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City Council awards $1 million to seniors, approves projects throughout city

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The Reno City Council on Wednesday adopted a $1 million senior-focused spending plan, peeling off 4% of the city’s total American Rescue Plan Act funds for programs and initiatives combating senior isolation. 

The funding is broken into four categories: a senior program coordinator, senior engagement, Neighbor Network of Northern Nevada transportation program and Reno Food Systems food insecurity program.

The full-time program coordinator will be a grant-funded staff member at the city who will design programming, implement activities and prepare the senior engagement budget. The salary range for the coordinator will be between $70,000 and $90,000, which, along with benefits, will use $337,000 of the $1 million allotment over three years. 

Another $163,000 of the $1 million will be used for senior engagement through programs such as technology classes, which began in 2021 and are free to seniors. 

Up to $200,000 will be used to provide transportation services to seniors to alleviate social isolation. The non-profit Neighbor Network of Northern Nevada was selected to lead the effort. 

N4 will provide free rides through its rideshare program. Each participant will receive an $80 voucher for Lyft/Uber each month and hands-on training for seniors using the rideshare apps. 

If a participant does not have a smartphone or does not want to use the apps, N4 will provide a concierge service at no additional charge during which participants can call the concierge and have their Lyft/Uber scheduled for them. 

Reno Food Systems will receive the remaining $300,000 across four years to provide solutions to senior food insecurity. Activities covered by the funding include the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, nutrition education, mobile farmers market and garden access in partnership with Urban Roots.

Click here  for information on the plan.

Rendering of the Moana pool design.
Rendering of the Moana pool design.

Moana Springs receives $800,000 grant for solar power

Council approved a grant for $800,000 to provide solar panels on the roof of the new Moana Springs Community Aquatics and Fitness Center.

Using solar panels, more than 2.4 million kWh of power will be generated annually, the equivalent of 1,715 metric tons of CO2 avoided using renewable resources. 

The grant funding comes through Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Project Funding. 

City officials said the project will help reduce the cost of electricity by reducing demand and consumption costs at the facility. The rooftop system will be completed by the summer of 2024. 

Solar sign purchases for school zones

Council members approved a second solar project using ARPA funds to purchase and install solar school zone flashing beacon systems. 

According to the city’s Janice Finnegan, public works has identified a critical need for solar school zone flashing beacon systems at all elementary schools. 

To install all solar flashers needed, the cost would surpass $3 million, she said. 

Reno received $51.5 million from ARPA funding and part of the allocation included $70,000 to each Reno ward for ward-specific projects. 

Council member Meghan Ebert put her ward’s $70,000 allotment to funding the solar flashing beacon systems within Ward Four schools. 

According to Finnegan, in the 2019-2020 school year, there were 28 crashes involving students within school zones in Washoe County. 

Finnegan said the department is seeking grant funding from several sources to fund other flashing beacon projects. 

Mayor Hillary Schieve.
Mayor Hillary Schieve.

Mayor Hillary Schieve said she also believed that the Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission should play a much larger role in supporting the flashing beacons and that she would speak to them about further allocations. 

Council member Jenny Brekhus said she was also interested in donating some of her leftover funds to provide a light near Wooster High School. 

Sewer projects approved for $5 million

Council approved several items relating to sewer and lift stations throughout the city, totaling nearly $5 million. As a part of the city’s Lift Station Capital Improvement Plan, lift station improvement and rehabilitation projects are slated for the next three years. 

The largest project included in the approval is the 2023 Sewer Cured-in-Place Pipe rehabilitation project, costing about $3 million. 

This project will rehabilitate sanitary sewer mains near south Yori in southwest Reno, Thomas Jefferson in southwest Reno and Moana Lane near Baker Lane. 

According to Jonathan Smith, a civil engineer with the city, these mains were identified as a high priority due to their age and condition. 

Sewer easement approved

Council members also directed staff to acquire sewer easements across two parcels as part of the Parr Sewer Rehabilitation Project to construct a gravity sanitary sewer.

As part of the agreement with the land owner, the owner will disassemble concrete block walls and relocate rock piles, equipment, concrete blocks and vehicles ahead of construction, for $48,000, in addition to the $42,000 payment for the easement. 

Reno City Council member Jenny Brekhus.
Reno City Council member Jenny Brekhus.

Brekhus disagreed with the agreement due to the services being provided by the owner. 

“I’m not convinced this is the best approach because the sort of ‘higher than’ appraised values, add-ons, need to come through a condemnation process,” she said. “It hurts the city’s bargaining power.” 

She voted against the agreement.  

ADA improvements approved for City Hall

Americans with Disability Act improvement measures were approved for City Hall. 

The project includes providing an accessible route from the parking garage to the front entrance of City Hall on Virginia Street, which currently entails modifying two pedestrian access ramps and replacing the sidewalk along First Street from North Virginia Street to University Way. 

The existing access ramps are very steep and not ADA-compliant, according to Justin George, a city engineer. The project will bring those ramps into compliance and replace the sidewalk to current city standards.

Brekhus said she “did not know what [the staff] are doing” because an aerial photo and other images of the proposed site were not provided. 

“We’re not adding anything; we’re simply removing and replacing concrete to bring it into compliance,” George explained. 

Reno City Council member Naomi Duerr. Image: City of Reno.
Reno City Council member Naomi Duerr.

Council member Naomi Duerr encouraged staff to work with the city horticulturist to create planter boxes for the trees outside city hall to beautify the space, especially since Brekhus previously donated council funds for a planter boxes project that never reached fruition. 

“We need to make this an appealing front door,” Duerr said. 

The contract for the project was awarded to Sierra Nevada Construction for $450,000, paid for with ARPA funds. 

Adaptive Cycling grant accepted 

Council members accepted a $4,000 award from Move United to support low-income youth and young adults (ages 16-29) with disabilities at the City of Reno’s Adaptive Cycling Center. 

An Adaptive Cycling Center this summer will be launching at the Rosewood Nature Study Area, a 219-acre wetland habitat with 2.5 miles of trail.

The center will offer a membership-based program allowing adaptive cyclists direct access to trails.

Affordable housing fee reduction

The Dick Scott Manor Apartments, which will provide 12 affordable housing units for veterans experiencing homelessness, was awarded an affordable housing fee reduction of $65,340 in sewer connection fees and up to $14,202 in building permit fees.

The development on East Eighth Street will provide income-restricted apartments for veterans earning at or below 50%t of the Washoe County Area Median Income. 

In providing affordable housing, the project was eligible for a 100% fee reduction, and the council has recently awarded subsidized sewer connection and building permit fees for similar projects. 

Council member Brekhus said the council should develop a budget policy to cap how much reductions can be allocated each year for affordable housing projects.

“We need to have a discussion on how much we’re going to budget each fiscal year for each of the funds,” Brekhus said. “We need to earmark an amount that everyone knows.” 

Other items

Council approved an interlocal agreement with RTC to purchase multi-use path maintenance equipment to remove debris and snow from multi-use paths and micro-modal lanes for $190,000.

Kelsey Penrose
Kelsey Penrose
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.

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