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BREAKING NEW NNRY WINS FIRST ROUND. Will Ely Rail War Kill The NNRY?

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Howard Copelan

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The collision between the Ely City Council and the Northern Nevada Railway continues in slow motion this month as both sides cross the Rubicon from disagreement to all out war.

The scorched earth strategy however is leaving many of the Ely residents wondering if anything will be left of the historic railroad to salvage no matter which side wins.

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Earlier this month the Northern Nevada Rail Road board petitioned senior Nevada Judge Bob Rose to intervene and reverse the removal of its chairman Ely Banker John Gianoli and Stephen Leith from the board.

Shortly after that suit was filed the railroad’s offices were raided by Ely City Councilmen Marty Westland and Bruce Setterstrom and the railroad’s financial records were copied and downloaded to a portable device for the city’s contracted forensic auditor.

In addition to the raid the Ely City Council continues its efforts to replace all other long serving Management Board members with those of its own.

centraphoneBut as the battle for control of the railroad continues in city hall and now the courts many in Ely are wondering if there will be anything left of railroad to be claimed as a prize of war.

“For 30 years people not only in Ely but all of White Pine County and all of rural Nevada have donated their time and their money to improve the railroad to make it an international tourist attraction,” said one area businessman. “If that forensic auditor does not find a smoking gun proving out and out criminal fraud the city council has a whole lot of explaining to do.”

So far audits of the railroad have found far from stealing from the railroad, its employees particularly Executive Director Mark Bassett have lent the organization money when they should not have.

In fact it was those improper loans to the railroad the council first used as its reason to assert its control over the railroad and ‘clean house’.

What is troubling may Ely residents is that after the “cleaning” there might not be much of a house left.

For 30 years since the railroad was created and about half that time under the direction of Bassett, the Nevada Northern Railway has built an international web of supporters both in government and from private corporations and individuals. That support whether in the form of governmental grants, private donations or out right gifts turned what was once a nice collection of obsolete engines and cars into one of the few operating historic railroads in the world and a significant money maker for Ely. Without that on going support many locals fear the Nevada Northern could easily revert to a quaint pile of junk.

wrecaquaThat could happen especially if the council not only replaces the entire board and if the new board fires Basset.

“You are talking about years if not decades of carefully cultivated relationships being destroyed in one fell swoop,” said one current director. “Who on the new board will know who to talk to the next time a grant request comes along or an endowment is up for renewal? People like to know who they are dealing with and it is not like there is a shortage of good causes to donate to.”

In the worse case scenario that criminal fraud is found in the forensic audit, funding to the railroad would dry up immediately. However even if nothing serious is found the bitter relationship between the city council and the railroad could give many previously generous donors reason to look elsewhere to give their money.

As predicted the railroad board pointed its finger squarely at former employee and current city councilman Marty Westland as using his position to wreck revenge on the rail road.

eelsionNNRR Board members and Bassett have long accused the Ely City Council and most particularly Westland of using the audit issues to get back at the organization and Bassett, the man who fired Westland several years ago.

In the suit a long list of Westland actions both before and after he was elected to the city council in 2011 where he inserted himself into NNRR operations is enumerated including the setting up a rival corporation, using the NNRR logo, writing up unfounded safety violations, and interfering in a grant application that may have cost the rail road over $10 million.

In an interview with the Advocate Westland openly questioned whether some of the expenditures listed in a  $72,000 loan Bassett made to the rail road could be justified and should be paid back.

But while the $72,000 loan and an additional $95,000 from Bassett to the NNRR raised a justifiable red flag to the corporations auditors Westland’s troubled history with Bassett and the NNRR management board begs the question if the brouhaha over the audit is real or an excuse for revenge.

In the last city election the self described reform movement took the majority on the Ely City council. What is striking about the reform movement was that very few if any of its candidates lived in Ely for more than 10 years if that.

“That the real shame of it all,” said one long time Ely resident. “These new guys come into town raise hell, break everything and then leave and we who have lived here all our lives have to pick up the pieces.”

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No Planes, No Gains? Wendover Gaming Win Falls In July

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Howard Copelan

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With the Wendover Airport closed to gambling junkets for half the month, Wendover casinos in July reported a almost nine percent decline in gaming win.

