Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
On the rebound from the crushing recession of the late 2000s, and on the cusp of potentially explosive growth from an influx of industry in Northern Nevada, Fernley finds itself in the midst of the transition from struggling to stay afloat, to capitalizing on the economic development possibilities to provide better services and improved quality of life for its residents.
Three candidates are vying to lead the city through that transition as the city’s mayor for the next four years.
The incumbent who has served the last four years as mayor, after serving four years on the city council, Edgington said his top priority for the next four years would be completing the city’s master plan, to handle growth in a manageable way.
“Think next for the next four years, I’m very excited about managing to keep afloat and move in the right direction,” Edgington said. “The main thing with that is to stay the course with the master plan and hold people accountable.”
Edgington has lived in Fernley since 1988, and spent a career of 30-plus years in fire service, after four years in the Air Force and National Guard. He and his wife have three daughters and eight grandkids, who live in Silver Springs, Sparks and Spanish Springs.
Edgington said many of his preconceived notions about city government were proven wrong throughout his time as a city councilman and mayor. He said it takes experience to manage a city government, and that the city needs someone with that experience as it transitions into its next phase.
In his first year on the city council, in 2009, no homes were built in the city. Last year there were 213, and with the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center being essentially sold out of land, Edgington said Fernley’s industrial park is poised to attract new industries, which will lead to population growth.
“The last three years I’ve seen a lot of improvement,” he said. “We have started to see lot of people looking at us. With TRIC sold out, we’re the only industrial park that’s open that has infrastructure.”
The city of Fernley had more than 70 employees before the economy started to decline in 2007, and at one point was down to 51 during the recession. As the economy has recovered, the city is back up to about 60.
Those numbers reflect the impact throughout the community, where Fernley at one point had the highest rate of foreclosures and unemployment in the state.
Many of those problems manifested themselves as problems the city had no way to deal with, Edgington said. That’s why the city had to impose a water bond fee, to help pay the city’s debt for the water treatment plant, which was constructed because of a federal mandate to reduce arsenic in the city’s water.
Edgington said the next step in the city’s water is to be able to use its 10,000 acre feet per year of Truckee River water, which he hopes will improve the quality of the water.
“We’d be able to mix that water with our groundwater and hopefully dilute some of those minerals,” he said.
While many residents were upset about the water rate increases the city imposed last year, Edgington said he’s more concerned about making sure the city has water.
“Water is probably 80 percent of our time,” he said. “Most of our time is spent making sure we have adequate water and fighting for it.”
Edgington said the city is currently dealing with many problems the current administration and council inherited, and are looking for ways to address some of those issues.
“We have made changes to some of those policies, but we don’t want to make the same mistakes that were made in the past,” he said.
Along with the master plan to prepare for growth, Edgington said planning properly for downtown redevelopment will be a key to the city’s future.
“If we don’t do something now, we’ll be in the same boat we were in 10 years ago, 10 years from now,” he said.
Having lived in Fernley for about four years, Bickerton said he is running for mayor because he believes the city needs a more visible presence as its face.
Bickerton works for Waste Management as the Fernley transfer station attendant. He was born in Sparks and grew up in the North Lake Tahoe area. After graduating for North Tahoe High School, he attended Sierra College for two years, and lived in the Reno/Sparks area since then, until moving to Fernley.
He started his career after college as a Reno Police Department officer, but decided the danger of the job was too much with a young family, so he worked a variety of jobs until starting with Waste Management in 2010.
Bickerton said one of his primary issues is code enforcement.
He was particularly frustrated when he approached the city with code enforcement questions.
“I got the answer that we can’t do anything,” he said. “Allowing city laws to be broken, you’re really setting a bad precedent.”
Bickerton has no background in politics, but said he considers himself a working person who cares and who makes decisions based on common sense.
Bickerton said while the mayor rarely has the authority to take direct action, and only votes in the extremely rare case of a tie vote by the city council, he can lead by example and provide input into city council decisions by working with council members
Bickerton said the mayor represents the city regionally through its membership in several different agencies, and at the legislature, and that representative needs to be an energetic and enthusiastic ambassador for the city.
“Nothing against Roy, I like Roy, he’s a real good man, and he tries real hard, but there is personality involved, and the Mayor does need to have more personality,” Bickerton said.
