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September 19, 2014

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Commissioners to again consider More Cops tax increase, $38 million airport lawsuit settlement

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Steve Marcus

Clark County Commissioners listen to Sheriff Doug Gillespie as he speaks on the Metro Police budget during a county commission meeting at the Clark County Government Center Tuesday, April 16, 2013.

A proposal to raise the sales tax to pay for Metro Police officers is returning Tuesday to Clark County commissioners for the third meeting in a row.

Commissioners will introduce a new version of the sales tax ordinance, vote on a possible $38 million lawsuit settlement and discuss a grant to help with Boulder City’s hospital expansion when they hold their regular meeting at 9:15 a.m. at the Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway.

More Cops back again

Less than a week after a split commission failed to pass either of two sales tax increase proposals presented at their Oct. 1 meeting, Commissioner Tom Collins had already come up with a new version.

Collins is a staunch supporter of increasing the county sales tax by the full .15 percent authorized by the Legislature’s More Cops bill that passed in June.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie has argued the increased revenue is needed to help close a $30 million budget deficit Metro faces next year and to prevent the potential elimination of hundreds of officer positions.

But commissioners have been divided on how much, if at all, to raise the sales tax amid concerns about the department’s spending and the potential to tap reserves to cover the deficit.

Collins hopes his new proposal, which would phase in the increase in two parts — .10 percent in April and .05 percent in July — will garner the needed supermajority of five votes.

But he’ll likely have a tough time convincing Commissioners Susan Brager and Marybeth Scow, who have refused to support any increase in the sales tax above .075 percent and find themselves positioned as the swing votes.

The commission will introduce Collins’ revised ordinance Tuesday, with a public hearing and vote likely scheduled for its first meeting in November.

Airport settlement

A five-year legal battle that’s been to the Nevada Supreme Court and back could come to an end Tuesday, if the commission votes to approve a $38 million settlement on behalf of McCarran Airport.

The dispute arose in 2008 when the estate of prominent UNLV benefactor Thomas Beam filed suit, arguing that building-height restrictions imposed during a 1990s runway expansion devalued 191 acres of property Beam owned near Interstate 15 and Warm Springs Road.

70 Limited Partnership, the company that holds the land, filed suit against the county, alleging that the restrictions constituted a taking of airspace that required compensation under state eminent domain law.

McCarran Airport would pay the $38 million settlement, which includes compensation, interest and attorney’s fees, from its capital projects account, which is funded by landing fees.

The settlement means McCarran will have to cancel or delay several projects, including upgrades to make the airport more energy efficient.

Boulder City Hospital expansion

The county voted in March 2012 to award a $250,000 loan to Boulder City Hospital Inc. to fund design work for the facility’s planned expansion.

But over the course of the next 18 months, negotiations over the terms and conditions of the loan failed to produce a deal.

Commissioner Mary Beth Scow, who represents Boulder City, wants to keep the nonprofit hospital expansion rolling and has requested a report to look at other ways the county can help.

One possible solution would be to package the $250,000 as a grant with conditions similar to other grants the county awards to nonprofit groups.

If approved, the grant would cover design and pre-development costs for the planned construction of a new wing to serve Boulder City’s growing senior community, according to county documents.

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