Archive | March, 2011

Silent Witness: Autopsy Could Put Kody Patten On Trial For His Life

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Howard Copelan

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With his preliminary hearing set for May 5th and 6th whether Kody Patten will face the death penalty could depend largely on the results of Micaela “Mickie” Costanzo’s still uncompleted autopsy.
“His confession alone makes him a candidate for the death penalty,” said a criminal defense attorney who commented on the case. “But while it has all the elements that could justify seeking the death penalty, it could be considered an over reach by some. If however there was a sexual assault involved then it is probably much more likely that the DA would seek the death penalty.”
In his confession Patten ultimately admits to Police to taking Costanzo from school property, driving her five miles away from her home and killing her with a shovel. All of those specific admissions could merit the death penalty by themselves. However according legal experts  the death penalty is rarely sought for those ‘aggravating circumstances’ described in the statute, especially for someone as young as Patten.
That could change if the autopsy reveals that Mickie Costanzo was raped.
“If that is the case I think the public would almost demand it,” the attorney said. “And the DA would have a hard time arguing against it because of cost or any other reason, even if he wanted to.”
Juries are also much more likely to give a death sentence if rape is involved according to even a cursory survey of Nevada death row inmates. Sexual assault or torture is key element of crime committed by the most 78 men now on Nevada death row. While for inmates serving even life without the possibility of parole for premeditated murder a sexual assault element is much rarer according to prison estimates.
Rape by itself used to be punishable by the death penalty in Nevada until capital punishment was first declared unconstitutional in 1972.
When the state reinstated capitol punishment in 1976 only those convicted of murder with special circumstances became eligible for the death sentence.
While no mention of sexual assault was made in the initial police report presented during Patten’s first court appearance given at least some of the actions by the court indicate that Elko District Attorney Mark Torvinen is heavily considering seeking the death penalty for Patten.
The report released during Patten’s post arrest hearing is actually a synopsis by Elko County Sheriff’s Detective Kevin McKinney  of the official police report prepared by West Wendover Police detective Donald Burnham.
The complete report as well as the autopsy could contain much more damning evidence against Kody Patten, perhaps enough to compel a death penalty.
“It does appear that (District Attorney) Mark Torvinen is headed in that direction (death penalty),” said his court appointed Attorney John Ohlson of Reno
A major signpost indicating that direction is the appointment of Ohlson himself. One of the most experienced death penalty trial lawyers in the state, Ohlson was appointed last Tuesday by Elko Justice of the Peace Al Kacin. In addition to the Reno death penalty expert Kacin also appointed Elko Attorney Jeffrey Kump, the only local attorney in Elko certified to try death penalty cases.
In addition to appointing the two certified death penalty attorneys Kacin also removed the Elko Public defender Alina Kilpatrick over her and her supervisor’s objections from the case even as a second assistant attorney.
If the autopsy does reveal a sexual assault and Patten is tried for his life, his lawyers may seek to establish that the killer and his victim were at least one time romantically linked.
“He is young and there is a man/woman element in this case,” Ohlson said. “That usually mitigates it among jurors.”
Patten turned 18 on December 31, 2010 and the man’s relative youth at the time of the crime could also be used by the defense to play on the sympathies any future jury should the case go to trial.
Patten’s age could also figure into the case in another way, his juvenile criminal record. While release of that record is forbidden by law, confidential sources have confirmed to the Advocate that Kody Patten what could be an extensive history of violence toward others while a minor.
According to one well place source Patten was just one infraction away from being expelled from West Wendover High School at the time of Costanzo’s murder while another said that his last run in with the law as a minor concluded just a few weeks before he turned 18.
While Patten may soon be on trial for his life another person interested in the autopsy could be West wendover Police chief Ron Supp, most particularly in the kills time of death.
Costanzo was reported missing by her mother at about 5:15 pm Thursday afternoon when she failed to return from track practice. And so began a nightmare for the young girl’s family and Wendover.
Police went on alert and increased patrols. One enterprising officer using facebook formed an ad hoc search party that eventually numbered around 80 volunteers Thursday night.
West Wendover Police Chief Ron Supp did not however issue an Amber Alert and his department did not issue a press release regarding the missing girl until well into the day after she was reported missing.
“I don’t think it would have made any difference,” said West Wendover High School Principal Terry Carsrud. “Thursday night the school was full of volunteers looking for her anyway.
An AMBER Alert or a Child Abduction Emergency (SAME code: CAE) is a child abduction alert bulletin issued upon the suspected abduction of a child, since 1996.
AMBER Alerts are distributed via commercial radio stations, satellite radio, television stations, and cable TV by the Emergency Alert System and NOAA Weather Radio (where they are termed “Child Abduction Emergency” or “Amber Alerts”). The alerts are also issued via e-mail, electronic traffic-condition signs, the LED billboards along with the LED/LCD signs of billboard companies such as Clear Channel Outdoor, CBS Outdoor and Lamar, or through wireless device SMS text messages.
Instead of a 100 pairs of eyes there could have been over a 1,000 had a mass alert been issued but according to Patten’s statements to police a million searchers may not have saved the girl in time.
If the autopsy however gives a time of death significantly later than when Patten said he killed the girl, the current rumblings against Supp for waiting so long to organize a search could become louder.
According to the report Patten in a borrowed SUV somehow got Costanzo into the vehicle shortly after she emerged from the girls locker room after practice. Instead of driving her home, Patten drove out to the gravel pits about five miles west of town. There he told Police Detective Donald Burnham they fought. At just under 6 feet and weighing 190 lbs, Patten towered over the barely 5 foot tall Costanzo and outweighed by over 80 pounds.
According to McKinney’s report Patten confessed to shoving the girl who then fell hitting her head on the cars bumper. Patten then told Burnham he pushed Costanzo again, and again she fell down and hit her head on a rock. Patten then said he panicked when Costanzo went into convulsion and struck her with a shovel that happened to be in his hand. The shovel sliced through the young woman’s neck. Patten then buried the young woman, drove home, went to bed and went to school the next day.