According to Air Port Manager Jim Petersen the major commercial runway at the Wendover Airport underwent repairs and improvements for the last two weeks of July and the first week of August.

“There were no casino flights during that time,” Petersen said.

click link for report  mrrjuly14

The absence of the fly in traffic had a direct effect on the casinos’ bottom line. According to the report released last week, Wendover clubs reported an 8.94 percent drop in total gaming win to $12.56 million from the same month last year.

“Win” is a gross figure, with no operating costs or other expenses deducted. And it’s casino revenue only _ separate from hotel, restaurant or bar revenues generated by the resorts.

While win indicates a casino market’s profitability another statistic “play” is an indicator of how casino workers are fairing. With some casino workers dependent on tips for up to half of their total income, play, the amount of money wagered by gamblers is a good indicator of how much casino workers received in tips and how many gamblers are actually in the casino.

centraphoneSlot win was down 11.3 percent to $10 million. Slot play was down 9.9 percent to $181.3 million. Slot hold declined from 5.61 percent in July 2013 to 5.52 percent this July.

On the tables win was up 1.8 percent to $2.6 million. Play was down 5.5 percent to $12.1 million while hold increased from 19.5 percent to 21.1 percent.

Until July Wendover casinos had been posting modest gains and even finished the fiscal year slightly ahead of the one before. July figures indicate not only how fragile the tourist economy is but also how vital the fly-in program remains to the Nevada/Utah border town.

But while July was bad in Wendover, it was even worse for casinos in the rest of Elko County.

Total gaming win for the balance of the county dropped by 12.76 percent to $7.4 million.

Slot win was down 13.1 percent to $6.6 million. Slot play was down 3.3 percent to $102 million. Slot hold declined from 7.2 percent in July 2013 to 6.47 percent this July.

Table win was down 9.4 percent to $763,000. Play was down 0.1 percent to $3.5 million while hold dropped from 24.2 percent to 21.96 percent.

For the rest of the state, Nevada casino revenue increased less than 1 percent in July from the same month last year, at least partly due to continued gains on the Las Vegas Strip.

Casinos won $931.8 million last month, a 0.65 percent increase from July 2013. Strip gaming revenue went up 4.83 percent to about $536 million, continuing the growth it has seen all summer.

eelsion“Baccarat had a very strong month on the Las Vegas Strip, which really accounted for a majority of the increase,” said Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the gaming board.

Downtown revenue, meanwhile, dipped 2.8 percent to about $38.3 million. Other areas suffered worse declines: Boulder Strip gaming revenue decreased 9.78 percent, while South Lake Tahoe revenue decreased about 22.5 percent.

Casinos in Reno also saw their revenues drop by 2.28 percent to about $47.8 million.

Baccarat remained a significant source of growth for the state — it brought in 13.87 percent more revenue than last year. Slot revenue, on the other hand, dropped 2.86 percent.

Online poker revenue improved year-over-year by about 11 percent, climbing to $958,000. In June, it brought in more than $1 million for the first time.

Clark County largely mirrored the individual game numbers. There, baccarat revenue increased about 16 percent and slot win decreased about 1 percent.

The state reported that it collected $52.2 million in taxes based on July’s winnings, which marks a 14.73 percent decrease from last year.

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Student Numbers Drop In NV, Rise In Wendover UT

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Howard Copelan

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For the second year in a row the number of students in West Wendover declined while the number of students in Wendover, Utah increased.

According to figures from all four Wendover schools; West Wendover Elementary, Anna Smith Elementary, West Wendover High School and Wendover High School, the Nevada schools saw declines in student population for the first week of school from the same time last year. Wendover, Utah school saw increases.

By the end of the first week of school there were 583 students at the West Wendover Elementary down from 599 a year ago. At the West Wendover Jr/Sr High School there were 454 students down from 513 a year ago. The total school enrollment for West Wendover was 1037 down from 1112 a year ago a decline of almost seven percent.

