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Lots of firsts highlight year

Another year has come and gone for Boulder City and with it is a time to reflect on some of the major events from 2018.

One of the biggest stories, whose impact has yet to be determined, was the opening of Interstate 11, the first federal interstate to open in 30 years. The multiyear project also reconnected Boulder City and Henderson when at bridge on the Nevada Southern Railway line opened near Railroad Pass.

City leadership continued to change as a longtime department head and the city parted ways, new positions were created, and a new city manager and city attorney started work. The city also faced legal challenges, including an open meeting law violation and an employee admitting to a state ethics violation.

Additionally, Sempra Renewables sold its solar assets in the Eldorado Valley, but the solar leases are still expected to remain intact.

The town saw its first new subdivision in nearly 30 years when StoryBook Homes broke ground on Boulder Hills Estates near the intersection of Bristlecone Drive and Adams Boulevard.

It also was a strong year for Boulder City High School as several sports teams brought home state championships.

With the new year starting Tuesday, here are some of the biggest stories of the year.

City personnel changes

Starting in January and continuing into December, the leadership of Boulder City changed hands. In January, City Council approved offering the job of city manager to Al Noyola.

Noyola was working as city manager of Arvin, California, when he took the job. He had also worked in various public administration jobs in North Las Vegas and had had a career in the United States Air Force.

Despite being chosen Sept. 26, 2017, City Attorney Steve Morris did not start full time in the position until Feb. 28 due to him “exercising an abundance of caution” with open meeting law complaints that had been filed about his job interview.

The city’s new Finance Director Diane Pelletier was hired in late 2017 and started her job Jan. 22.

The city added 17 full-time positions to its staff. Fifteen of them were completely new positions and two were previously part-time jobs. The new positions included a police dispatcher, police detective, police sergeant, communications manager, airport administrative coordinator, contracts/real estate manager, purchasing manager, financial analyst and economic development coordinator.

In June, the city parted ways with longtime Public Works Director Scott Hansen. After a monthslong search, it hired Keegan Littrell, who started working Dec. 10. Before coming to Boulder City, Littrell was the public works director and city engineer for Bullhead City, Arizona.

In July, the city hired Lisa LaPlante as its communication manager. LaPlante’s duties include planning, directing, managing and overseeing the activities and operations of the city’s communication.

Longtime contractor 10e Media ended its contract with the city to provide public information services at the end of October.

Another new position the city added was utilities director. On Nov. 26, Dennis Porter started in the position, four months after City Council removed utilities from public works and created a new department that encompasses planning, maintenance and water operation, wastewater, electrical and landfill.

Additionally, the city hired Raffi Festekjian as economic development coordinator. In this position, he will work as the link between the city and the business community as well as improving customer service.

The city also lost its electric utility administrator Rory Dwyer, who retired in October, and its airport manager Jennifer Lopez, who took a job with Clark County Department of Aviation at the end of December.

Final spike

In April, Boulder City and Henderson were connected by railroad for the first time in 30 years when a bridge over Interstate 11 on the Nevada Southern Railway line opened near Railroad Pass. It will allow the train to pass over I-11, though logistics are still being coordinated to allow that to happen on a regular basis.

Local, state and federal officials gathered to mark its opening with a special ceremony that included Gov. Brian Sandoval and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller driving special “silver” spikes to reconnect the rails.

“This is an important day for Boulder City,” Sandoval said. “It’s restoring the history and legacy of what was built here and the Hoover Dam. It’s really important for students and tourists to know this history of the Nevada Southern Railway.”

Interstate 11 opens

On Aug. 9, the newest federal interstate, Interstate 11, opened in town.

The 15-mile stretch of I-11 runs from Henderson to the Hoover Dam and goes around Boulder City. It was expected to reduce travel times between those areas by as much as 30 minutes, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation.

NDOT and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada worked jointly on the road, which cost $318 million. It was paid for through federal and state funds with Clark County’s fuel revenue indexing tax.

Within the first month of it being open, four people were killed in two accidents on the highway. To help improve safety and ease confusion, NDOT and RTC began installing more signs on the interstate at no cost to the city.