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West Wendover City Workers Nix Pay Cuts

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Howard Copelan

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The West Wendover city employees union reportedly rejected a ten percent across the board pay cut proposed by the city administration to a plug massive deficit in the city’s budget informed sources told the Advocate.
Hit by a combination of over building, the Great Recession and an ‘unexpected’ 10 percent drop in population West Wendover is facing a sea of red ink, that must be drained before the start of the next fiscal year and cannot be fixed by printing more money.
“By law we have to balance our budget,” said Mayor Donnie Andersen. “And we have to work together to do it.”
At the heart of the city’s fiscal woes is the mortgage payments on the new city hall.
Originally slated to cost $5.5 million when first proposed four years ago the building was let out to bid for $7.5 million last year and since then additional cost is pushing the total cost of the project to the $8 million mark and perhaps beyond it.
But as the cost of the project increase the revenues projected to pay off the building loans either fell or were not realized at all.
With the onset of national recession two years ago, an estimated steady long term increase in tax revenue looks at least overly optimistic.
According to projections the General Fund revenue growth was expected to generally increase for the next 11 years.
Most of that increase was contingent on the Peppermill’s planned expansion and the company’s construction of a new mega casino/resort.
Those plans were however shelved shortly before construction on the new city hall began, first temporarily and then indefinitely. Now with the downturn in its third year prospects that West Wendover will see a new mega resort or dim to say the least.
The gloom however did not dissuade the council not only from going full speed ahead on the city hall but also with expanding city payroll and staff as well as pursuing city beautification projects that included building a still mostly vacant industrial park, Victorian style street lights and approving a new sewer plant.
In addition to those fiscal woes the city was hit with even more bad news this month when the US census reported that there are now 4,410 people in Wendover a drop of 6.6 percent from the 4,721 counted in 2000 and more importantly a drop of more than 10 percent from its estimated population of a bout 5,000 from the state demographers office.
West Wendover share in a number of state funds is either directly or indirectly determined on a per capita basis. Fewer people mean fewer dollars and the city is already strapped for cash.
In other words the hole West Wendover dug itself got a lot deeper.
While past commitment cannot be forgotten or forgiven the only options the city may have to balance its budget are to either to cut the pay of all its employees, layoff some of its employees, or raise taxes.
West Wendover has one of the largest staff and the biggest payroll of cities its size in the state.
West Wendover city workers make about the same as their counterparts in Elko.
The base salary of West Wendover City manager Chris Melville is less than $2,000 from being six figures and when benefits are taken into account, West Wendover has almost a dozen employees making in excess of $100,000.. The top three salaries paid in the West Wendover Police Department total about $400,000 in wages and benefits a year.
Over four times the size of West Wendover, Elko City salaries average just about five percent higher than those offered paid by West Wendover. And in several cases West Wendover city employees make much more than their counterparts in Elko.
If the local union turns down the request  for a pay cut or only agrees to a much smaller one the council could still be left with a rather large deficit to manage and no painless way to do it.
And as a political force the local employees union is a power to be reckoned with. With spouses and adult children Wendover city employees make up between a fifth to a fourth of the electorate in the last election.
But while pay cuts could be seen as a stab in the back by the local employees union the alternative tax increase my be an even worse option for the council.
No matter where the hike is implemented it will hit the fragile Wendover casino industry, including the city largest tax payer, the Peppermill.
Like the rest of the Nevada gaming industry Wendover was devastated by the recession and while the rest of the nation begins an albeit feeble recovery gaming is still struggling.
Any new tax even one on consumption such as gasoline is sure not to be welcomed by the industry which has already cut expenditures to the bone.
A new consumption tax may also not be effective with Wendover, Utah across the border. If say a new gas tax pushes the price of a gallon above what could be had a block away in Utah most drivers could make a run for the border.
The only tax sure to increase city coffers would be a property tax hike. West Wendover has not increased its share of ad valorem in ten years but the expected opposition from the gaming industry and the populace at large could make that move just as unpalatable as a salary cut.

