $195,000.
Fusus is a map-based interface that combines private and public video streams to assist in investigations, according to staff. Those with private surveillance cameras would have to opt in to sharing their video feeds.
Additional databases containing information such as geographic features and floor plans may be integrated into the system to enhance mapping.
In addition to the mapping software, Fusus also includes artificial intelligence software to search video feeds for specific people, vehicles or other distinctive features.
Reno police say the tools will help them to solve crimes and improve safety.
“These technology and equipment enhancements will greatly improve officer safety and situational awareness,” Reno Police Chief Jason Soto said. “Specifically, incorporation of these technologies will enrich our analytical capabilities to provide additional and improved intelligence to appropriately allocate resources.”
Civil rights and technology experts say the technology has the potential to limit transparency and infringe on people’s civil rights.
$34 million approved for phase 2 of Public Safety Center project
Council members approved a contract amendment for phase 2 of RPD’s new Public Safety Center along with an extension for completion to 2024.
Phase one began on Oct. 12, 2021 and was slated to cost just under $20 million. Phase one includes interior demolition and foundation upgrades, among other items.
Phase two will cost $34 million and includes architectural improvements, evidence storage, locker rooms, parking lot improvements, landscaping, security and surveillance.
The total cost for the project is approximately $70 million.
In other items:
– Council approved of an agreement with the Washoe County School District to reestablish the Reno Police Department 360 Blueprint reading mentoring program within five elementary schools.
Created by a local pastor and an RPD Officer in 2013, the community policing initiative works with at-risk elementary school age youth.
– Council approved Reno Municipal Code in line with changes made by the Nevada Legislature.
One of the ordinances amends a section related to state misdemeanors and civil infractions of RMC to comply with changes made by the 2021 Nevada Legislature to convert some traffic violations from misdemeanor crimes to civil infractions.
The other creates a new ordinance within RMC for civil infractions to acknowledge the changes made by the Legislature with AB 116 and clarify that any traffic violation contained within RMC under Title 6 is a civil infraction, unless stated otherwise by Nevada Revised Statutes.
Kelsey Penrose is a proud Native Nevadan whose work in journalism and publishing can be found throughout the Sierra region. She received degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from Arizona State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing with the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. She is an avid supporter of high desert agriculture and rescue dogs.