Some In Dayton Reconsider Incorporation

Despite three previously failed attempts to incorporate this 158-year-old northern Nevada town, some residents of Dayton want to try again.

Supporters of forming what would be Lyon County's newest municipality - in one form or another - point to what they say are years of haphazard growth and a lack of services in the fast-growing community east of Carson City.

But critics wonder if the time is right, given an uncertain economy and slowed growth. Under those conditions, they say voters might be more reluctant than ever to create a local government with authority impose taxes and fees.

"I think it's a little early," said Phil Coey, a Dayton property manager and chairman of the Dayton Regional Advisory Council that advises Lyon County commissioners.

"Dayton doesn't have the tax base," he said.

"It doesn't have the commercial and industrial development yet, and I don't think you should slap taxes on residents."

Proponents counter that Dayton will boom again and that retailers and commercial business are moving in now.

And even critics agree that incorporation is inevitable, so supporters say if not now, when?

"I was at a Dayton High School computer class, and the kids started talking about how they wish Dayton had more parks and that maybe Dayton needs to incorporate as a city," said Christy McGill, director of the Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey counties and the leader of the current effort to incorporate Dayton.

"I'm sure they heard it from their parents, but I thought, gosh, if our high school kids are talking like this maybe the whole community is talking like this".

"People are frustrated that they build parks but there's no money for upkeep," McGill said. "And we still don't have a comprehensive transportation plan. The county is approving subdivisions without any transportation plan. There are no planning benchmarks and until we get some, people don't want to accept a huge amount of new development."

About 50 citizens gathered in the Dayton Intermediate School gymnasium earlier this month to discuss the issue and to explore the long, legal process of incorporating as a city.

McGill said the group also is researching other options besides full city status, including a general law city, a charter city and an unincorporated town.

The first requires a mayor, treasurer, attorney and a city council, which has jurisdiction over street, sewer, water and park projects.

A charter city is similar except that the city creates a charter that maps out the structure and the role of local government.

An unincorporated town has a town board with fewer responsibilities than either type of city.

"An unincorporated town has a town board of trustees elected by the people, but it's still a creature of the county.

The finances go through the county, and the board could be recalled by the county commission," said David Fraser, executive director of the
Nevada League of Cities and Municipalities.

"An unincorporated town can pick and choose what services it wants to provide. A city has to take everything. "

Supporters are looking to Fernley for guidance on how to proceed.

Fernley became an incorporated city in July 2001.

"It was a five-year project, and a lot of engineering was involved," said Debra Brazell, president and CEO of Hydrotech Inc., a general engineering contractor in Fernley, who launched the effort to incorporate Fernley.

Brazell estimates that the entire project to incorporate cost between $7,000 and $10,000 and required a couple of hours daily for her and other committed proponents.

"The month before the election it was a full time job."

Don Mello, a Dayton homeowner who served in the Nevada Legislature for 27 years, is not in favor of incorporation now, in part, because the town lacks the sort of infrastructure that a town like Fernley already had in place.

He cautioned that a city needs property and buildings to house city employees and to hold council meetings.

There's also the expense of salaries and benefits for administrators and workers.

"I don't think the economy is that good both nationwide and locally," he said.

"It always costs more, never less," Mello said. "There has to be a reason for wanting to become a city, and I'm not sure there is one right now."