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Ely Graves Smashed By Woman In SUV

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Howard Copelan

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An Ely woman damaged dozen of graves at the city cemetery by driving over them in her SUV according to White Pine Sheriff’s report.
Jennifer Lee Sanchez was booked into the White Pine County Jail Saturday, a day after she allegedly drove through the Ely City Cemetery.
“About a dozen graves were damaged,” said Under Sheriff Scott henroid. “Our deputies had made contact with her the night of the incident but she wasn’t then arrested. Saturday when the damage was discovered and evidence taken she was.”
Sanchez’ bail was set at $15,000.

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Pot And Chocolate Criminally Delicious

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Howard Copelan

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Chocolate and marijuana are criminally delicious or so learned a Florida woman Monday during a traffic stop near Wells.
Sadie Fitzpatrick, 24 from Florida, was booked into the Elko County jail after four chocolate hearts in  the trunk of her car tested positive for marijuana.
According to a sheriff press release Fitzpatrick was pulled over by Elko County Sheriff’s Deputy M. Friez just west of Wells a little before midnight Monday night.
Fitzpatrick was acting nervous, Friez, reported and asked the young woman if there was anything illegal inside of the vehicle. The driver told the deputy that she had a pipe in her pocket. Fitzpatrick showed a blue and white glass smoking pipe, it appeared to be new and unused.  Deputy Friez asked if there was anything else and she said no.
While talking with Fitzpatrick,  Deputy Friez could smell a strong odor of what appeared to be marijuana.  Fitzpatrick denied anything else was in the vehicle and consented to a search of the vehicle.       Friez located a duffle bag containing four chocolate hearts shaped items inside the vehicle’s trunk. The items tested positive for marijuana. Deputy Friez also located a jar containing marijuana; a similar heart shaped item inside a purse was located inside the vehicle.
Fitzpatrick  was arrested for Possession of marijuana, Possession of drug paraphernalia, speeding and expired driver’s license.  Bail set $5,916.00

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Distinctive Look ID’s Burgler

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Howard Copelan

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Having a unique look helped get a Salt Lake woman arrested for stealing a car stereo last week.
Standing under five feet tall and sporting a Mohawk hairdo and a large tattoo on her neck Maylene Martinez would draw attention in any crowd other than perhaps a biker bar. And that is just what happened when she was caught on surveillance cameras burglarizing a car in a West Wendover parking lot.
Police were summoned to the parking lot last Wednesday after the owner of the car reported someone broke into his vehicle and stole his stereo system. The crime was caught on tape.
A quick search of the area found Martinez located as was the car stereo.
The 30 year old Salt Lake woman was charged with Burglary, Possession of stolen property, petite larceny, giving false information to a police officer and possession of drug paraphernalia. She was booked into the Elko County Jail on a combined $12,126 bond.

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SLC Shriners Help Local Kids

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Howard Copelan

Dozens of Wendover children were given free orthopedic  examinations by staff from Salt Lake Shriners Hospital Tuesday.
The Shriners are a Masonic fraternal organization that promotes brotherhood and fellowship. They are particularly active in charities involving childhood diseases.
The El Kalah Shriners are especially active in the Wendover area and sponsor annual orthopedic clinics for the area’s children.
In a recent clinic the Shriners sponsored event identified and 12 serious bone disorders and paid for the treatment.
“Everything at the hospital is free,” said local member Mike Katsonis. “Parents shouldn’t have to worry about costs.”

