Scene In Passing: An ode to code, dogs, cats & privatization

If you see a trend toward privatization of city functions because two cropped up this summer, both since City Manager Nick Marano came on board, it’s a mirage.

Not the privatization moves, which are quite real, but any glimmer of a trend. That’s straight from the horse’s mouth or, in this case, the city manager’s. His immediate reply was in the negative when asked, in essence, if the pair already in the works amount to a preview of coming attractions. The pair: city government’s building division and animal services operation.

“Both of them just coincidentally came at the same time,” Marano said after Carson City’s Board of Supervisors voted last week to turn to Charles Abbott Associates, a California firm, to run the Building Division in city government’s Community Development Department. The board will next take up a plan to have the Nevada Humane Society operate animal services and the animal shelter at the Sept. 4 regular meeting.

Some in city government prefer to talk of these things as public/private partnerships, and they indeed are that after a fashion. The operations are overseen by city staff and, ultimately, the board; however, actual day-to-day operations are handled by the firms or organizations contracted to handle the tasks.

Marano, a retired Marine Corps colonel used to working with diverse elements inside and outside of government, is moving quickly during his honeymoon period to change at least part of the city’s public service face into a public/private face in the two aspects involved. He came on board June 2, promising to hit the ground running with a quick assessment of city operations and needs. No empty promise there.

To give the colonel his due — though those affected directly and immediately might have a different view — these two city functions haven’t always provided city government with best-foot-forward track records.

The memory of Rollie the dog, euthanized for a mere post-put down settlement price of $41,500, comes to mind. It means the humane society’s “no kill” policy of saving at least 90 percent of strays that wind up in the animal shelter will give proponents of Marano’s suggested change much comfort when the privatization move for animal services comes up next month.

Though there is no single equivalent known here to cite among building division activities, certainly Marano’s move is aimed at making Carson City a business-friendly environment. Regulatory flexibility is a prospect, if not a certainty. Testimony to the board Thursday by Buster Scholl, regional director for Charles Abbott Associates, made that clear if it can be believed. It’s worth repeating, along with his pledge of a “can do” operation.

“We don’t like beating people over the heads with the code,” he said.

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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