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Nearly $17 million funneled to Cares Campus through donations, grants

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Washoe’s Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday approved three pots of funding to support more improvements and services at the Nevada Cares Campus homeless shelter. 

Commission Chair Vaughn Hartung praised the Community Foundation of Northern Nevada for managing the Nevada Cares Campus Charitable Fund. The foundation announced $1.6 million in donations to the fund to support capital improvements at the shelter, including the central support services building. 

The donations included $1 million from the Montreaux Cares Committee and $500,000 from the Evanstad Foundation. 

“It’s a lot of people coming together because they believe in this,” Commissioner Alexis Hill said, adding that there is still more money to raise. 

A $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was also approved for the Nevada Cares Campus. The funds were sought through a community funding project to help cover the cost of the support services building.

Gabrielle Enfield, the county’s grants administrator, credited Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen for supporting the project and submitting it to Congress for the directed funds. 

Commissioner Hill said she was thrilled to give tours to Cortez Masto and Rosen when the campus was still in the City’s hands. 

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto speaks at a walk-through of the Nevada Cares Campus on May 7, 2021 in Reno, Nev.
U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto speaks at a walk-through of the Nevada Cares Campus on May 7, 2021 in Reno, Nev. Image: Bob Conrad / This Is Reno

“They saw the vision,” Hill said. “I can’t thank our senators enough for seeing what was to come and for believing in our local community and seeing that we were committed to this.”

“The part that I love the most is ‘no county match,’” Hartung added. 

Another $7.9 million was approved from American Rescue Plan Act funds. Of the total, $3.1 million will go toward the phase 3 development at the Cares Campus. The remaining $4.8 million will be used to buy the former West Hills facility on Ninth Street to provide behavioral health services in connection with the Nevada Cares Campus. 

“This is the perfect opportunity for us to take this over,” Hartung said of the purchase of the West Hills building, which is less than a mile from the Nevada Cares Campus. “In many cases we can’t stabilize these folks without treating them for alcohol and drug abuse. That’s the beginning.”

Other commission business

Audit reports approved

Washoe County ended its fiscal year June 30, 2022 with clean audits as reported by Comptroller Cathy Hill and a representative from BDO, an accounting firm that is in its second year of conducting the county’s financial audit and single audit. No material findings were reported in the audits. 

Commissioner Kitty Jung thanked Hill and her team for their work managing the county’s tax dollars. 

“We have the highest bond rating in the whole state, and I’m proud of that. Thank you for maintaining that bond rating. Thank you for the audit and for keeping us with integrity with so much money,” Jung said.

Water Reclamation Facility Expansion Project moves forward

Commissioners approved the final construction contracts totalling about $43.7 million for completion of the expansion project for the South Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility (STMWRF). The total project cost is $122 million, which comes from the utility fund. 

The county has three wastewater treatment plants, and STMWRF is the largest. It was built in 1991 and since then it has changed in response to more development in south Reno. 

The expansion is intended to increase capacity and improve reclaimed water quality.  

Dwayne Smith with Washoe County’s Community Services Department said the project has been in the works since 2017 when planning began. Construction started in 2020 and most of the project will be completed by June 2025, with total completion in October 2025. 

Contract approved for health district renaming

Commissioners approved an award of nearly $325,000 to the Abbi Agency for the renaming and rebranding of Washoe County Health District to Northern Nevada Public Health. The name change was approved in July at a joint meeting between the Board of County Commissioners and Reno and Sparks city councils. 

The proposal submitted by the Abbi Agency includes research, creative design, website design and development, public relations and advertising to promote the new name. 

Mike Clark, who is set to join the Board of County Commissioners in January, questioned the award during public comment. 

“I’d like to know why we’re spending over $300,000 to change a name of a department,” he said. “I think it’s a bit excessive and a waste of taxpayer money. If you’re going to change the name of the department, just change it… You’ve got your own internal PR department here. Let them make that change.” 

Clark also suggested some impropriety with the selection, noting that Abbi Agency has also done work for both commissioners Hartung and Lucey. 

County Manager Eric Brown confirmed during discussion of the agenda item that the health district, not the county or the Board of County Commissioners, was responsible for putting out the request for proposals and selecting the agency. 

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.

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