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Death Penalty For Kody Patten?

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Howard Copelan

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Kody Patten could likely face the death penalty for the murder of Micaela Costanzo according to his court appointed Attorney Robert Ohlson of Reno.
“It does appear that (District Attorney) Mark Torvinen is headed in that direction,” Ohlson said in a telephone interview with the High Desert Advocate Wednesday.
A major signpost indicating that direction is the appointment of Ohlson himself. One of the most experienced death penalty trial lawyers in the state, Ohlson was appointed Tuesday by Elko Justice of the Peace Al Kacin. In addition to the Reno death penalty expert Kacin also appointed Elko Attorney Jeffrey Kump, the only local attorney in Elko certified to try death penalty cases.
In addition to appointing the two certified death penalty attorneys Kacin also removed the Elko Public defender Alina Kilpatrick over her and her supervisor’s objections from the case even as a second assistant attorney.
By his own admission Patten, 18, killed Micaela Costanzo March 11 after driving the 16 year old West Wendover girl five miles out of town.
When first interviewed the morning after her disappearance Kody Patten told Police he had no knowledge of the whereabouts of Micaela “Mickie” Costanzo.
Two days later Patten confessed to killing the young girl but only “accidentally”.
According to the report Patten in a borrowed SUV somehow got Costanzo into the vehicle shortly after she emerged from the girls locker room after practice. Instead of driving her home, Patten drove out to the gravel pits about five miles west of town. There he told Police Detective Donald Burnham they fought. At just under 6 feet and weighing 190 lbs, Patten towered over the barely 5 foot tall Costanzo and outweighed by over 80 pounds.
Ignoring his claim of accident and panic, Patten’s statement to police could put him on death row by itself. Capitol punishment in Nevada is reserved for premeditated murder with extenuating circumstances which include:
Murder perpetrated by means of poison, lying in wait or torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate and premeditated killing.
Murder committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of sexual assault, kidnapping, arson, robbery, burglary, invasion of the home, sexual abuse of a child, sexual molestation of a child under the age of 14 years or child abuse.
Murder committed to avoid or prevent the lawful arrest of any person by a peace officer or to effect the escape of any person from legal custody.
Murder committed on the property of a public or private school, at an activity sponsored by a public or private school or on a school bus while the bus was engaged in its official duties by a person who intended to create a great risk of death or substantial bodily harm to more than one person by means of a weapon, device or course of action that would normally be hazardous to the lives of more than one person.
Patten own statements qualifies him for at least three of those special circumstances and if the autopsy of his victims body reveals a sexual assault it will be four.
But while Patten could qualify as a candidate for the death penalty, Torvinen must weigh the considerations of whether Elko County should seek his execution. First and foremost is whether an Elko County jury would impose it.
“He is young and there is a man/woman element in this case,” Ohlson said. “That usually mitigates it among jurors.”
Patten turned 18 on December 31, 2010 and the man’s relative youth at the time of the crime could be used by the defense to play on the sympathies any future jury should the case go to trial.
“Finding someone guilty of a heinous crime is one thing sentencing them to die is quite another,” said one attorney who declined to be identified. “In this case a jury could very well convict him of first degree murder without any reservation but one or two of the panel could have major problems about sentencing him to die especially if there is the life without the possibility of parole option.”
Another consideration is cost. The price tag to Elko County of a trial with the death penalty in consideration could be as much as ten times that of a regular felony case. And while Torvinen would bristle at the notion of putting a price tag on justice in a cash strapped county the unexpected cost of a death penalty trial would raise eyebrows.
Perhaps the most pragmatic argument against seeking the death penalty for Patten is how capitol punishment is or rather is not administered in the state of Nevada.
Of the 85 inmates on Nevada death row more than half have been there for over a decade and at least a dozen have  been there 20 years or more.
And since the death penalty was reinstated only one death row inmate was executed after exhausting all appeals. The other 12 men simply opted out of the appeals process in a kind of suicide by the state.
While most critics place the blame of the lengthy appeals process on the Ninth Federal Circuit Court blame must also be shared by the Nevada Supreme Court.
In fact it is the interplay between appealing to the state then appealing to the federal level that has been  perfected by long serving death row inmates.
“The way the system is set up you can send an appeal to the state and then appeal the decision to the feds.” Said one defense attorney who declined to be identified. “It can be virtually endless.”
Apart from staving off death by lethal injection which is reward in itself many death row inmates also hold out hope that the death penalty itself will be abolished as it was in 1974.
While support for it especially in Nevada and other western states has never fallen below 60 percent there are signs that on the federal level could well indeed abolish the death penalty. Last year the US high court ruled that executing minors and mental defectives was cruel and unusual punishment.
Literally hundreds of appeals either directly or indirectly related to the federal ruling.
“Every time there is a federal ruling it opens another door for other death row inmates.” The attorney continued. “They are probably not going to win but winning isn’t the only objective the real point is to gain more time.”
More time for the high court for the court to abolish the death penalty altogether and/or more for the public to grow disgusted with the system and scrap the death penalty as unworkable.
While the death penalty is still supported by an overwhelming percentage of the population support is waning even in Nevada when the sentence takes decades to carry out.
And if one had to serve time one could do worse than Ely’s Death row. Although conditions are Spartan they are considered the most comfortable in the whole prison.
“Even the guards will tell you that death row has the least amount of tension,” said chief Attorney for the ACLU of Nevada Allen Liechtenstein.

