The Ely Times
During public comment at last weeks Ely City Council meeting, a letter from the White Pine County School District was read into the record.
The letter was from the White Pine School District, Board Chair, Shella Nicholes, Angela McVicars, Vice Chair, and Adam Young, Superintendent.
The letter was about the charter school seeking a letter of support from the City of Ely for its application for financial assistance from the USDA—Rural Development.
It was stated in the letter that it was not sent as criticism of the school, staff or the school itself, but they wanted to outline the adverse and negative impact of operating two school systems in such a small community.
The letter detailed the 20 percent budget reduction in 2016, and how the impact continues to affect the White Pine County School District in 2019 to the tune of approximately $1.7 million per year.
Linda Derbidge, vice chair of the Learning Bridge Charter School Board, was present and spoke during public comment.
“I wasn’t prepared to speak during the meeting,” she said. “Accusations against the charter school….it is not a private business, it is a state sponsored public. This is not going to impact the school, nothing is going to change, we will have the same number of students.”
When the item came before the council, the council approved in providing a support letter for the charter school.
There was also a request to have the city take competitive bids to lease Parcels 1 and 2, which is approximately 1,980 acres, of the Georgetown Ranch.
Shawn Bellander of Bellander Brothers Land & Livestock was present. The council asked Bellander to approach the podium.
“I didn’t realize this property was going up for renewal until I heard your minutes from last weeks meeting,” he said. “There’s room for a lot of improvement and pastures and ranges as included in this lease. In my opinion it’s not being used to it’s full potential.”
Bellander went on to explain how he felt his company could add more pastures, and spoke about the water on the ranch could be utilized better.
“The city is not receiving the revenue for the value of the acreage. I know the going rate for that property is much higher than what’s being given. I think the city should be receiving more of the revenue,” Bellander said.
Ted Heggie with Heggie and Gale Ranching saw things differently. “It’s my understanding from the April 11 meeting that we had already been awarded the lease on that for the next 5-10 years.” he said. “We allowed the board to move the lease to July so it could be aligned with the fiscal year, and I felt like we already had a lease agreement signed, and we’ve been waiting for a lease agreement from Mr. Odgers.”
Councilman Kurt Carson questioned City Attorney Odgers on if he had been negotiating the price with Lance Gale on the price.
Odgers said, “On March 14, the issue came up because the contract was due to expire April 30. I brought it before the council and the utility board for your consideration on whether or not you wanted to re-negotiate. At that time, I was asked to negotiate with a contract I had been working with and had not completed it.”
Carson said he has received several phone calls about this particular lease and mentioned that the city needs to look at advertising in The Ely Times so it’s more competitive.
Councilwoman Jolene Gardner said, “They’re not keeping the land up, when you go up to the landfill and look down, the ground is really bad.”
Lance Gale, partner in the business, was on telephone. “We just want to make sure, based on the April 11 meeting we have already made financial commitments obligations, livestock coming, again financial obligations, the only thing we are waiting on is Mr. Odgers, and he said simply ran out of time.”
Gale also noted that in May 11, 2017, the city agreed to continue leasing with the family that has the south end of the Georgetown Ranch without putting out the bid.
“So if you as city council is going to decide if this should go out to bid after the approval at the April 11 meeting, we’ll probably request that, that property go out to bid,” he said.
Odgers informed Gale that that particular issue was not part of the agenda item, and Ferrell Hansen, the lessee for that portion of Georgetown Ranch had already made payments on that contract that was executed.
“I think it’s obvious every time we have a piece of property for lease we advertise it in the paper, that way everyone is fully aware, but I think it’d be unfair to pull this out underneath after giving conditional approval.”
Carson was in agreement, but noted he’d like to see the council go out for competitive bidding in the future.
Gale said he was under the impression that the agreement was already done.
Councilman Sam Hanson was not prepared to make a motion on the item. Carson made the motion that the council go out for competitive bid on these two parcels.
Heggie explained how the previous leasee of the land contracted it for five years, with an automatic renewal and another five and they were there for 20 years.
Odgers said, “We also have a lease that goes with the golf course that was set for 30 years, that didn’t have a cost of living adjustment so we’re getting $83 a year for the golf course, that just doesn’t mean it’s right?”
Gale said, “When you go to a financial institution and you make purchases of livestock, you can’t just do it year to year, we were obligated to a long term contract”
Councilman Tony DeFelice, “that’s not a city problem.”
The motion was made to put out the parcels for bid, and let Heggie and Gale remain there until the city go through the process.
Vote was approved, 3-2 with Gardner and Hanson opposed
An agenda item to raise taxes was also on the agenda.
Odgers explained to the council the different increases depending on the percentage of the increase.
Business license fees we’re the first example. At a 10 percent increase, the annual expected increase would go up to $15,730.81. A 3 percent increase would go to $1,618.08.
Landfill fees at 10 percent would increase yearly to $41,224 and at 1 percent would be $4,124 for businesses who pay a landfill fee.
It was approved to raise the fees to 3 percent in all departments, business license, landfill, water and sewer. A 3 percent increase will be included each year.