Across the border in Wendover, Utah the Wendover High School reported 200 students after the first week of school up from the 196 last year. Anna Smith Elementary reported 295 students up from the 277 last year. Together there are 495 students in Wendover, Utah up almost five percent from last year.

wrecaquaUntil this recently both sides of town mirrored each other more or less in school enrollment. While the Nevada side’s school population has always been much larger than the Utah side both sides gained or lost students at relatively the same rates as the other.

The StateLine bankruptcy and the Great Recession both had a devastating impact on the population of both sides of town and both sides school enrollments. The West Wendover Elementary school for example lost about 30 students the equivalent of a class every year for five years from 2003 to 2009.

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.

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.

centraphoneIn the past five years Wendover, Utah however has shown signs of great resiliency than its larger sister to the west. While no where near a complete recovery Wendover, Utah has logged some notable new development such as the new Nugget RV Park, the expanded Shell Service Center and the Dollar Store. West Wendover, Nevada on the other hand has met with little success apart from the addition of the Smith’s Gas Station the only large project West Wendover has seen in almost a decade was the City Hall and a city paid for industrial park that so far has two tenants.

This greater resiliency may be reflected in this years school population numbers as well.

Another cause for Utah’s increase could be in the easier access to local, state and federal government financial assistance.

While West Wendover, Nevada’s poor must travel to either Elko or Ely to even apply for financial aid Tooele County administers many of the same programs from its offices in Wendover, Utah City Hall.

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Advocate Publishers Return Home

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Howard Copelan

Copelan recovering in Spain

Publisher Howard Copealn with grandson Oz

 

Advocate Publishers Howard and Corinne Copelan returned safely to West Wendover last Friday after surviving a heart attack while flying back from a visit with their children and grandchildren in Israel.

Mr. Copelan suffered what was later confirmed as a heart attack while flying over the Mediterranean Sea four hours into the return trip to the United States. The plane made an emergency landing in Barcelona, Spain where Copelan and his wife were taken by ambulance to a local hospital.

“Although our recollections of the flight are a bit hazy… I do remember noticing that the air in the airplane cabin was particularly thin even for an international flight.” Copelan wrote in a Facebook post in Spain. “In the lavatory it was even worse- no air at all. After a visit to the facility we felt faint and asked for some oxygen we sat down. A passenger/doctor named Shirit noticed us and asked us if she could help. The steward gave her the plane blood pressure cuffed which broke while she was checking us. We continued sucking on oxygen but were told there was only a limited supply enough to get us over the Atlantic. That is when I had our first major chest pain. I had to go to the lavatory again and again there was no air. As I walked back to our seat it suddenly felt like a baby elephant jumped on my chest. I think I kind of fell to my seat and remember panicking when they took my oxygen away. Lots of people were talking and it got through to me that the plane was making an emergency landing in Barcelona and I wondered who was the poor schmuck in so much trouble?…”

wrecaquaWhile Mr. Copelan was being stabilized in the ambulance, Mrs. Copelan cleared customs and the couple were taken to the Hospital de Bellvitge in Barcelona. The Advocate publisher spent two days in the emergency ward and two following days in the hospitals cardio ward before being released and allowed to go home.

The Copelans were in Israel to visit their children and grandchildren as well as deliver several video gaming systems and games donated to the children of the rocket beleaguered town of Netivot, Israel by Elko businesswoman Jeni-Lei Powell.

“In hindsight we probably shouldn’t have gone,” Copelan said. “But when rockets are being fired at your children and grandsons and you have a son called up to the reserves logic flies out the window.”

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Wendover Air Show Rocks The Weekend

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Howard Copelan

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Despite stiff competition from Salt Lake’s ComicCon, Wendover’s Wings & Wheels Air Show drew dozens of planes like this B-25 bomber and hundreds of fans last weekend. Photo credits Mike Coster.

 

 

 

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Advocate Publisher Howard Copelan Suffers Heart Attack, Hospitalized in Barcelona

Posted on 03 September 2014 by admin

Copelan recovering in Spain

Howard Copelan was returning to the US from a visit to his children and grandchildren in Israel on Tuesday, September 2 when he was stricken while on the flight over the Mediterranean. The plane made an emergency landing in Barcelona Spain, and Copelan was hurried to the hospital there, accompanied by his wife Corrine.