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Move To Suppress Patten Confession?

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Howard Copelan

Forensic experts work the murder site of Mickie Costanzo. If Patten’s confession is suppressed evidence gleaned from this site could become all the more crucial in getting a conviction.

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Kody Patten’s confession to the murder of Micaela “Mickie” Costanzo may never reach a jury according to one experienced death penalty attorney contacted by the High Desert Advocate.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the lawyer said that anything Patten said after he was formally arrested by West Wendover Detective Donald Burnham may be deemed inadmissible.
“The first thing I would do,” the attorney said. “ Would be to move that the confession be surprised and I think I would have more than a fair chance of winning.”
After several hours of interrogation that began last Sunday night and went into the early morning hours of the following Monday Patten finally admitted that he had driven Mickie Costanzo to the location where her body was found. According to the report prepared by Elko County lead detective Kevin McKinney, Patten was then immediately given his Miranda Rights and placed under arrest by West Wendover Police Detective Donald Burnham.
According to McKinney’s report, instead of asking for a lawyer Patten asked to call his father and a short time later confessed to the killing even while insisting it was an accident.
“Patten’s lawyer could well argue that no matter how well intentioned his father’s advice was it was inherently bad from a legal perspective,” the attorney said. “There is no way any attorney would tell his client to confess to this crime especially to most of the elements that warrant a death penalty.”
Even without the confession the case against Patten is still strong and getting stronger. Police have the digital recording of Patten waiting outside the West Wendover High School girls locker room waiting for Costanzo, they may also have the murder weapon, a shovel along with Patten’s finger prints on it.
“From what I have read the confession is just the icing on the cake,” the attorney said. “Sure it would be nice to have but taken with everything else it may not be necessary. Of course the autopsy report may make it irrelevant altogether.”
The autopsy report is now being prepared in Reno and is expected to be released within the next two weeks.

 

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Wells Cop Shooter Coca Case On Hold

