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County commissioners vote down Cares Campus improvements


Progress on development at the Nevada Cares Campus hit a snag Tuesday during Washoe County’s Board of County Commission meeting. 

Despite months of planning and discussion of multiple phases of development at the massive homeless shelter site, two projects were voted down in split commission decisions.

Commissioners Mike Clark and Jeanne Herman voted against approving a lease agreement with Accessible Space Inc. for a three-acre parcel at the Nevada Cares Campus site. 

The agreement would provide the land – a portion of the five-acre parcel purchased from the Reno Housing Authority for $5.5 million – for $1 per year over 30 years. In exchange, ASI would build 120 units of specialized supportive housing for people transitioning out of homelessness. 

“We hastily purchased this property…it had the appearance that it was jammed through, and now we’re taking a $5.5 million asset and leasing it out for about $30,” Clark said. “Tell me more.”

Dana Searcy, who oversees the Cares Campus for the county, said the intent of the land purchase was to pursue affordable, supportive housing for the site. ASI was the only applicant that was approved through the application process. 

“We will be making sure that the details spelled out in the lease, which include supportive housing, are being adhered to, otherwise this will transfer back to the county,” Searcy said.

Plans for the Nevada Cares Campus development as included in a presentation to commissioners in early 2022.

ASI has already secured $16 million in grants from the Home Means Nevada housing initiative to put toward the project and has applied for additional funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Commissioners Clark and Herman also voted against a $28 million contract for Clark/Sullivan Construction to proceed with work on the intake center planned at the Cares Campus. Funding for the work was approved by commissioners in December – including by Herman – and the contract work was slated to begin March 29. 

The intake center would house a security checkpoint, nurses station, case management, warming station and dining facilities at the campus. 

Clark cited a lack of data on outcomes of the Nevada Cares Campus as the reason for his no vote. He appeared to read from a prepared statement prior to the vote.

“I don’t think I can vote in favor of anything until I see some outcomes,” Clark said. “I don’t want to know peoples’ names, addresses or any other information. But I do want to know, out of the 40 people who’ve been placed in housing, how many are still in the housing they were placed in. I don’t understand why a commissioner can’t have the information.

“Until I get it I’ll have to vote no on anything associated with the Cares Campus.”  

Commissioner Herman made no comment on either agenda item.

County spokesperson Bethany Drysdale said both projects are now on hold pending direction from commissioners.

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.