Top headlines from the Board of County Commissioners Meeting
Commissioners seek clarity on COVID-19 mitigation directives, and allocate CARES Act funding to Human Services Agency
The following are highlights from today’s Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting:
1. Commissioners discussed state directives related to COVID-19, public gatherings, and youth sports: Following Governor Steve Sisolak’s most recent COVID-19 directive to allow youth and non-professional organized sports, Washoe County Commissioners have faced questions from residents about the need for clarity and consistency in how to enact policies.
Chair Bob Lucey clarified that the Board has no jurisdiction over high school sports. The conversation centered on youth and adult recreation sports played on county property and fields.
“Youth sports – this concerns me. Under the governor’s directive No. 34, we have to enforce a number of these safety issues because these sports are on our fields. I’d like to see those young kids get back on the field as soon as possible. But we have to continue to flatten the curve to continue to open the sports back up.”
Washoe County is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases driven largely by 18- to 24-year-olds. Chair Lucey addressed this group directly.
“If nothing else, please hear my plea – please be consciousness on the decisions you are making. Realize our businesses are impacted, and we are working tirelessness to get businesses back open,” Lucey said. “You need to start behaving as an adult. Please be responsible. That’s my plea for the morning and I will leave it at that.”
While no action was taken on this item, commissioners had a robust discussion on the state directives and called for more consistency in policy and enforcement of policy.
2. Commissioners approved a grant tosupport COVID-19 mitigation atthe Washoe County School District : As part of the county’s $20.2 million CARES Act funding, the commission approved a grant of more than $72,000 to cover the cost of two part-time Employee Health Nurses placed within the Washoe County School District. The nurses will help manage and track employee absences related to COVID-19. The nurses will also help minimize the spread of the disease by educating staff and promoting sick leave for educators who are feeling ill.
3. Washoe County Human Services Agency received several budget allocations to support vulnerable populations:A $240,000 grant was approved to help HSA clients with serious mental illness moving from chronic homelessness into transitional and permanent housing. This grant enables case managers to find housing, treatment, and other recovery support services to assist those who are at risk of chronic homelessness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a growing need for home-delivered meals to elderly and disabled residents in Washoe County. That need for food also means a need for paper necessities, such as to-go containers, trays, bags, disposable cutlery, cups and lids and other disposable items. The Commission approved a grant for $208,000 from the county’s CARES Act funding to cover these aforementioned essential needs.
Washoe County’s Veterans Services Office supports more than 50,000 veterans and their families and survivors. This support is essential to help veterans reintegrate into society and to navigate the benefits offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Tuesday, county commissioners approved a sole-source agreement between Washoe County and its VSO provider, Vietnam Veterans of California, Inc. dba Nation’s Finest, to continue its advocacy and support services through September 30, 2021, with the provision for a contract extension. The agreement is for up to $150,000 annually.
4. Commissioners approved a 25-year lease for Our Place:The County Commission approved a 25-year lease agreement between Washoe County and the State of Nevada at the Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services campus, which is now known as Our Place.The lease ensures stability of the services and safety that Our Place provides vulnerable populations in our community. The lease agreement replaces a previous lease that was agreed upon in June 2019. The latest agreement will cost the county just over $576,000 annually to maintain the property. The State will credit Washoe County an equivalent amount for work and improvements made to the campus.
Our Place is an outcome-based campus, designed to create a safe and stable environment for women and families experiencing homelessness. Our Place provides a safe, secure and healthy community by providing clients with the following services:
- Mental health and substance abuse resources.
- Reduction of jail admission/emergency room visits.
- Prevention of foster care placements and preservation of families.
- Employment and educational opportunities.
“We are proud of this 25-year lease, as it allows our staff to pivot when required and respond quickly within our campus to meet the needs of our friends experiencing homelessness,” Human Services Agency Director Amber Howell said. “We also have an opportunity to build a garden and additional buildings, which will enhance the recovery experience for our clients who need a safe, healthy and secure place to stay.”
5. Commissioners approved changes to the Washoe County Health Benefits Program for employees:Commissioners heard therecommendations for the 2021 calendar year insurance plans for Washoe County employees, which includes medical dental, vision, and life insurance coverage. The benefit changes, supported and unanimously approved by all bargaining units represented on the county’s Insurance Negotiations Committee, will cost approximately $59.3 million.
The current insurance plan provides employees with three types of insurance: a self-funded group plan (PPO), a fully insured Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) paired with a GAP plan, and a self-funded High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) paired with a Health Savings Account for active employees and a Health Reimbursement Arrangement for retirees. Current enrollment is approximately 20 percent in the PPO, 20 percent in the HMO, and 60 percent in the HDHP.
Additional changes, recommended by County staff would bring the PPO and HDHP under a single administrator, Hometown Health, and reduce the self-funded plan options from four to two plans. Hometown Health has expanded its provider network, exclusively for Washoe County, to include Renown and St. Mary’s as in-network providers available to all participants enrolled in the PPO and HDHP plans. Currently, employees must choose either Renown or St. Mary’s as their facility of choice during Open Enrollment and the new plans would allow employees to choose where they want to be treated at the time of treatment. The HMO plan would retain St. Mary’s and Northern Nevada Medical Center in its network.
“Just to be clear, all bargaining groups had the opportunity to discuss this and felt that these were adequate changes for their memberships,” Lucey said.
6. Commissioners approvedbond refinancing: As a matter of fiscal housekeeping, the Board approved the refinancing of a Washoe County General Obligation Bond with a maximum principal amount of $9.8 million, a move requiring a supermajority vote of the board. The current 2019B Building Refunding Bonds carry a 2.3 percent interest rate, while the new 2020B Refunding Bonds can be refinanced at a rate of 1.2-1.4 percent, generating an estimated $400,000 in savings.