The impact of the bypass on the city and its businesses has yet to be determined, although one business, Alpaca Imports, closed three weeks after the opening citing reduced traffic.

City legal issues, challenges

In January, Boulder City’s Administrative Officer Bryce Boldt admitted to a “willfull violation” of state law in an agreement with the Nevada Commission on Ethics. In it, he agreed he used his position and government property for personal and financial gain when he stayed in a city building after his family moved to Arizona.

The commission fined him $1,000 for his actions and concluded that “he acted intentionally and knowingly” as defined by state law. It also determined that despite being reprimanded by former City Manager David Fraser, not having any other ethics law violations and cooperating with the ethics commission, Boldt’s violation “should be deemed a willful violation” in accordance to state law.

In May the city said Boldt would not be facing misdemeanor charges for violating municipal code by his actions because the statute of limitations had passed. Additionally, his admission could not be used prior evidence of guilt.

He was, however, suspended by Fraser and placed on leave without pay for two days after the city manager learned of Boldt’s actions a year earlier.

Also in January, former Boulder City Police Chief Thomas Finn’s wrongful termination case against the city was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge because his seven claims for relief against the city were not supported.

In February, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said City Council violated Nevada open meeting law by not providing supporting material regarding the backgrounds of the four city attorney candidates.

Resumes and interview questions for the candidates were to be available at the beginning of the council’s Sept. 20, 2017, meeting, according to the agenda packet. They were not, nor were they provided when requested by several people.

New subdivision

In March, Las Vegas-based builder StoryBook Homes broke ground on a single-family home development, Boulder Hills Estates, near the intersection of Bristlecone Drive and Adams Boulevard. The project is the first new subdivision in the community in nearly 30 years.

StoryBook Homes is planning to purchase the 30.83-acre parcel in three phases for a total of about $9.1 million and build 127 homes.

Sitting planning commissioner dies

Boulder City Planning Commissioner Tom Clements, grandson of original 31ers Tom and Erma Godbey, died unexpectedly the night of Aug. 16 at the age of 65.

He was a retired engineer and lifelong bachelor who had served on commission since February.

Commission Chairman Fritz McDonald said he appreciated Clements being a team player and one who based his opinions on facts.

“It’s a huge loss,” he said. “They are going to be shoes we can’t fill. It’s not a detriment to anyone else. Tom was unique … his ability to listen rationally and have discussions rather than yell and be closed-minded. Having someone like that volunteer is rare.”

In a joint statement from city leadership, Clements was remembered for his commitment to the town and its residents.

“Mayor Rod Woodbury, City Council and City Manager Al Noyola are expressing their sincerest condolences … as they learned of the passing of Tom Clements, a valued and dedicated member of the Boulder City Planning Commission. He was a steadfast supporter of the community and showed an incredible commitment to his role on the Planning Commission. … Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Clements family. His presence and his leadership will be greatly missed.”

Solar assets sold

At the end of September, Sempra Renewables announced it was selling its solar assets in the United States. The sale, however, is not expected to affect Boulder City’s solar leases, which have brought the city tens of millions of dollars in rent payments since 2006.

The company said it was selling off all of its nonutility operating solar assets, solar and battery storage development projects and one wind facility to Consolidated Edison Inc., for $1.54 billion in cash. The sale was finalized Dec. 13.

Sempra operated Copper Mountain 1, and 4 in the Eldorado Valley, and jointly owned Copper Mountain 2 and 3 with Con Edison.

Sports teams success

It was another stellar year for several sports teams at Boulder City High School.

In May, the girls swim team continued its dynasty and claimed its sixth consecutive 3A state championship when it outscored Truckee 170-150.

Additionally in May, the boys golf team claimed its first 3A state championship in 12 years after playing a perfect round of golf on day two of the tournament and earning a team score of 643. The Eagles finished six strokes ahead of Spring Creek.

In October, the Lady Eagles came back from a 14-stroke deficit to win their second 3A state golf championship over Pahrump. Also in October, the boys tennis team claimed its second 3A state championship when it beat The Meadows with a 10-2 victory in the finals.

