Tuesday night’s meeting at the Mesquite City Council’s chambers were staged to be an interesting night that would determine the future of two of Mesquite’s vital businesses.
But first, after general public comment, the City unveiled a new feature being released soon for web and apps users that will allow them to find locations in and around Mesquite quickly and easily. Stay tuned for more information on that as it is released.
In other business, the council did approve the grandfathering of Dotty’s potentially new location at the current 19th Hole Bar & Grill on El Dorado Road. Dotty’s, if purchase of the establishment is successful, will be able to keep the 50 gaming machines license. Three representatives from Dotty’s attended the meeting and explained that they will be closing the business while they give the property a much-needed facelift. George Garcia, one of the representatives said “there will be interior and exterior improvements.”
Development Services Director, Richard Secrist, stated that the improvements will include a refinishing of the outer walls with new stucco, going to the beige and brown colors as many of the buildings in Mesquite have. What’s uncertain now is how long the establishment will be closed, where the employees stand and how this might affect other aspects of business in Mesquite. As of Wednesday morning, Todd Peterson, current owner of the 19th Hole, was unavailable for comment.
The other contentious item on the agenda was the review of Mesquite Regional Business, Inc, an economic development-based company originally funded by the City. With the current budget issues, Mayor Al Litman and Councilman Kraig Hafen requested that they be brought back to the council for consideration of future direction, whether or not to continue funding the group.
The original agreement brought forth by the city in 2012-13 was that MRB would be funded at $190,000 for the first three years, and the funding thereafter would be decreased to the point of where it could be a self-sufficient business that brought more businesses to Mesquite.
With two years down, MRB CEO Gaye Stockman and George Gault, MRB Chairman, have come under fire primarily from a few locals who believe that MRB is non-effective and non-conforming to Open Meeting Law and Non-Profit regulations.
Tuesday night’s meeting showed just how much support MRB has from both current residents and new clients that have chosen to relocate or start a business in Mesquite because of the efforts of MRB. Several of those comments came from the partners who are working to open Deep Roots Medical, the new medical marijuana facility off of W Pioneer Boulevard, staff from Star Nursery and residents who have seen other attempts by the city for economic growth.
“If you shut it down now, Mesquite is likely to not have any viable economic development for five to ten years,” said Barbara Ellestad, a resident and current Vice President of the Virgin Valley Water District. “If not this, then what?”
“When was the last time that you saw anyone from the governor’s office come to Mesquite to talk about economic development?” (Referring to a visit from Tom Skancke, president and CEO from the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance. “If nothing else, MRB has made people understand that Mesquite is in the state of Nevada. There’s an accomplishment,” she added.
Former Councilman Dave Bennett also approached the council and reminded them that in the twelve years he served on the dais, no method was as effective as MRB has been. “I have a different perspective going back to the 90’s,” he said. “If they’re not doing it, who are you going to get to do it in-house, and what is it going to cost? Are you going to get a better bang for your buck?”
John Williams, a Mesquite resident who has taken opposition with MRB pointed out that MRB has been going outside of their contracted duties. “Is this business going to compete with the chamber? They are doing the functions the chamber should be doing… MRB was hired to perform a contract to bring new primary jobs to Mesquite for people to be employed here. Those have not happened. So now they’re doing the Chamber’s work.”
“There isn’t room for both,” he added.
Mike McGreer, another resident, had also stepped up and spoke his side of the opposition, citing concerns with the structure and formation of MRB and how it all fit into the 501(c)6 regulations. “You have spent two years now, collaborating with them as if they have,” he said. “This Cliven Bundy approach to governance in which you just simply ignore the federal law and do what you want to do, is not an acceptable way of doing governance. If you had gone out and bid this thing properly, we would not be here right now.”
Council’s comments on the matter echoed much of what some of the public voiced earlier in the night.
Councilwoman Cindi Delaney presented some numbers of what the city has previously spent on economic development in years, averaging around the $300,000 per year with little to no results. “We have had a significant return on investment (with MRB),” she said. “Why would we pull the rug out now?”
She went on to cite that once the Deep Roots Medical becomes fully functional, the potential income the city will see from that one business alone will be about $1 million per year, which will repair the city’s deficit.
Councilmen Rich Green, Geno Withelder, George Rapson and Kraig Hafen also chimed in with some support while acknowledging that the main reason of bringing it back to the agenda for discussion was to try and decide what will be cut from the upcoming budget.
“I will support this for one more year,” said Rapson. “After that, I will need to see more.”
Hafen reiterated that “we set out in a strategic planning meeting and the number one issue is the financial situation with the city. If things don’t change and we continue (overspending) then what? I fully supported the concept in the beginning… it’s not about who they are; it’s the right organization, the right vehicle, to bring businesses in.”
By the end of the council’s commenting, they opted to let the item die, as in not take any action, and to talk with MRB to see if costs can be reduced in the next financial budget session, which should start in April or May.