The disruption in travel plans resulted in a missed edition of the Advocate, which troubled him almost as much as his medical condition.  He is mending there, and expects to be released in a few days to continue his journey home.

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Train Wreck Ahead RR Board To Sue Ely City Council

Posted on 21 August 2014 by Howard Copelan

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After almost a year of playing defense the Nevada Northern Railway went on the offense Friday by voting to bring suit against the Ely City council in its role as the Railroad’s board of trustees.

While the details of the suit have not yet been released, indeed as of press time it has not yet been written or filed the suit will specifically name all members of the city council and Ely Mayor Melody Van Camp.

Despite the lack of official information it can be assumed that Ely city councilman Marty Westland long standing grudge against the Northern Nevada rail road should figure prominently in the suit.

Westlund a former employee was fired from the rail road several years ago.

NNRR Board members and Bassett have long accused the Ely City Council and most particularly Westland of using the audit issues to get back at the organization and Bassett, the man who fired Westland several years ago.

elkofair2014To back their up allegations Bassett and board members released a long list of Westland actions both before and after he was elected to the city council in 2011 where he inserted himself into NNRR operations including setting up a rival corporation, using the NNRR logo, writing up unfounded safety violations, and interfering in a grant application that may have cost the rail road over $10 million.

In an interview with the Advocate Westland openly questioned whether some of the expenditures listed in a  $72,000 loan Bassett made to the rail road could be justified and should be paid back.

But while the $72,000 loan and an additional $95,000 from Bassett to the NNRR raised a justifiable red flag to the corporations auditors Westland’s troubled history with Bassett and the NNRR management board begs the question if the brouhaha over the audit is real or an excuse for revenge.

“I think it is odd that no one said anything about the previous year’s audit that had some of the same issues,” Bassett said. “It was only after the last election where Marty got some of his cronies elected to the council that it comes up.”

In the last city election the self described reform movement took the majority on the Ely City council.

“During the election they complained that the so called Good Ol’ Boy network was using the city council to pursue personal vendettas,” said NNRR board chairman John Gianolli. “Now they are doing it.”

centraphoneWhile admitting that he had indeed set up a corporation in 2008 that would seem to be in competition with the NNRR, Westland said that now defunct enterprise existed only to run the northern non-historical part of the rail road.

That plan was abandoned Westland said after plans for two coal fired power plants were quashed by environmentalists and Senator Harry Reid.

While admitting that he used the logo of the NNRR, Westland said that he broke no law since the logo was not copyrighted.

“Does he know how much money we had to spend to defend our logo?” Bassett asked. “Thousands of dollars.”

Bassett and other NNRR board members also alleged that Westland’s “bogus company” using the NNRR logo may have contributed to the denial of the NNRR $12 million grant application for upgrades to the northern line that would have made it able to ship ore from area mines to the Union Pacific line at Shafter about ten miles east of Wendover.

“…Once I requested the money all of a sudden my phone calls started being ignored. You don’t think that this statement from Marty’s website had anything to do with do you?” Bassett wrote in an email. “’The Nevada Northern Railway Company is a transportation company dedicated to bringing safe, affordable transportation of nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain.’ From Marty’s bogus Nevada Northern Railway website.”

Perhaps in response to those attacks the city council approved launching a ‘forensic audit’ of the rail road’s books.

wrecaquaHowever the $10,000 set aside for a forensic audit of the Nevada Northern Rail Road might be a down payment but would in no way cover the total cost, said one of the leading Certified Public accountants of San Francisco Geoffrey Kulik.

“If we were asked to do a forensic audit of a similar sized organization in San Fransisco I would guess the cost would be easy between $35,000 to $45,000 and perhaps double that,” Kulik said. “There is a big difference between a regular audit where you check the books and make sure that the company is running under GAP (General Accounting Practices) and a forensic audit where you are looking for criminal wrong doing like fraud. I don’t know what the cost structure is like in Nevada but it can’t be that much different than California.”

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School Board Okays New W. Wendover Elementary

Posted on 21 August 2014 by Howard Copelan

Architect's drawing of new West Wendover elementary school

Architect’s drawing of new West Wendover elementary school

The long anticipated and often delayed new West Wendover Elementary school finally was approved by the Elko County School board on a 5-2 vote last week.

