On Wednesday, Jan. 13, the White Pine County Board of Commissioners held its twice-monthly meeting. In its capacity as the county fire commission, the board made two important decisions which, to some, seem to contradict each other.

The commission first approved a feasibility study on a consolidation or cooperation plan between the fire and emergency medical services of the county and the City of Ely. The commission can spend up to $50,000 to conduct the study.

Shortly after the approval, the commission proceeded to vote down the first step in creating a committee to negotiate terms for the combined fire services plan.

“We want to work with the city,” Board Chair Gary Perea said. “But we have to set some ground rules.”

Perea said he was disappointed with negativity directed toward the county he encountered after the board’s Dec. 16 joint meeting with the Ely City Council.

“Let all that other stuff go,” he said. “Let’s start something new. We can’t take all the old baggage forward. We have to leave it behind us.”

He hopes to eventually form a negotiating team, but believes the creation of a smaller group to first iron out opinion differences is in order.

“Stop the bickering,” he said. “We have to be leaders.”

Commissioner Mike Coster respects the chairman’s position.

“But we’re about to embark on an expensive study without communication and cooperation with the city,” he said. “It seems we’re taking inconsistent positions. If there’s all this hostility, why would we go ahead?”

To Coster, the committee would improve communication and elevate the debate.

“We’re forging ahead,” he said. “We should have the committee. I think it’s important to set that up, but we’re going ahead with one thing and not the other.”

The board meets next on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 9 a.m. in the White Pine County Library Conference Room.

Ely City Councilman Bruce Setterstrom related the board’s decisions to the council at its meeting Thursday, Jan. 14.

“The county will look at it again in March,” he said. “I’m embarrassed to report it.”

Among other business, the council approved a request by White Pine County School District Superintendent Bob Dolezal for a letter of support for a health occupations addition to White Pine High School.

Executive Director of Nevada Northern Railway Mark Bassett had much good news to report on one of the pillars of the local economy. The historical railroad carried more than 3,000 passengers last month, which set the December ridership record, and became the fourth record-setting month in a row. He sold over 4,000 tickets to the popular Polar Express holiday train ride, which is a 15 percent increase from last year. He reported a 2015 ridership of 13,500, which is a 7 percent increase over last year, and made the year the third largest since 1987.

The council also approved salary increases for four city employees, agreeing that all possessed the requisite character and professional competence. City Administrator Robert Switzer earned a 6 percent increase, while Fire Chief Ross Rivera, City Building Official Brad Christiansen and City Accounting Manager Amy Ulibarri each earned an increase of 2.5 percent.

The Council meets next on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 5 p.m. in the Ely Volunteer Fire Hall.

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