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Past year brings many changes to city

The end of 2017 is here and with it comes a time of reflection about what has happened in Boulder City in the past 12 months.

City leadership dramatically changed with many new department heads at the helm. City Council approved the first large land sale and new development in town in the past 20 years. It also welcomed two new members.

The town began the process of getting a new pool, as the current one is too costly to repair, and saw the beginnings of a new interstate that will lessen traffic in town.

The schools in town also encountered changes as Boulder City High School eliminated its art department to hire another school administrator. The high school also earned several state championships in sports.

Boulder City also was affected by the deadliest shooting in modern United States history at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival Oct. 1 at Mandalay Bay.

With the new year arriving Monday, here is a chronological list of the biggest stories of the year.

Retirements and resignations

Personnel changes at the city started in February when former city attorney Dave Olsen was asked to retire. Olsen said that he “resigned at their request” after talking to Mayor Rod Woodbury and then-City Councilman Cam Walker.

“They indicated to me they, the two of them at least, felt like it was time for a change as far as the city attorney’s office was concerned,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Boulder City Review. “I asked them a few questions. I wanted to know if they were willing to honor my contract as far as my exit. And they said ‘Yes,’ and I said ‘Well, I think we are all on the same page.’ ”

Woodbury said that the resignation would be in the interests of everyone involved and that despite never being the perfect time for changes like this, it was time for “new blood” in the position.

Olsen’s resignation was effective July 1.

Four months later, City Manager David Fraser’s resignation was announced in the City Council’s agenda packet for its June 6 meeting. He would not comment on his resignation, but then-Councilman Duncan McCoy said that he knew two council members had talked to Fraser about it. He could not talk to them, however, because of the open meeting law.

At its meeting, Council approved Fraser’s separation agreement, which gave him seven months of severance pay rather than the six his contract stipulated.

Two months later, Finance Director Hyun Kim resigned his position to become city manager of Fife, Washington. He had been on the job for 10 months.

Airport Manager Kerry Ahearn resigned March 28. The city hired Jennifer Lopez as manager in August.

Brok Armantrout was reassigned from community development director to special projects coordinator in May. Michael Mays of Illinois was hired as community development director and started in the position Sept. 18.

The city is still searching for a new city manager and just named a new finance director, Diane Pelletier. Public Works Director Scott Hansen is the acting city manager.

Art department eliminated

In February, Boulder City High’s school organizational team voted to eliminate three teaching positions to salvage an administrative position because of proposed budget cuts from the state based on its enrollment projections for the coming school year.

One of those positions was the art department.

“This year’s budget represents additional challenges as we needed to eliminate three positions from our budget,” Principal Amy Wagner said. “My overall priority is to foster a safe and respectful learning environment for our students and staff, which is a part of our school belief statement, school improvement goals and district pledge of achievement.”

The team members also felt that they were not prepared to make the decision between an administrator and the art department.

“I felt we had made decisions without enough information and that the whole process had been rushed,” said Chairman William Strachan.

When the school year started, the high school’s enrollment was 630 students, which was 43 more than the original projection of 587.

Wagner said the art program would be the first program restored if the enrollment was higher. Despite higher enrollment, it has not been restored, but several art classes are being offered by another teacher. The higher enrollment also allowed the school to purchase new textbooks and equipment.

Land sale approved

In April, the city approved its first major land deal in 20 years when it decided to move forward with the sale of almost 31 acres of land at the southeast corner of Bristlecone Drive at Adams Boulevard.

StoryBook Homes, represented by principle Wayne Laska, will buy the land in three phases for a total of $9.1 million. The three phases make it possible for him to build under the city’s controlled-growth ordinance. He plans to create a 127-home subdivision with private streets maintained by a homeowners association.

Mr. Mayor dies

Bob Ferraro, Boulder City’s first elected mayor and longtime councilman, died in May at the age of 81. During his time in office, he helped the city acquire 200 square miles of vacant federal land in the Eldorado Valley south and west of the Boulder City Airport, which made the city the largest in the state by area.

In addition, he helped lead the effort that created the controlled-growth ordinance and required the city to obtain permission from voters to sell parcels of city-owned land larger than an acre.

He was a longtime resident of the town and loved by many.

“He was just a great guy. It was obvious he loved Boulder City and its people, and he loved being mayor,” said former Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, who served simultaneously for decades with Ferraro. “I don’t think I’ve seen anybody who enjoyed representing people or being in public office as much as Bob did.”

“He had three decades of service to the community; that’s the best way I can put it,” said former Mayor Roger Tobler, who succeeded Ferraro. “Someone who is going to spend that much time and energy on the community says it all for him.”

Highly contested election

Boulder City elected political newcomers Warren Harhay and Kiernan McManus in June’s municipal election.

Harhay received the most votes, 2,298, out of the 8,251 cast. McManus had 2,173. John Milburn fell 233 votes behind with 1,940, and incumbent Cam Walker was fourth with 1,840 votes.

The four men advanced from the April primary, which had eight men vying for the two open seats. Councilman Duncan McCoy had announced in October 2016 he would not seek re-election.

The June election also saw the overwhelming defeat of Ballot Question No. 1, which would have eliminated the 30-home limit per developer in the city’s controlled-growth ordinance. Approximately 71 percent of the 4,377 votes were cast against the issue. Voters also defeated a proposal to pursue a full interchange at Buchanan Boulevard and Interstate 11 through Question No. 2. Almost 60 percent of the 4,361 votes cast were against the proposal.

Art removed

The old Browder Building on Nevada Way in downtown Boulder City saw some changes this year as its murals were removed, as were the ones on the old Scratch House restaurant on Arizona Street. Both buildings are owned by Charles Lawson.