Both board member Cindy Elquist and board chairman Thad Ballard voted against the new school on the grounds that the project was $400,000 over its original $30 million dollar budget.

This May the board unanimously rejected bids for the new school.

“Every bid came in over the estimated budget,” Zander explained at the time. “We will have to go back to the drawing board and maybe do some cutting.”

Some of the cutting included slightly shrinking classroom size from 960 square feet to 900 square feet, relocating the main campus thus shortening the access road and cutting out lockers in the new gymnasium.

elkofair2014The new elementary was part of a $33 million project that also included a retro fit of the current elementary school into a middle school and a new road to alleviate traffic congestion and a ball field.

The school board had put the project at the top of the “pay as you go” agenda in which means construction on the new school could start in 2014 and be completed in 2015.

Pay-as-you-go school tax revenue through the end of fiscal year 2013 is estimated at just over $39 million, according to the five-year plan.

The need for a middle school in West Wendover was acknowledged almost since the West Wendover Jr/Sr high school opened in 1996.

centraphoneHowever the project was sidelined in the late 1990’s when the price of gold collapsed and tax revenues in Elko County subsequently plunged. Talk of the new middle began again in the mid 2000’s but again the economy turned sour in the Great Recession and all building projects were put on indefinite hold.

In the meantime West Wendover made due with stopped gap temporary trailers that now house about 50 percent of its elementary students.

The district had planned for a maximum of about $33 million to be spent for the school, Zander said. Bids came in at nearly $40 million.

Board members said they would not vote to accept the bid if it would mean postponing other projects in the district because of budgetary concerns.

The major cost cutting changes Zander said came not from the building itself but rather its location.

Instead of putting the new school in the middle of the property it was moved closer to the side thus shortening the access road the district committed to build. As any West Wendover parent can attest traffic is a major safety problem at the current elementary school.

According to the conceptual schedule, construction of the new West Wendover elementary school could begin as early as April 2015. The old elementary school building could then be bid for a renovation into a middle school. Construction on that project could begin in 2017.

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Nevada Governor Sandoval To Wendover

Posted on 21 August 2014 by Howard Copelan

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Nevada Governor Bryan Sandoval will make a rare appearance in Wendover august 27th as part of the Silver State’s 150th birthday celebrations.

Sandoval’s vista will be part of Anna Smith Day celebrating one of the founders of the Nevada/Utah border community. Anna Smith with husband William built what became the State Line Casino in West Wendover Nevada over 75 years ago. It was one of the first casinos in the Sage Brush State and until it closed in 2003 the Smith family owned the oldest continual gaming licenses in the state.

The casino’s iconic mechanical man Wendover Will also figures prominently on one of the sesquicentennial

Sandoval will be arriving by train.

Nevada’s Sesquicentennial, the 150th anniversary of Nevada’s admission to the Union, will provide opportunities for celebration and reflection. Nevada’s one of a kind and diverse history will be celebrated throughout the state for an entire year in order to promote pride in the shared heritage of all Nevadans. Nevada’s Sesquicentennial celebration commenced on Nevada Day 2013 and concludes with an expanded Nevada Day celebration October, 2014. For more information, please visit www.nevada150.org. wrecaqua

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Ready For V-Ball?

Posted on 21 August 2014 by Howard Copelan

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Lenna Sweat catches some serious air for a spike.

The Wolverine Volleyball team took to the gym last week to begin training for the 2014 season.

“We are young and hungry for success,” said head coach Mike Beardahl. “Last year was a great JV season for this talented group of lady Wolverines. They had a great winning season with an end of the year victory over White Pine.  If they build off of this victory they will be able to make at least the divisional playoffs that will be held here at West Wendover High. Coach Patti Ratliff has done a great job teaching the basics and preparing them for a great season.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 12.05.26 AMTeam Roster: Wiktoria Chinz, Lilly Lopez, Isabel Chavez, Naomi Haro, Lenna Sweat, Sydney Reamer, Madison Buxton, Anahi Esparza, Nayda Rodriguez, Yesi Gonzalez, Susie Contrases, Melanie Ramirez, Alyssa Thorn, Sandra Mendoza

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