By Mark Waite
Nye County Commissioner Gary Hollis touted Yucca Mountain as a way to reduce unemployment and discounted suggestions from other county commission candidates about how to create jobs, during a forum Thursday night at the Pahrump Nugget Hotel and Casino.
“Yucca Mountain is really good for us; 7,000 jobs are going down the tubes over this battle, a political battle and not a scientific battle or a technical battle,” said Hollis, a candidate for reelection to District 2.
District 3 candidate Ken Searles said he’d like to contact his connections at the federal and state level to see if there’s a way to waive property taxes as an incentive.
“If someone has a pocket full of money to invest, why are they going to have all their money for the first two or three years go into paying taxes on the improvements they made on their property?” Searles said.
A 30-year resident, Searles said businesses like the Pahrump Nugget have come to town, evidence there’s fertile ground for growth.
Hollis said the state allows two years of property tax relief if a business hires a certain number of employees.
Hollis’ District 2 opponent, Frank Carbone, said the lack of communication between Nye County commissioners and the Pahrump Town Board has to be addressed. Bureaucratic red tape also should be trimmed to better lure new businesses into the community.
“You heard about impact fees, you heard about taxes as an issue, those are issues that are going to have to be addressed,” Carbone said.
Nye County needs to recruit businesses, but those that don’t use too much water or bring in hazardous chemicals, said Carbone, who advocates more green jobs. The county also needs someone with an economic development background, he said, adding Nye County could attract more retirees here.
Hollis said he’s heard the frequent complaints about impact fees.
“We froze impact fees for one year,” Hollis said. “I don’t know of a single business that’s come in and took us up on that offer.”
He said local utilities are part of the problem, suggesting Valley Electric Association or AT&T give a new business a break on their charges for a year.
District 3 candidate Donna Cox said the town needs to be cleaned up.
“A lot of people aren’t going to invest money here if they drive through town and look at it and say, ‘well this isn’t exactly a tourist resort,’” Cox said.
“I would like to keep our atmosphere rural, which is the reason we moved out here in the first place, but at the same time we need to keep people working,” she said.
Cox would like to see things consolidated between the county and town to save money. She complained about a lack of promotion for Pahrump.
Searles stressed his Republican Party connections would help deal with unfunded mandates passed down to the county by the state and federal government. He boasted of having the cell phone number of U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev. who is the short-lived congressman for this district until the election.
“You need to get with the governor right off, you need to let those people know where you stand,” Cox said. “We don’t get a lot from the state and it’s time to go out there and open your mouth, be a part of the state Legislature, you don’t just have to be a county commissioner.”
The county needs to rely on good staff, including those that work with legislators, Cox said. She added Nye County needs to stop relying on Payment Equal to Taxes for Yucca Mountain and Payment In Lieu of Taxes for federal land.
Hollis said he went to the state Legislature. But he added, “seventy-five percent of the people you’re going to be talking to live on the other side of the mountain. They want the same money you want, they’re wanting to get it over there and they got the vote and we don’t.”
Carbone said the county may have to cut its budget to pay for unfunded mandates but make sure it’s not going to cause people to suffer.
“There’s things like Medicaid that’s coming down on us, that’s going to be thrown to commissioners,” Carbone said.
When it came to commissioners’ travel, Hollis said there’s not a place in Nye County he hasn’t visited, something Pahrump commissioners may have to do more now that District 1 Commissioner Lorinda Wichman has the entire northern county.
Carbone said the county should save travel costs by doing more video conferencing.
“We shouldn’t be doing business by driving our cars or trucks around to go look at stuff. If it’s very, very specific, we have to be there, we’ll be there,” Carbone said.
Searles said the county can use things like Skype and teleconferencing. Initially he’d like to meet people face to face, to find out the leaders of the communities, then use technology.
Cox said, “if I’m elected I want to get down in the trenches with people. I want to find out what’s going on up north and find out what they need. I won’t be serving just Pahrump or southern Nye County.”
But Cox said she has a problem with county commissioners traveling up north to Tonopah every month, when they can use videoconferencing. She also advocated night meetings.
At the town level, Frank Maurizio and Amy Riches criticized the Pahrump Town Board for changing the rules on public comment to allow it only at the start and end of the meetings. Maurizio, a town board member in 2009-2010, said that’s why he ran for office again.
Pahrump Town Board candidate Bill Dolan, who was on the town board from 2008-2011, wanted to clear the air about incorporation.
“A lot of people have said that I’m for incorporation; I’ve never seen an incorporation effort I didn’t like. Well, I’m here to tell you the truth and this is, I’m not for incorporation, I’m not against incorporation. What I am for is the people’s right to vote on the issue and have their free speech at the ballot box, period,” he said.
“I’m against incorporation, we don’t have the tax base to support it. We don’t have infrastructure to do it. It’s too costly,” Riches said. “I like a small town, rural atmosphere. I don’t want a lot of sidewalks and things like that.”
Maurizio said a study showed incorporation would raise property tax rates 3 percent to 6 percent.
“I can’t afford that, can you? We’re the ones who are going to end up paying for it. We have no industrial or commercial tax base here and it’s just crazy,” Maurizio said.
He also wanted to do away with the town issuing business licenses.
Dolan said he represented Pahrump on the Nevada League of Cities and has connections with other towns and states. “If the town of Pahrump has a problem that comes up, you can simply go on the League of Cities website and say has anybody else had this problem? Why reinvent the wheel?”
He said the town and county have the biggest void between them he has ever seen, they need to come together.
Dolan said he belonged to a businessman’s group that’s talked about trying to attract a green energy manufacturing plant and a wood producing furniture company, they’ve talked to several restaurant chains, a beauty supply company and a cleaning company.
“You don’t just walk up to somebody and say ‘hi I’m from Pahrump, why don’t you move your business here?’ It just doesn’t happen, it takes a lot of legwork, it takes a lot of legwork and it takes a lot of finessing to have these people give up where they’re at and come here,” Dolan said.
Riches wanted to find a way to protect water wells in Pahrump Valley. She also wants to roll back property tax increases enacted by the town of Pahrump in the past few years.
Maurizio said the town board operated with reserves to balance the budget, then raised the property tax. “That’s not right. The last two years we’ve actually been in the red,” he said.
Pahrump Town Board member Vicky Parker was at a Nevada League of Cities event in Elko and didn’t attend.