Major residential developments that will revitalize Victorian Square, a lingering drought, and the resumption of construction of a major roadway linking east Sparks and south Reno were among the major stories in Sparks in 2015.
Other top Rail City stories include Reed High’s state championship softball squad, the opening of the state’s first medical marijuana facility and changes to the city’s garbage service that will bring so-called single-stream recycling.
Here’s a rundown of the top stories of the year.
Victorian Square Sparks will finally see major redevelopment, thanks to projects aimed at creating an urban residential community in downtown Sparks.
Silverwing Development broke ground on the Fountainhouse at Victorian Square, a 12-building 236-unit multi-family residential complex on property it purchased from the city for $1.205 million. Two of the buildings, in front of Century Theatres, will have restaurant and retail space on the ground floor, with residences upstairs. A clubhouse and pool also are included in the plans. Most of the buildings will have four floors.
Another development company joined the Victorian Square revitalization movement. Greenstreet Communities Development Co. is renovating the old Bourbon Square Casino and Silver Club Hotel. The company plans to transform the casino into a mixture of restaurants and retail shops on the bottom floor and office space on the top two floors. It will also feature a courtyard and be known as The Yard.
The company is renovating the old Silver Club Hotel into 100 modern, energy-efficient residential lofts.
Construction of the final phase of the SouthEast Connector, the six-lane road connecting east Sparks and south Reno, got underway after a key federal permit for the project was granted.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in April approved the permit, known as a section 404 permit under the Clean Water Act, allowing work to begin on the 4.5-mile final phase of the road, which will be called Veterans Parkway. The permit process had held up construction for about two years.
The first phase of the road, a one-mile stretch beginning at Greg Street and Sparks Boulevard, was completed in July 2014. The entire road is scheduled to be completed in late 2017.
A lawsuit challenging the project on environmental grounds failed and was dismissed.
The drought entered its fourth year, with snowpack levels in the Sierra hitting historic lows. As a result, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority implemented a drought plan that called on residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 10 percent. In addition, Gov. Brian Sandoval in April formed the Nevada Drought Forum, a panel of experts to address water use and conservation.
Silver State Relief, the state’s first medical-marijuana dispensary, opened in August on Greg Street, just west of McCarran Boulevard. The state Legislature approved a bill in 2013 to legalize and regulate medical marijuana.
The Sparks City Council in October approved significant changes in the city’s residential trash service, most prominently creating what’s known as single-stream recycling. The council unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s agreement with Waste Management, the company that has the exclusive contract to collect residential trash.
Rather than sorting recycling items into separate crates, residents will throw all recyclable material into a large container for pickup every other week under the single-stream system.
Another major change is the elimination of the six extra bags or bundles of trash that residents were allowed to place next to their garbage container each week. In exchange, residents will receive 20 stickers that they can apply to excess bundles of trash during the year. Residents also will have a four-week period in the spring and fall to place up to six bags, bundles or boxes of additional trash outside their container without using a sticker.
Residents will pay 98 cents more per month as a result of the changes.
Reed High State Champs
Reed captured the state Division I softball title in May with a 3-2 victory over Palo Verde in eight innings. It was the Raiders’ ninth state softball championship and the first since 1998. Reed finished the year with a record of 37-2 and jumped as high as No. 9 in the nation after starting the season 24-0.
In April, Sparks community leaders and others revealed plans to construct a major memorial honoring fallen veterans from Nevada dating back to statehood. The site of the Nevada Veterans Memorial Plaza is next to the new Veterans Parkway Bridge and Greg Street. The bridge is part of the SouthEast Connector, which will be known as Veterans Parkway, a new six-lane road under construction between Sparks and south Reno. Supporters of the memorial are raising private funds to build the memorial, estimated to cost $1.6 million. Plans call for the memorial to be turned over to the city of Sparks when it’s completed.
Traci Davis was appointed superintendent of the Washoe County School District in July after holding the position on an interim basis. The school board removed the “interim” label from her title in a 5-2 vote. Davis had been interim superintendent since October 2014 when the board and Superintendent Pedro Martinez parted ways in a nasty dispute.
The board in November approved a new employment contract for Davis that sets her base salary at $238,000 a year. The contract raised concerns because the new salary will apply retroactively to Davis’ time as interim superintendent and because Davis will receive an $800 monthly allowance for using her own car on district business. In addition, the contract granted her an $11,900 bonus this month.
Sparks Mayor Geno Martini announced in November that he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He said he was diagnosed in 2012. Martini, the longest-serving mayor in Sparks, said he fully intends to remain in office for the remaining three years of his term. “I fully anticipate I’m going to be here long enough to do that, and I’m going to work hard at getting through it,” he said in an interview.