County Moves Toward Funding for Court and Event/Recreational Center | Government and politics


ELKO – Elko County will reserve portions of the new 50-cent tax rate for wildfire protection and capital projects as it prioritizes a judicial center and event center and leisure for the future.

County commissioners this week unanimously approved a motion to set aside 6 cents for the wildfire protection program and 44 cents for capital projects and bring it back to a future meeting for discussion.

It was the county’s first action after seeking 50 cents of the 75-cent Pay-As-You-Go tax that will end on June 30.

It also sets up the Judicial Center and the Elko Recreation and Event Center as the county’s first two capital projects to be funded by revenue collected after the state determines abatements.

Discussed for several years, the Judicial Center would relieve overcrowding at the Elko County Courthouse that had to squeeze into two courthouse departments and three district court departments.

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The events and leisure center was recently proposed by the Boys & Girls Club of Elko. It would be a $52 million facility with a 10-lane pool, outdoor water park, wellness center, youth playroom, and commercial kitchen; and a separate Events Center to host PRCA regulation rodeo events, basketball, volleyball, indoor football, concerts and more.

Funding for the recreation and events center would require $15 million from Elko County, club CEO Rusty Bahr said, but it doesn’t have to be paid for all at once.

Bahr said he understood the county’s need for the Judicial Center and agreed it “should be a priority for the commissioners.”

County Executive Amanda Osborne told commissioners that staff had “clear direction in terms of plans and priorities with funds moving forward.” She asked them to direct staff to gather information to prioritize the list of capital needs.

She also explained that the list was in draft form and had not yet identified specific funding sources for each item.

The capital requirements summary lists eight new construction projects for the next five years, estimated at $74.6 million, including the new judicial center, recreation and events center, new ambulance station, expansion of the administration of the sheriff’s office and a subdivision at Jackpot.

Osborne said the county should receive final revenue projections from the state by the end of the month, which would provide a clearer indication of how much funding the 50-cent tax would generate.

Commission Chairman Delmo Andreozzi said the county needs to identify and prioritize the capital funding slate to ensure that funding for each project will be available.

Although the judicial center is probably the county’s number one priority, he wanted to put in place a process to identify all projects and prioritize them as they arise “just like we have the road projects and the fire district , continued Andreozzi.

“I hope we would have a wide range of projects, but we didn’t have the capacity to fund those needs,” he explained. “These are limited dollars, and we don’t know how long they will be available if something happens later.”

Commissioner Jon Karr, who has been a strong supporter of building a justice centre, said he was confident it could now become a reality because “we now have some capital options, finally” thanks to the 50 tax. cents, LTIP funding and net mining proceeds.

Karr said he also supports Elko’s event and recreation center project because it would benefit more than the town of Elko.

“I wouldn’t normally be in favor because it’s so dedicated to Elko, but because so many entities are involved, and I think it’s such a big project that would benefit so many people throughout our community, it has really changed my perspective on it,” Karr said. “I honestly think we can afford both, but we don’t have the exact numbers to do that.”

County Commissioner Cliff Eklund said that until the state reports what Elko County will receive from its intention to reclaim the 50-cent tax left over from pay-as-you-go funding, it would “put the cart before the horse”, but that both projects were necessary and he supported the prioritization of the recreation center first and the judicial center second.

“We don’t know what we can do until the state responds to us,” he said. “If we get the 50 cents, that would be great.”

Andreozzi said he liked the concept of the tourism event and recreation center he could bring to the area, but noted there were needs, such as the Elko County Library and the ambulance barn “which have been there in a steel shed for as long as I can remember.”

“It’s a limited amount of time and money that we’re dealing with,” he said. “I just want to make the best decisions possible.”

Leisure and events center

Boys & Girls Club board chairman Casey Gallagher told commissioners the proposed Elko Leisure and Events Center was part of the board’s strategic plan which they finalized in November.

“We talked about opportunities and ideas that we thought would be great for our club to bring amenities to the community,” Gallagher said. “That’s where the events and recreation center originated.”

Gallagher also pointed out that the board implemented the project and that it “was not a Rusty Bahr project”. Instead, Bahr serves as CEO at the pleasure of the board.

“It’s at the request of the Boys & Girls Club and the board, not Rusty Bahr. He’s running for us as CEO,” Gallagher said.

Bahr said the idea for the events and leisure center was floated before he moved to the area 11 years ago, adding it was ‘staged’ by the board after hearing talk about the needs of community members.

Adding a historical perspective, businessman Mike Gallagher said the project was planned and designed 20 years ago in the same location as the proposed recreation center. He had commitments from mining companies, but ultimately lacked support from Elko Town and Elko County officials.

“We just couldn’t get the city and county together on the project, so it died,” Mike Gallagher said. “It didn’t cost nearly the money this one is going to cost. I think we had the opportunity 20 years ago. We have the opportunity today, and our next opportunity could be another 20 years later, and we probably won’t be around to watch that one.

Ahead of the vote, Commissioner Rex Steninger said he believed the county’s top two priorities were the judicial center and the event and recreation center, but the community was “close again” to making the recreation center a reality.

“I think without the county’s commitment like Mike said, he’s going to die again,” Steninger explained. “I think it’s time to step in and get the ball rolling again.”

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