The retreat featured an economic review of the region, discussing trends and challenges the county will face during this year and continuing until 2015. The commissioners’ five objectives outlined for the Strategic Plan are as follows:
-Sustainability, including financial sustainability, sustaining our services and infrastructure, and sustainability of our natural resources
-Regional economic development and diversification
-County workforce development, including employee retention, training and succession planning
-Safe, secure and healthy communities
-Public participation and transparent communication.
Commissioner Vaughn Hartung, who oversees District 4, encompassing Sparks and Spanish Springs, said tackling regional economic development will largely depend on boosting public services.
“In my opinion, the commission is not in the position of creating jobs, we are in the position of developing jobs,” Hartung said Friday. “When I create a job as a commissioner it means I have to either add someone at the county or I am creating a job through infrastructure projects -- roads, bridges, dams, etc. Those are relatively short-term jobs, and I am not saying as we start to grow back out of this recession the county will not need to add more jobs, but there are places where we would like to come back up to 2005, 2006, 2007 levels and that is in public safety. We are always cognizant of those needs and those demands on the community.”
Sustainability is a key component to the county’s plans and refraining from making cuts will be vitally important, according to Hartung. He said “flat” is going to be a term thrown around government entities and development agencies throughout the year.
“You will hear this a lot, especially from developers, flat is the new up,” he said. “When we’re not cutting budgets and developers feel the same way, and we can maintain a certain level, they’re thrilled.”
Hartung said much of his job will be collaborating with the City of Sparks and the Sparks City Council. He said the the City Council has been a “model system” in dealing with cutbacks and continuing to provide public services.
“The Sparks City Council has been very diligent and very good at trying to maintain a level of service but they too have had cuts,” he said. “They have had cuts in the police department and fire department and in planning and public works. They have done a really good job to make sure they have maintained a good level of service.
“Employee retention and planning is a big deal for us. We want to maintain the safety and security of the community and that makes for a healthy community. Honestly, if people don’t feel comfortable and they don't feel secure about northern Nevada, they are not going to come here. They are not going to land here and we are not going to grow.”
One of Hartung’s specialties lies in the county’s public participation objective due to his tenure serving on the Spanish Springs Citizen Advisory Board. He said community collaboration and participation could potentially change the appearance of the city.
“I have said this for a long time: if we could get every family -- not every person -- to donate one hour per month of their time to their community, we would live in a completely different place,” Hartung said. “I promise you wouldn’t even recognize it. There is a lot of opportunities for people to become involved and it’s incumbent upon a healthy community to be sure that we are actively seeking volunteers.”
Hartung said many of plans have been laid for projects in the Sparks area that will greatly improve the city. He cited the Regional Transportation Commission’s SouthEast Connector and Pyramid Way and McCarran Boulevard improvement projects, as well as a flood protection plan for the city, as major enhancements to the area.
“If we have another flood that is commensurate with the flood we saw in 1997, we will see a huge exodus of those businesses that are just tired of being flooded, and that is a huge employment center for the city of Sparks and northern Nevada. There is a lot of activity that happens down there,” Hartung said, adding that he will be working on the Truckee Meadows Flood Management Authority. “We are going to have to, as a community, knuckle down and put something on the ground. There has to be something. That is one of the major issues we have to look at right out of the chute.
“(The SouthEast Connector) will open up the whole eastern side of the valley. It will give us connectivity from the south to the north on that eastern side of the valley. It will open up so many opportunities for land development it is not even funny.”
Hartung said he supports the City of Sparks’ plan to strive to hold 200 events per year as part of embracing the ‘It’s Happening Here’ brand. Hartung said he will help support the city and the City Council in bringing continually more events to the area.
“One of the things the Sparks City Council has talked about is having 200 events a year and, quite honestly, I don’t think that is an unreasonable number at all,” he said. “I have got some ideas I am going to bring to some of the council members in the coming weeks and months for things the City of Sparks can do. My hat comes off to the people at City of Sparks. They are so proactive on everything from the rib cook-off to the 4th of July to everything with Hot August Nights, they have done a really good job. The ity of Sparks is really doing some great things and I am so excited about this. I cannot wait to work with them.”