The Boulder City High School girls volleyball team captured its second consecutive 3A state championship in November when it defeated Northern Nevada challenger Truckee 3-1.

Renovations complete

Boulder City High School started the 2018-2019 year with a new football field, marking the end of its multiyear renovation and construction project.

The field is part of the $2.5 million phase four of construction for the school, which started this year and includes sports fields and improvements such as new concession stands, bathrooms, a press box, visitor bleachers and a retaining wall.

The football field was the last of renovation projects at the school that included a new, state-of-the-art theater, a fine arts building, more than 20 classrooms, a lecture hall and administrative office space.

Additionally, the project included new tennis courts and a soccer field. The tennis courts double the capacity of the school’s existing ones and have LED lighting. The soccer field is regulation-size and has new sod and greater drainage capacity.

Library expansion rejected

In the November election, Boulder City residents showed their reluctance to take on more debt by deciding not to move forward with the proposed library renovation and expansion.

Earlier in the year, the library said it wanted to build out part of the basement and renovate the rest of the facility at 701 Adams Blvd. The proposal included more meeting rooms, a cafe, a better circulation area, new patios, a new entrance and designated areas in the lower level for the youth and teen departments.

The ballot question asked whether the Board of Clark County Commissioners could be authorized to issue as much as $10.5 million in general obligation bonds to the district for the project. The bonds were expected to increase property taxes an estimated $42 more a year for a home valued at $100,000.

Of the 7,365 votes that were cast, 67.88 percent voted no.

Honorable mentions

Leavitt leaves Planning Commission: In January, Commission Chairman Glen Leavitt resigned to run for Assembly District 23 seat. He said he was leaving because of possible conflicts that could arise during the campaign. In November, he won the seat against Independent American Ralph Preta with 71.5 percent of the vote.

Hood named principal of the year: Longtime Garrett Junior High School Principal Jamey Hood was named Nevada’s Middle School Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

New roof: During the summer, the historic old water filtration plant on Railroad Avenue received a new roof at no cost to the city, courtesy of Boulder City resident Scott Donnelly. He is president of Cooper Roofing & Solar and decided to replace the roof as a donation when he was contacted for an estimate on replacing it. The in-kind donation was $49,438.

Airport control tower: In April, Boulder City Municipal Airport was approved to participate in the Federal Aviation Administration’s control tower program, meaning it could install an air traffic control tower. Former Airport Manager Jennifer Lopez said she hoped have it in service by August 2022, as funding for installation of a tower is in the city’s proposed capital improvement budget for 2020 and 2021.

Rabbit killer jailed: Former Boulder City resident Devon Yslas was ordered to serve two years in jail after not staying out of trouble and violating the terms of his house arrest and release as well as threatening a prosecutor and possessing items prohibited by the justice court.

Yslas was arrested Sept. 7, 2017, after evidence connecting him to the mutilation of cottontail rabbits was found. In a court hearing in August, a witness reported that Yslas said he wanted to eat Chief Deputy District Attorney Amy Ferreira.

He is also facing charges in Henderson Justice Court for possessing wildlife after the end of open season; wanton waste of game; unlawful wildlife act; and hunt, trap or fish without license or permit.

Crosswalk protest case: Boulder City was still tied up in court in a case involving former resident John Hunt, who was arrested June 8, 2016, after repeatedly walking back and forth in a marked crosswalk to protest a police-sanctioned enforcement event. Boulder City Municipal Court found him guilty on four counts and Judge Margaret Whittaker sentenced him to 400 hours of community service.

Hunt appealed the case in District Court, and Judge Richard Scotti said the city vindictively prosecuted him and dismissed the case, ruling it a violation of the First Amendment.

Most recently, the city sought to disqualify Scotti from the case, claiming he was biased against it. Judge Linda Marie Bell denied the motion.

Hospital health clinic: In October, Boulder City Hospital opened the Boulder City Primary Care Clinic at 999 Adams Blvd., Suite 102. According to Tom Maher, CEO of the hospital, the clinic provides primary and urgent care.

Boulder City Review Editor Hali Bernstein Saylor contributed to this story.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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