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Howard Copelan

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Legal proceedings against accused cop shooter Peter Coca are on indefinite hold pending the Wells man physical and perhaps mental health evaluation.
Charged with 13 counts of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, Coca is now reportedly being held at an undisclosed location either in Carson City or in Reno.
“I really can’t say where he is,” said an assistant to the Elko Justice court. “Only that where he is being held makes it impossible for us to hold his preliminary hearing even by telephone.”
Coca surrendered to police on February 26 following a two day man hunt.
The previous Thursday Elko County Deputies and NHP troopers were called to the Wells’ man home in response to a ‘violent domestic dispute’. When they arrived the saw Coca on the roof brandishing an assault rifle. From that rooftop snipers’ perch Coca held off the deputies and NHP troopers for about 30 minutes firing well over 50 rounds critically injuring one
Deputy Lenwood Van Natter was hit by multiple rifle shots in the chest, hip and legs. Deputy Van Natter was pulled from the scene by the other officers and transported via Summit Air Ambulance to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. Deputy Van Natter underwent surgery for his injuries .
Originally listed in critical condition, Van Natter is now expected to survive and be released from the hospital in the near future.
Shortly after he surrendered Coca complained of chest pains and was transported to a Reno area hospital.
While the case against Coca is on hold two NHP troopers were award the medal of valor Friday for their role in the rescue of Deputy Van Natter.
NHP Troopers Ben Jenkins and Jeff Howell, and Nevada Division of Investigations Sgt. Kelly Stuehling, received the Medal of Valor from Governor Sandoval in Carson City.
According to the NHP press release immediately after Van Natter was hit, Trooper Jenkins and a second Elko Deputy, Mark Hawkins, ran into the line of fire and pulled Deputy Van Natter to safety behind a parked truck.  Trooper Howell was pinned behind his patrol car as Coca continued to fire at him and the other officers.  Trooper Howell provided cover for the rescue and kept the suspect at bay.  Once Deputy Van Natter was removed from the scene, Trooper Jenkins joined Trooper Howell, taking cover behind their patrol cars, and established surveillance while waiting for additional assistance.
Sgt. Kelly Stuehling, with the Nevada Division of Investigations, responded to the area to assist in establishing a perimeter to locate Coca.  Shortly after arriving, Coca fired his assault rifle at Sgt. Stuehling and another responding officer.  They found cover and kept the suspect from leaving the controlled area.
According to the citation: “The heroic efforts of Troopers Jenkins, Trooper Howell and Sgt. Kelly Stuehling while under gun fire most certainly assisted in the life saving efforts of Deputy Van Natter and the containment of the suspect.  Their efforts limited further injury to other officers and the public, at great risk to their own safety.”
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Wendover: From Boom To Shrinking In Just Ten Years

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Howard Copelan

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Once the fastest growing city in the state, West Wendover’s population shrank by largest rate and was just one of three Nevada cities to show a drop in population in the 2010 census.
West Wendover earned the fastest growing title in 2000 when it recorded more than 50 percent increase in the population from the 1990 census. A lot can happen in ten years.
According to the census there are now 4,410 people in Wendover a drop of 6.6 percent from the 4,721 counted in 2000 and more importantly a drop of more than 10 percent from its estimated population of a bout 5,000 from the state demographers office.
More than titles are at stake in population numbers. West Wendover share in a number of state funds is either directly or indirectly determined on a per capita basis. Fewer people mean fewer dollars and the city is already strapped for cash.
Just two weeks ago informed sources told the Advocate that layoffs, pay cuts or tax increases could be on the agenda of the West Wendover City Council as the Nevada/Utah border town grapples with a budget deficit said to be massive by informed sources.
“If the deficit was a hole you would need a ladder to climb out of it now,” said one source. “Our rainy day fund will be completely depleted and we will still be a couple of hundred thousand dollars in the red and this is before the state raids us for any spare revenue we have.”
The Advocate was also able to confirm that Mayor Donnie Andersen sent a letter to all city employees asking for their help and/or suggestions on how the city could cut from the budget without having to resort to layoffs or tax hikes, the implication being cuts in pay at the very least could be in the offing.
While refusing to confirm or deny the substance of the letter or the size of the deficit this week Andersen did say that this is one of those times when he wished he wasn’t right.
Elected in 2008 Andersen ran and won on a platform of fiscal responsibility and repeatedly railed against out of control spending as Mayor.
Andersen’s warnings were however ignored by the council which often by overriding the Mayor’s veto continued to approve capitol improvement projects and pay hikes to city employees despite having to dip into the city’s emergency reserve fund to make monthly ends meet.
A declining population also means it will be even more difficult for West Wendover to pull its way out of the recession.
A city’s population growth rate is one of the first statistics developers, banks and businesses look at when seeking to invest in a community. A declining rate especially in a state like Nevada which even during the Great Recession reported significant growth is not attractive.
Even before the census numbers came out there have been signs that all was not well with the city’s once booming population. School enrollment figures have fallen six of the last eight years and vacancies in the city’s apartment complexes have increased.
There has also been very little if any development in the past five years with the major exception being public paid for projects such as the new city hall.
Part of the population decline is a self inflicted wound at the behest of the large gaming industry the West Wendover City Council instituted a ban in 2008 on all new casino projects that did not include at least 150 hotel rooms.
That ban at least indirectly forced the bankruptcy of at least one development, the Rusty Palms and may have dissuaded other small casino developers from even attempting to grow with West Wendover.
West Wendover’s population decline has also spilled across the border into Wendover, Utah. The much smaller sister city also reported a decline of about 10 percent.
The Utah side of town however does not have anywhere near the budget problems facing its larger sister.
“We have a much smaller workforce and we don’t spend more than what we have,” said City Administrator Glenn Wadsworth last month.

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