NV Sees No End to Construction Boom

Sat January 22, 2005 - West Edition

RENO, NV (AP) Construction is nearly at a standstill in western Nevada right now as builders wait for the snow to melt and temperatures to warm up. But they say it’s only a temporary lull.

Construction hit a record $1.6 billion in the Reno-Sparks area last year, including 5,631 new homes and apartment units. Sparks assistant city manager Randy Mellinger and Reno planning director John Hester said the boom isn’t likely to stall. “Both commercial and residential developers say there is more demand than supply,” Hester said.

Mellinger, a member of the county economic development authority, said good times are being driven by retired Californians buying homes, low interest rates and businesses fleeing California because of the states lingering budget problems.

But Michael Lynch, Builders Association of Northern Nevada executive director, cautioned that the pace of construction the past few years could ebb because of a shortage of land and construction workers.

State officials point to the construction industry creating a surge in the economy. In November, construction jobs in Washoe County totaled 20,100 compared with 24,200 in the gaming industry. On average, state statistics show construction workers make twice as much as casino workers.

Despite 2 to 3 ft. of snow, workers were busy framing and applying stucco on Jan. 12 at R&K Homes’ new Hillcrest subdivision in north Reno. The only delay has been getting delivery of trusses to build roofs, said Dave Messmann, construction superintendent. “We lost two weeks but it didn’t stop us,” he said.

The Sacramento firm is building 86 homes at Hillcrest, 700 homes in Fernley and custom homes in Hidden Valley. Last fall, it won approval to build 157 homes on one acre-plus lots in Golden Valley and is planning to build in the Verdi area.

Carson City Hospital Approved

Nevada legislators have approved plans for work to begin on a scaled-back 150-bed psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas.

In approving the plan Jan. 12, the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee obligated the 2005 Legislature to come up with another $4 million for the hospital to open on time in May 2006.

The 2003 Legislature appropriated $32.2 million to construct and furnish the hospital. But Gus Nunez, deputy manager of the state Public Works Board, said construction bids were $3.5 million more than available revenue. “The hospital will not function without completing the deferred improvements,” Nunez said. “Right now, the bidding climate is contractors basically are picking and choosing what they do.”

The hospital is needed for mentally ill people who now clog hospital emergency rooms. “We have people out there who need help and we need to get them in a facility where they can get help,” said Assembly Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry (D-North Las Vegas).

Mike Willden, state human resources director, said 104 people were waiting for placement the night of Jan. 11 in emergency rooms in Las Vegas. Because of Las Vegas’ growth, Willden predicted additional facilities will be needed once the hospital opens. Plans call for adding another 40 beds to the new hospital.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio (R-Reno), stressed how important it was for the hospital to open on schedule in May 2006. He secured a commitment from Nunez that the Public Works Board will watch construction carefully so the schedule is maintained.