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KUNR Today: RPD Chief Soto retiring, Nevada’s unemployment rate sits at 5 percent

A headshot of Jason Soto. He is wearing a police uniform and looking toward the camera while smiling.
Reno Police Department
An official headshot of Reno Police Chief Jason Soto.

Read or listen to the news headlines for Tuesday, April 19, 2022.

RPD Chief Jason Soto announces retirement
By Lucia Starbuck

The head of the Reno Police Department is retiring.

The City of Reno confirmed to KUNR that Police Chief Jason Soto announced his retirement.

Soto sent an email to city staff this week touting the department’s accomplishments and saying he wants to put more focus on his family.

Soto started his career with RPD in 1997. He became interim police chief in 2015 when the former chief retired and was permanently named chief in 2018.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

State K-12 chief Jhone Ebert among Washoe County superintendent finalists
By Rocío Hernández, The Nevada Independent

Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert is among five finalists vying to become the next superintendent of the Washoe County School District.

The district has more than 60,000 students and is the second-largest in the state. Other finalists include Susan Enfield, superintendent for a Washington state school district, and Sherrell Hobbs, the founder of a Florida business focused on leadership management and development training. Shawn Loescher is a California charter schools CEO and Caprice Young is the president of an education consulting firm.

The Washoe County School District’s Board of Trustees is expected to make a final selection at an April 26 public meeting.

Ebert says it has been the “privilege of a lifetime” to serve in her current role and would use the opportunity, if selected, to work more closely with students, staff, families and the greater community as it grows and rebuilds.

Read more of this story at The Nevada Independent.

Nevada’s unemployment rate sits at 5 percent
By Kaleb Roedel, Mountain West News Bureau

The U.S. unemployment rate is at a new pandemic-era low, but the rates vary widely in Mountain West states.

In March, the nation’s unemployment dropped to 3.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s just short of where it was before COVID shook up the economy, but not all states in the region have rebounded. New Mexico had the highest state unemployment rate at 5.3 percent, and Nevada followed at 5 percent.

Jill Gonzalez is an analyst for WalletHub, a personal finance website. She says New Mexico’s demographics are a factor.

“When we’re looking at the population, it skews a little bit older, so I think, you know, early retirement, where people are not necessarily going back to work or ready to go back to work,” Gonzalez said.

Meanwhile, Utah, Montana and Idaho all had unemployment rates lower than 3 percent.

Department of Interior reopening oil, gas lease sales on public lands
By Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

The Interior Department is reopening oil and gas lease sales on public lands.

The new lease sales will include 144,000 acres on public land: 80% less acreage than the oil and gas industry initially nominated. There is also an increase in royalties for leases, from 12.5% to 18.75%.

Critics include oil and gas industry groups, which say it’s at odds with efforts to lower fuel prices. Some environmental groups are also critical, saying any leases will contribute to climate change.

The nonprofit Center for Western Priorities is one of the few to praise the plan, saying essentially: this was the best-case scenario for an agency cornered by laws, federal court rulings, petroleum groups and climate activists.

Waste Management’s Free Dump Days this spring
By Lucia Starbuck

Waste Management is providing free dump days at their Lockwood Landfill for a little over a week, starting Friday, April 22, through May 1.

The company says the goal is to mitigate illegal dumping and ensure waste is where it should be.

Free Dump Days are available to Washoe and Storey County residents. Large items like stoves, washers and dryers, sofas and mattresses are accepted.

Some items are unacceptable, including electronics like televisions, engines, hazardous materials and dirt.

PG&E’s Tesla Megapack battery in California now operational
By The Associated Press

A 182.5-megawatt energy storage system in Northern California was designed and constructed in a partnership between Tesla and Pacific Gas and Electric Company is now operational. PG&E said Monday that the system includes 256 Tesla Megapack battery units on 33 concrete slabs and has the capacity to store and dispatch up to 730 megawatt-hours of energy to the electrical grid at a maximum rate of 182.5 megawatts per hour during periods of high demand.

Known as the Elkhorn Battery because of its location in Monterey Bay’s Elkhorn Slough, the lithium-ion battery storage system was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in 2018.