It was a very busy year in White Pine County with many new businesses opening, new county commissioners taking their elected seats as well as city councilmembers. We thought we’d take a look back on 2017 and highlight some new events and stories that we brought to you this past year.
January took off with county commissioners Shane Bybee, Steve Stork and Richard Howe being sworn in to serve on the commission in January. In addition Mike Coster was appointed by the mayor to serve as the Municipal Court Judge.
The landfill began enforcing an ordinance that prohibited scavengers of trash at the landfill.
Citations began being issued, and many stopped “dumpster diving” at the landfill. February met a serious deadline for candidates who had the desire to run for city council.
Rick Stork, George Chachas, Jared Bunch, Tony DeFelice and Ernie Flangas were among the candidates who put their name in the hat for election. In the end Ernie Flangas and Tony DeFelice won, in addition to Sam Hanson, who won unopposed, became the new members for the Ely City Council.
April came around and veterans who were receiving benefits through Veterans Affairs program faced a very huge problem with a program called Choice taking over the VA benefits program.
A town hall meeting drew more than 250 people that had veterans voicing their frustrations over having to travel 300 miles to receive medical services, to spending hours on the phone to speak to a representative. The outcry led to U.S Representative Ruben Kihuen traveling to Ely to sit down and hold a roundtable meeting with Veterans, and many representatives of the William Bee Ririe Hospital.
A second town hall meeting was held and eventually issues were beginning to be resolved.
Meanwhile the county commission and city council were attempting to approve an Interlocal agreement to combine the city and fire departments. While the city council approved unanimously, the county commission met and the room was packed full of volunteer fire department members, chiefs, and some paid county EMS and fire personnel. Many had mixed feelings about a portion of the contract. A portion of the agreement was finally signed by the commission but it left another part of the agreement to be discussed at a later date.
A very unfortunate event during 2017 occurred when Dean Baker, a watchdog to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, passed away at age 77. He battled for more than 20 years and even registered as a legislative lobbyist to plead his case.
Love’s Truck Stop with a Carl’s Jr, Hunter’s Cafe, Bits Computer Repair, Mr. Gino’s Restaurant, Ely Sno, Wicked Rein, Desert Rose Ceramics, a nail and lash salon called Suite E and a marijuana dispensary TSAA Nesunkwa were the many local businesses that opened their doors in 2017 year and continue to thrive successfully.
In June, city hall personnel moved back to the 109-year-old city hall building after two years of remodeling.
City employment contracts for City Attorney Chuck Odgers and City Administrator Robert Switzer became a heated debate during a city council meeting when several concerned citizens spoke during public comment questioning city codes, and Nevada Revised statutes, malfeasance and misfeasance of the proposed employment contracts.
The funding for a courthouse and new jail was a very popular topic this year as well. At one point there was discussion on whether the commission would have to decide to remodel the jail or the courthouse after no action was taken by the Assembly Way and Means Committee for the request for an appropriation of $10 million from the Nevada State Legislature. A tour of the jail facility revealed dilapidated conditions that questioned security concerns as well as health concerns for staff and inmates.
A historical event of the Solar Eclips came and went in July. Many locals previewed the historical event through special eyewear, many hosting Eclipse parties. More than 300 bikers roared through town as the American Legion rode through Ely on the way to their Annual Convention in Reno.
Another historical moment for Nevada was when Senate Bill 375 recognized the authority of tribes to grow, sell and market marijuana in Nevada. Nevada Tribes entered into a compact, specifically the Ely Shoshone Tribe and Yerington Paiute Tribe, becoming the first to enter into marijuana compacts in the state. The Ely Shoshone Tribe opened a dispensary in the fall of 2017 called TSAA Nesunkwa, selling products to medical marijuana clients as well as retail customers.
Sen. Katherine Cortez-Masto stopped in Ely for a quick trip to tour the Nevada Northern railway and meet with local officials to discuss the needs in White Pine, all the while the city and railway continued on with the lawsuit that has been ongoing since it was filed in 2015. August’s depositions alone, totaled out to $14,168.38 spent by the City of Ely.
Sheriff Dan Watts resigns from the White Pine County Sheriff’s office after 30 years of service. Scott Henriod is appointed by the commission. He plans on running for election in 2018.
A disturbing report was made when it was discovered that White Pine’s animal shelter is the only shelter left in Nevada to use a gas chamber. The Ely Times reported the story and PETA and the Humane Society have since then reached out the the city to coordinate ending the use of the gas chamber.
The county commission and city council approved an interlocal agreement for the county and road departments to work together.
With the city and county coming together to work on having likewise departments assist each other, and revitalization committees joining together to clean up and revitalize White Pine, we can definitely look forward to many more new and exciting ventures to come White Pine’s way in 2018.