By Mark Waite
County commission candidates liked the idea of evening meetings and criticized the way the Blagg Road situation was handled, but were split on Yucca Mountain, during a Nye County Republican Party Central Committee debate Monday night.
Nye County Commissioner Gary Hollis, who is running for re-election in District 2, and Julie Hargis, a District 3 candidate, said they had conflicts and didn’t attend.
Candidates were asked about solutions to cut the $1.6 million budget deficit. District 3 candidate Andy Alberti said it’s important to know what led to the deficit; he said it was a mistake to give county employees early retirement buyouts. District 3 candidate Ken Searles objected to an elected official, former assessor Sandra Musselman, taking the buyout.
District 3 commission candidate Donna Cox said, “they do a lot of travel that I think is unnecessary in today’s world. They have Internet and television and other ways you can connect with people.” She also wants to stop employees from taking county vehicles home.
District 2 candidate Frank Carbone said in his 30 years in aerospace he worked in an industry that brought jobs to different communities. He advocated removing duplications in government.
District 2 candidate Darryl Lackey said the county should stop pursuing “fairy tale dreams” like a water theme park and an airport. He kept repeatedly mentioning crime circles in Nye County government.
District 3 candidate Ken Searles said, “I view this county operation as a nonprofit, they’re not intended to turn a profit. So I would look to see if certain agencies could be privatized.”
District 2 candidate Garren Hesketh wanted more transparency from the Nye County Nuclear Waste Repository Office.
“Mr. Hollis seems to take trips to Washington, D.C. every month and the expenses never show up in Nye County,” he said.
Alberti said if a commissioner wants a new project, they should take money from an existing project that’s less important.
Hesketh said the county should tap into volunteer help.
But Cox and Searles said there could be unforeseen circumstances that would preclude them from signing a no new taxes pledge.
Alberti said the county needs to remove the Senate bill that created the Nye County Water District.
“They’re not only protecting our water, they’re protecting it from you as well,” he said.
When it came to having meetings in the evenings, Alberti said he’d like to move the county seat to Pahrump.
Hesketh said he’d agree to evening meetings but said moving the county seat from Tonopah would kill that community. He said there’s technology to communicate with people in Tonopah.
Carbone said evening meetings is part of his platform. County employees could adjust their hours to support commissioners at evening meetings, he said.
Searles also liked evening meetings.
“As far as moving the county seat, I personally would be opposed to that. I’ve been here long enough to remember when Tonopah was the dog and we were the tail and we didn’t get anything we liked,” he said.
Cox supported evening meetings.
Candidates were split on the Yucca Mountain issue.
Cox said the waste can’t be stored there because proper waste canisters still haven’t been developed. Nye County should adjust its budget and learn to live without the money, she said.
“I’m starting to think it’s some form of fraudulent scheme because after 30 years they still don’t have an internment canister,” Cox said. She predicted, “Twenty years to 50 years into the project it’s not going to work. It’s a failure.”
Searles said he takes a more pragmatic approach. The project could go ahead even if U.S. Sen. Harry Reid is opposed.
“It may still happen if we have another 49 states that will put it in Yucca Mountain whether we like it or not. So let’s see if we can’t take some of those fees charged to the other states to operate a nuclear waste repository to benefit the people of Nye County in general.”
Alberti said he moved here because he thought Yucca Mountain would happen.
“I don’t see waste, I see jobs and opportunity for a university, for a medical center, what fusion is all about. You don’t think in the next 100 years we won’t find a use for that material?”
Hesketh said technology is changing and the nuclear waste could be reprocessed for use in reactors.
“We need to relook at the technology and I still think we need to bring it here for jobs,” he said.
Lackey had the wildest answer.
“We have to account for this depleted uranium storage, from what I’m learning they don’t need it Yucca Mountain because they’re putting all the depleted uranium in munitions they’re spreading all over Iraq and Iran,” he said.
All candidates criticized the way the Blagg Road problem was handled. Searles said it was an absurdity and extremely difficult for residents.
Alberti said, “we don’t need as many law suits, what we need to do is get it open.”
Cox said the federal detention center was supposed to be generating over $800,000 in property taxes per year, but the water and sewer line to the facility that caused the closure of Blagg Road may cost $4.5 million to repair.