In June, Lawson filed for a permit to to demolish the historic buildings on Nevada Way. Constructed in 1931, they are the oldest commercial buildings in the city.

The Historic Preservation Committee informed Lawson that it preferred he sell the building rather than tear it down. Their recommendation, however, is not binding. The permit was appealed, but the City Council denied it.

In an email to the city’s planner, Lawson said that he planned to demolish it in November, but it still stands. Lawson also said he would entertain serious offers for the property. His price: $750,000 in cash as is.

Pool project

Boulder City residents and city officials agreed that the town needed a new pool and started the process in July when the Parks and Recreation Commission approved having the public works department issue a request for qualifications to hire a consultant for the new aquatic and cultural center.

At its Dec. 12 meeting, City Council approved a $109,000 contract with SH Architecture to facilitate and prepare concept plans for the project. The city had set aside $200,000 for the contract and, if the project stays on track, construction will start in 2020 or 2021.

Parkway mixup

With the opening of the first portion of Interstate 11 in August, Nevada Highway was changed to Boulder City Parkway to give more visibility to the city and increase the number of visitors who stop by. When Nevada Department of Transportation installed signs on the new interstate, it put the wrong street name on them. Rather than calling the street Boulder City Parkway, it said Boulder City Boulevard.

According to Tony Illia, spokesman for NDOT, there was a “miscommunication within the Nevada Department of Transportation about what U.S. Highway 93 should be called once Interstate 11 is complete.”

He said an agreement in mid-2014 called for it be named Boulder City Boulevard. “However, in late 2014, it was adjusted and renamed Boulder City Parkway. Unfortunately, the department just recently realized this change. The new signs should be installed by the end of the year.”

Legal matters

At the Sept. 26 City Council meeting, religion and cronyism were discussed as the council approved giving Acting City Attorney Steve Morris a conditional offer of employment, pending an employee agreement, physical and background check. The vote was divided 3-2 with Woodbury, Councilman Rich Shuman and Councilwoman Peggy Leavitt voting for his appointment, and Councilmen Warren Harhay and Kiernan McManus voting against it.

Residents voiced their distaste for Morris during the hiring process for city attorney and have accused him of being given an unfair advantage because of his relationship with Woodbury.

Morris and Woodbury used to be law partners, and both are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Woodbury disclosed their former partnership during the appointment process and said that they dissolved their partnership in 2011 and haven’t worked together in that manner since. He also disclosed their church involvement and said that Morris used to be the bishop of his church but now had a regional position and served several congregations. Morris no longer attended Woodbury’s church, but his family did. Woodbury had disclosed all this to the state ethics commission, and they told him there was no conflict of interest.

Morris had worked as an independent contractor in the city attorney’s office before getting the position.

His contract as the new city attorney is currently in limbo because of two open meeting law complaints filed against the city. While it is in limbo, he receives his billable rate of $325 per hour for approximately 15 hours per week.

Vegas strong

The mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival Oct. 1 in Las Vegas near Mandalay Bay was felt in Boulder City as its aquatic director, Jacob Andersen, was wounded when he was attending the festival with his fiance and her family.

“When I realized what was going on, it was about the same time I realized I had been shot,” he said. “It was like being stabbed with a burning knife.”

He was 45-50 yards away from the stage on the side closest to Mandalay Bay when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire from his room, killing 58 people and wounding 546.

Boulder City Police Explorer Bailey Thompson was also at the festival. Once the shots started, the 17-year-old helped get victims to the hospital. He also helped the hospital with security.

A few other Boulder City residents also attended, including students from Boulder City High School.

Following Oct. 1 people all over Boulder City came together to raise money for the victims and those affected by the shooting. Vegas Strong decals were given away and sold as fundraisers, and local company Fisher Space Pen began selling special pens with proceeds donated to the victims.

Paddock died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after the shooting.

Honorable mentions

Mary Jo Frazier sentenced: In January, former animal control supervisor Mary Jo Frazier was sentenced to 90 days in the Clark County Detention Center followed by four years of probation after pleading guilty to one count of felony animal cruelty in October 2016.

Frazier originally was sentenced to 16-40 months, but that time was deferred pending her probation. Upon release from the detention center, the terms of her probation stipulate that she is prohibited from owning or interacting with any animals and from using alcohol or marijuana. She also had to complete a substance abuse evaluation and animal cruelty counseling class.

State championships: The Boulder City High School volleyball team ended its 28-year drought and won the state championship against longtime rival Moapa Valley. The girls bowling team won its first state championship in the school’s history after defeating longtime rival Southeast Career Technical Academy. The Eagles also earned state titles in baseball, swimming, boys tennis and girls golf. Senior Lani Potter earned her second consecutive individual state title in golf.

Former Fire Chief Sears dies: Longtime Boulder City resident, public servant and former fire chief Robert “Chief” Sears died Nov. 20 at his home in Buhl, Idaho, at the age of 89. Sears served as fire chief for 21 years, bringing the department from a volunteer organization to a full-time one.

He was proactive and helped reduce fire insurance rates and started “Operation Heart Start,” which increased the department’s save rate of cardiac emergencies to higher than the national average.

The Nevada governor’s office declared Feb. 9, 1991, as Chief Robert Sears Days for the “many years of outstanding service” he dedicated to the safety of the people of Nevada.

After retiring, Sears continued to serve the public through the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce.

John Hunt case: The city’s case against resident John Hunt continued after Hunt filed a federal complaint against the city and the Boulder City Police Department, and the city refiled criminal charges against him for repeatedly walking back and forth in a marked crosswalk to protest a police-sanctioned pedestrian enforcement detail.

Surveillance footage and dash-cam footage from the Nevada Highway Patrol seem to contradict the police department’s version of events. The case is still ongoing.

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

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