INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Dwindling community interest and opportunities to cut costs and modernize certain processes are the main reasons why Washoe County's Citizen Advisory Board meetings are suspended for the rest of 2012, officials said this week.The Washoe County CAB program was created in 1976 to provide the county's various governing boards with a better idea of a community's stance on proposed policies and regulations. Currently, the county has 14 active CABs, each with five to nine members.The Incline Village-Crystal Bay Citizen Advisory Board has met over the years to discuss various community issues, such as proposed developments and the impacts of budget cuts to various county programs, and oftentimes the board will vote on whether or not to support a project.The Incline CAB, in essence, gives Incline Village a voice when it comes to county matters, considering the Incline Village General Improvement District only is responsible for local water, sewer, trash and recreation services.Officials with regional agencies such as IVGID, Washoe County Sheriff's and North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, among others, also attend CAB meetings to provide updates. Former Washoe County District 1 Commissioner Jim Galloway regularly attended, as did current Commissioner John Breternitz.One of the problems with the meetings, however, is hardly any residents go. On average, 94 percent of CAB meetings in 2007 saw fewer than 15 people attend — and that included the CAB members themselves, said Washoe County Manager Katy Simon. It's an attendance trend that's continued in recent years.“We have observed a reduction in attendance, and that's part of what we want to find out,” Simon said in a Wednesday phone interview. “How do we effectively expand and strengthen public involvement and help neighborhoods strengthen their sense of community.”Based on Simon's recommendations, the county commission in late June unanimously voted to suspend the meetings for the rest of 2012, in favor of creating the “Citizen Engagement Revitalization Project.” The project includes a series of town hall meetings for communities to offer feedback.A report is due in six months to the county commission. Simon said a town hall meeting for Incline will be scheduled for July or August. In the meantime, the county will post periodic updates about the CAB program's future, starting this Friday, at its website at co.washoe.nv.us.While finding out what inspires residents to take part is one chunk of the pie, another is the opportunity for the county to save money. The county has cut staff dedicated to managing the CAB program from 3.2 positions in 2008 to the current budget for 1.05 positions. Helping that reduction, according to the county, was the decision in 2008 to move meetings from monthly to every other month.For the current fiscal year, according to the county, the financial obligation to run the CAB program is $166,734.14, which breaks down accordingly:• $113,901 — salary for 1.05 positions (equates to $4,484 per meeting).• $45,962 — cost to support three independent consultants to help with the program.• $5,142.50 — postage costs.• $1,728.64 — printing costs.Portions of that budget will now be used to fund the commission-directed Citizen Engagement Revitalization Project, Simon said, a goal of which also is to modernize the way meetings are noticed and operated.“We're very enthusiastic about (the project),” she said. “We've had the CAB structure in place for awhile ... but there are so many great new tools out there, we want to make sure we are keeping up with the times.”The last CAB meeting in Incline Village was April 23. It featured a presentation by Jay Howard, who oversees Sand Harbor State Park, about the proposed 20-year improvement plan for state parks. Aside from public officials and CAB members, only four residents were in attendance.This was a large contrast to the March 26 meeting, which saw about 30 residents on hand to give comment on a pair of proposed projects — the East Shore Express parking plan for Diamond Peak, and the ATandamp;T cellphone tower at Incline High School. Both proposals were eventually struck down.
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