By Ryan Middleton

Special to The Ely Times

After the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer, roll was called and all council members were present.

During the opening public discussion three people spoke. Riley St Aubin, a 6th grade student from Learning Bridge Charter School, spoke on School Choice Week, Richard Howe on the public safety building and courthouse facility and George Chachas on various grievances.

Aubin mentioned events to take place the week of Jan. 22 to 28. There will be an interview on KDSS on Monday the 23, a career day on the 24, a school tour on the 25 and Chinese New Year celebration on the 28.

Richard Howe, chairman of the White Pine County Commission, commended those who attended the town meeting on Wednesday. He spoke on the construction of the new jail and justice system. He then read a letter from the WPCC to Ely City Council. He spoke on the Community Justice Center, the jail expansion and the courthouse complex adjacent to the existing jail and Public Safety building to be built at 1785 Great Basin Boulevard parcel number 002-280-15.

He stated that White Pine County and Ely are joint owners of the property. WPC has provided $8 million on the project and now needs additional funding to expand the jail to meet current and future community needs. Unless the city helps provide additional funding, WPC needs to be sole owner of the property.

The City of Ely should deed its interest in the property to WPC in exchange for office and court space for Municipal Court purposes. The letter states, “A new era is upon us, and it is our solemn duty to work together to provide a safe and fiscally sound and prosperous Community for our citizens.”

Howe emphasized that the jail facility is absolutely necessary. He invited the council members to tour it and see firsthand its dilapidated condition. He also emphasized that the city council needs to make a decision on this before the state legislature goes into session. Otherwise it may be another two to five years before they can get legislature approval.

George Chachas spoke of the drainage issue at the corner of Orchard and Crawford, the Tour and Recreational Board not clearing their sidewalks and parking lot, mailboxes near the corner of Compton and JV Walker were blocking ADA access, the $10 fine per incident for failure to recycle cardboard, the pipe on Mr. Flaherty’s property, the new drain that was installed on his property for the railroad crossing, the encroachment on Park Avenue and Avenue K.

He reprimanded the mayor for not being consistent in code enforcement. He said “Either we have rules for everyone or there are no rules for anyone!”

Three items were removed from discussion. First was the approval to use $50,000 in City Redevelopment funds to hire an architect for historic City Hall renovation. Secondly was donation of tree pile at the landfill in perpetuity to White Pine County School District. Thirdly was the establishment of up to a $10 gate assessment fee per incident when landfill users fail to deposit cardboard into recycling.

Sheriff Dan Watts reported 16,406 calls for service. 12,923 of those were for the City of Ely. Some of the council members agreed to tour the jail facility.

City Administrator Robert Switzer covered the ESO Healthcare-connected invoice. ESO is a software program which allows the fire department to report medical burns in a timely manner. It is very user-friendly as opposed to the state provided program which was very problematic and not user-friendly.

He also provided a copy of the contract  with Valley Collection Service  (Glendale Arizona) which provides for the collection of past due landfill charges.

Switzer said the transfer deed from the city to the county for the property at 1785 Great Basin Blvd. must be done by resolution which has not been done in a couple of previous cases.

He also said the Union of Operating Engineers did accept a recently amended agreement of the MOU.

He then provided documents of Municipal Court statistics.

Mark Basset of the Northern Nevada Railroad Yard said that batteries were installed in locomotive number 9 and that number 19 will be in operation by July 1. Engines number 40 and 80 will be serviced in 2020.

As for the Polar Express, Mark said, “we didn’t break records for Polar Express, we shattered records for Polar Express!”  In December it carried 4,019 passengers—an increase of 33 percent. On one Saturday they carried 560 passengers and on another Saturday they carried 530 passengers. He did not have a chance to review the gift shop sales. 4,954 tickets were actually sold but not all were used due to confusion of various Polar Express trains in other areas of the country. This bumped the annual ridership to over 14,000. This brought in almost $400,000 into the community.

On Christmas morning, CBS News ran a short story on the  on the Star Trains. This caused the NNRY website to go nuts. Over 50% of the seats for the year were sold by the end of the day.

This year marks 30th anniversary of the NNRY.

Councilwoman Pat Robison read a letter from Ken and Sharon Frazier of Reno commending Animals Services for upgrading the pound and the website. Included was a check for $500 for use by Animal Services.

Councilmen Kurt Carson and Bruce Setterstrom talked about their efforts to renovate City Hall. They volunteer their evenings from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and said anyone can volunteer.

Fire Chief Ross Rivera thanked those who helped to obtain the Pennington Foundation grant for their new firetruck. He requested approval to join the Houston-Galveston Area Council of Governments for the purpose of obtaining the new firetruck.

Setterstrom didn’t want to require mandatory recycling, but did want to encourage members of the community to place their recycling in the proper locations at the landfill. 30 bales of cardboard  were sent to Long Beach California, but it’s not how much money is made off of those bales but how much cardboard is not put into the landfill.

Councilman Carson said this will take time and education.

City Attorney Charles Odgers requested approval to sign the Victim/Witness Service Program Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the city to show support of that program.

He also said the Ely City Cemetery is exempt from licensing because it is owned by the city of Ely and needed approval for the city administrator to sign the attestation to that effect. It will need to be signed on an annual basis.

Several candidates were interviewed for the position of Municipal Court Judge. These were Stephen Bishop, Jane Eberhardy, Kevin Briggs, Mike Coster, JaNeal Mathews and Theryn Wagner. Barry Stark was not present. All the candidates felt that they were not necessarily the best choice for the job because they felt everyone was capable of handling the position. Coster was appointed by the mayor and confirmed by all but one member of the council.

The following items were approved:

Approval of mandatory Christmas tree recycling at landfill; all trees to be donated to White Pine County School District.

The minutes for Dec. 8.

Interviewing of candidates for the position of Municipal Court judge.

Appointment by mayor and confirmation by city council of the municipal court judge.

Approval of Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Ely and Operating Engineers Local 3.

Revocation of Resolution 2006-07 creating a Railroad Enterprise Fund board.

Approval to join the Houston-Galveston Area Council of Governments created pursuant to Texas Interlocal Cooperation Act, Texas Government Code, Title 7, Chapter 791 as authorized pursuant to NRS 332.115(1)(m) for the purpose of obtaining a new 4-door custom cab/1500 gallon pumper tank fire engine with light tower not to exceed $413,917 to be paid from the William Pennington Foundation Grant funds awarded for this purchase.

Authorization to expand $20,170 of William Pennington Foundation Grant funds awarded, or the William Pennington Foundation Grant agreement, for the purchase of additional equipment for the new fire engine from Curtis Tools for Heroes.

Approval of Victim/Witness Service Program Memorandum of Understanding.

Approval for the City Administrator to sign the attestation confirming exemption from licensing of Ely City Cemetery because it is owned by the city of Ely.

Ryan Middleton is an Ely-based freelance writer. Check out his blog at