By Marty Bachman

In a town where seemingly every car and truck has a dog hanging out the window, a pair of competing proposals to build a dog park in the city of Ely has created a riff between the leader of the Ely City Corral Association and at least four members of the city council.

Janet Criner, of the Association, had made a presentation at the city’s Strategic Tourism Committee meeting sometime back, showing plans to turn some empty areas near the corrals, which are owned by the city, into an equestrian and dog park. Both Mayor Melody VanCamp and Councilwoman Pat Robison attended the meeting and both described Criner’s vision and presentation as being “fabulous.”

Criner had hoped to make the same presentation to the council — but at their May 26 meeting, Councilman Bruce Setterstrom had put an item on the agenda for the approval of a dog park in the city of Ely and the selection of a location.

Criner appeared before the council and asked that they table the discussion and any action until she had a chance to make her presentation, but Setterstrom, stating that the council had spent two years discussing the building of a dog park, pushed to have the item open for discussion and moved forward with a motion to send letters out to residents in the vicinity of Center and Belford streets, where he hoped to open a park, to take a pulse as to whether or not they wanted such a park in their neighborhood.

Robison fought the action, questioning the cost of a park at the new location and wondering aloud why the council refused to hear Criner’s proposal, but she landed on the losing end of a 4-1 vote to begin the process.

VanCamp said that Criner’s proposal wasn’t discussed because it wasn’t an agendized item whereas Setterstrom’s proposal was on the agenda.

Robison said that VanCamp had the power, as mayor, to put Criner on the agenda at that late notice, but she chose not to.

In a conversation with the Times, Setterstrom said that the mayor did not have that power but that she could have allowed Criner to make her presentation during discussion on his agenda item — but he wasn’t going to allow a competing dog park presentation to be given while he was trying to build his own dog park.

Settterstrom then said that since the meeting, he was going to end his quest to build a dog park, citing a lack of interest from his constituents. He said he would put it on the agenda at the next meeting to “quash” the proposal and have the $15,000 budgeted for fencing go into the city’s beautification fund to be used to make improvements on 11th Street, which runs into the train depot. He said he wouldn’t support building any dog park in town.

“After talking to so many people, they’re just not interested,” he said. “There’s just not enough support to justify it.”

Criner, who had hoped to work with the city to apply for a Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act Parks and National Areas (SNPLAMA) grant in March, that would fund the development of her dream, penned a letter to the Times where she ripped into Setterstrom, accusing him of verbal attacks and being rude (Letters to the Editor).

She wrote, “Councilman Bruce Setterstrom interrupted my three minute speech with insulting and belittling comments, which included half-truths concerning the city council hearing a complaint from the Corral Board from several years ago about young adults who were lessees at the time, whom were disrupting the serenity and security of the whole facility by stealing, breaking and entering, and defacing buildings, which included the  announcement stand at the city of Ely’s public arena.”

Setterstrom said it was just a short while ago that Criner came to the council asking that they only allow members of the Corral Association access to the area and questioned why now she was OK with opening it back up to the community.

Criner, in her letter, said Setterstrom “devalued” her project, despite the fact that he had neither seen nor heard her presentation, but instead stated it would take too long for the grant board to review and approve it, which would be sometime near November 2017.

“I think there’s too many things we need to do rather than using a grant for that,” Setterstrom said, though he also said he liked Criner’s idea. “She wants to make the corrals better but there’s too many things more important than a dog park.”