While acknowledging large issues face the city, such as water, growth, lack of Consolidate Tax funding, and major decisions must be made, Bickerton said there is also a need to have small victories to make life better for residents.
He said he would like to host a mayor’s cleanup day four times a year, create new avenues for residents to recycle and have more small-town type community events and celebrations that get residents involved.
“I want to try to bring the small town ideas and cool things here,” he said. “We need to bring back Americana.”
With the city positioned to experience growth over the next few years, Bickerton said that needs to be managed in a controlled manner.
“We want to have controlled growth, in a way that we can handle,” he said. “A natural growth, it doesn’t hurt us.”
Bickerton also said the city pays its management employees enough that it shouldn’t need to hire outside consultants, as it did for a water rate study, or is doing as part of its planning process.
“That just doesn’t work well for me,” he said.
When considering new development, Bickerton said the city needs to support things that most of its residents can afford.
“I am for the single parents, the minimum wage, they can’t all be commuters to live here,” he said. “We are basically phasing out seniors on fixed incomes We need places where a working man can get along. We are creating and two totally different societies here, and I say enhance them both. To me we have a lot of opportunity for win here. I just have a lot of faith in good things happening for us.”
Hanan has lived in Fernley for seven years, and originally considered a run for a city council seat, but as the filing period last March went on, he realized only two candidates were running for mayor, so he decided to join the race.
Hanan said he is running because he, and he says, most residents, are frustrated with the way things are going in the city. He said the city is not transparent enough with residents, and residents are not getting accurate information from the city, and he said he doesn’t believe the city is addressing its problems correctly.
Rather than raise water rates and other fees, Hanan said instead, the city should be inviting business, development and commerce, and let the growth pay for itself and all other city needs.
“We’re not going to get out of any of these problems unless we have growth,” he said.
Hanan said one of his first priorities would be to start a city police department, but to phase it in gradually, starting with two or three officers, who would work jointly as traffic and code enforcement officers, while still relying on the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office for other law enforcement services.
To save money, he proposes having the officers patrol city streets on low cost, dual purpose motorcycles.
“The number one law enforcement complaint in the city right now is traffic, because there is no traffic enforcement except NHP on the highways,” Hanan said.
To start the department, Hanan said the city could raise $5 million simply by allowing 2,500 homes to be built, and charging developers $2,000 per home. From there, he said, the traffic and code enforcement would fund itself through citations, and it would give the city a start toward meeting the state requirements for a greater share of C-Tax.
“And by having traffic officers do code compliance, it would reduce combative incidents,” he said.
Hanan came to Fernley from the Bay Areay, where he attended Chabot College, then went to work in auto body shops, as a senior claims adjustor for Farmer’s Insurance and doing consulting work in property management. He served for six years as president of a homeowners association in Chabot Park, and has been president of the Desert Lakes Homeowner’s Association for the past four years.
He said he has also served for 500 hours as a volunteer for the North Lyon County Fire Protection District and for 2,000 hours as a paid and volunteer firefighter at Pyramid Lake Fire Department. He is currently mired in a dispute with North Lyon Fire to obtain his employee file, after members of the firefighters union disputed that he had served as a volunteer for the district.
He said that experience has taught him how to balance a budget, work with a manager and a staff under the board’s direction.
Hanan said all of the city’s issues, from lack of money to repair roads and maintain parks, bot the water rates the city increased last year, would be solved by adding more users to the system through growth.
“We need to match the same growth in other communities,” he said. “They’re growing by thousands of homes, we’re growing by 200 homes. If we don’t take advantage now, it’s going to be too late.”
Likewise he said, instead of raising water rates, the city should have increased its funding by inviting residents to use more water, and charge them for use. He disputes the contention that the city’s aquifer is shrinking, saying the aquifer is fed by all the mountains around the city.
“Even during drought our aquifer didn’t decrease,” Hanan said.
Hanan said none of the issues facing the city are any more important than others, because they’re all related.
“There is no priority list, I think all five or six are No. 1,” he said. “We’re 18 now, we’ve got to grow up, we’ve got to stop letting our parents in Yerington tell us what to do. I’m not a traditional candidate, I’m about making a profit. I’m blunt. I have a frankness about me. We need somebody to cut the crap and say what needs to be said.”