Storey County commissioners took another step toward charging out-of-county drivers $300 per year to use Six Mile Canyon Road, despite fielding numerous phone calls from those objecting to the action.
Funds from the permit road would pay for maintaining the road, a popular route for Lyon County residents commuting to work in Reno. A second reading of the ordinance will be at the next commissioners meeting June 20. If they give final approval, the fees could be in place July 1.
Though the commissioners agreed that the draft ordinance needs some revisions, they voted 2-0 Tuesday to send it to the Nevada Insurance Pool and its attorneys to examine for any additional liability risks.
District Attorney Harold Swafford pointed out that for Lyon County residents who use the road to commute to jobs in Reno, the cost of the permit would amount to $25 per month, or $1 per day.
Commissioners received many calls, most opposing the toll road, said Marilou Walling, Storey County administrative officer.
Both Bob Kershaw and Greg "Bum" Hess voted for the ordinance. Commission chairman John Flanagan only votes to break a tie.
Flanagan said he has strong reservations about the ordinance.
"I don't see how the sheriff is going to enforce this without additional people," he said. "It sounds to me like that's going to cost more than we make from it."
He was also concerned about the effect a toll road would have on Virginia City tourism.
"Say Joe Blow from San Francisco and his buddies are riding their motorcycles on Highway 50, and say, 'let's go to Virginia City.' They go up Six Mile Canyon Road and get $500 fines. They go back to San Francisco, call the newspaper and tell everyone, 'don't go there, it's a tourist trap.' "
Flanagan added that he has received many calls opposing the road and most of those calls have come from Storey County residents.
"I don't know how many phone calls I've had from people against this," he said. "I haven't gotten any that say it's a good idea."
Hess agreed that there were many details about the ordinance that still had to be worked out.
"On Saturdays and Sundays we have people coming from Fallon and other places, so we have to work something out for them," Hess said. He also suggested that Six Mile Canyon Road, currently open to emergency vehicles only, become open to Storey County workers soon.
"More than likely we'll end up with a toll booth there," He said. "That seems to be the best way to do it."
Swafford said the ordinance was sent to the insurance company and their attorneys because, though there is a statutory $50,000 tort limit that government agencies or employees can be liable for in negligence cases, he wants to make sure charging to use Six Mile Canyon Road wouldn't cause additional liability in cases of an accident.
"If we go into the business of operating a toll road, attorneys might take potshots at us," he said. "Some might feel that if they pay for the road they think they're entitled to a perfect road."
Many areas in other parts of the country have toll roads to help with maintenance costs, Swafford said.
Virginia City resident Charlie Bolle, the only non-county official who spoke at the meeting, was concerned about family and friends receiving citations when they visit. Bolle lives on Mill Street, which becomes Six Mile Canyon Road east of R Street in Virginia City.
Swafford agreed that was a concern and suggested that the draft could be rewritten to end the toll road on R Street rather than Highway 341.
Dean Haymore, who heads Storey County's Building Department, also pointed out a home was being built on Six Mile Canyon Road, just past the Alhambra Mine.
"Well, maybe he (the homeowner) could give the sheriff a list of his friends and neighbors," Swafford said with a smile.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111, ext. 351.
Proposed Six Mile permit ordinance
• Anyone driving any motorized vehicle on Six Mile Canyon Road must purchase a permit decal for $300.
• Decals are good for one year.
• Decals must be prominently displayed on the windshields of automobiles and the front of motorcycles or other motorized vehicles.
• The permit road will extend from the Storey/Lyon County line to Highway 341 in Virginia City.
• Emergency vehicles, school buses, Storey County residents and residents of other counties who work in Storey County will be exempt from the $300 charge.
• Ordinance is effective July 1.
• Violations of the ordinance will be a misdemeanor and could result in a $500 fine and/or up to six months in jail.
• All funds from the permits would go into an special account set up to pay for maintenance of Six Mile Canyon Road.