By Garrett Estrada
Ely Times Staff Writer
The White Pine County Commission designated Commissioners Mick Lemich and Laurie Carson as the two representatives from the county to join a proposed ad-hoc committee with the intention of merging the county’s governmental services with the city of Ely. The ad-hoc committee still awaits approval from the commission as it was tabled until their next meeting to limit the amount of potential members from nine down to five.
Lemich said that the combination of services between the county and the city would allow for a more comprehensive approach to fire departments and emergency medical services to the residents of both the city and county. He called the city’s fire department an “asset to the community” and lauded the organization and amount of volunteers it receives. In comparison, he felt that the county is currently “undermanned” and struggles to efficiently cover its large area.
“The way we are doing things now is not getting it done,” Lemich said. “My concern isn’t about dollars. My concern is about providing service to the people of the county and to Ely.”
Carson has a history of trying to merge the two entities services. As chairman oof the county commission in 2010, Carson conducted a study for a resolution to merge city and county government services, to find out what the best economical way would be to go about the process. The study was never completed as in early 2011, the commission saw several changes in commissioners, and the resolution was dissolved.
“Last time the county bit off more than we could chew,” Carson said. “This time we are being more realistic.”
County Commissioner Mike Coster informed the Ely City Council during a public comment section of their last meeting, asking them to put a similar motion on their next meeting’s agenda to designate two members to join the committee. City Councilman Marty Westland said that he feels there is no downside to consolidating the emergency services.
“I’m definitely going to try and get in on the agenda,” Westland said, adding that the council voted in the past in favor of combining the services, and that he would like to work with the county “more than we already do.”
The fifth position would be filled by an “at large” member of the community.
The idea for combining the services of the county and city was presented to the voting public as part of the November 2 election in 2010, posed as a ballot question which read “Shall the governments of the City of Ely and White Pine County combine into one governmental unit?” Of the 3,192 votes the question received, 53 percent voted yes.
Current County Commission Chairman John Lampros clarified the county’s stance on the issue during their last meeting on March 26, stating that the proposed committee and designated commissioners are only interested in combining government services such as fire and emergency medical, not having the county absorb the city’s council like some had thought.
County Commissioner Richard Howe said at the meeting that he had conducted multiple inquires with local business owners in the city and county to gauge interest, and reported that the idea of merging the two in “overwhelmingly” positive.
The commission also began their annual budget approval process for the county. Members of the commission will review the budgets of each separate department of White Pine County’s services before approving them at their next meeting.
The commission will also hold a special meeting on April 4 to go over a “conceptual proposal” by District Fire Chief Brett Waters to combine the county’s fire department and emergency medical services as well as discussion on how to balance the county’s budget for fiscal year 2015. The meeting will take place at the White Pine County Commission Meeting Chambers at 10 a.m.