By Mark Waite
Commissioner Donna Cox preferred to stay in Pahrump rather than travel to Tonopah for her first Nye County Commission meeting Monday.
Commissioner Frank Carbone traveled to Tonopah and even sported a tie. His first foray into commission business involved raising a few questions for the public. Among those, he questioned how commissioners could only hire one employee, the county manager, who hires everyone else.
Welcome to the class of 2013, with the two incoming members advocating cost savings and transparency.
Carbone defeated Commissioner Gary Hollis in his quest for a third term, Cox won the seat vacated by Commissioner Joni Eastley, who was term limited.
Cox just returned from a long awaited trip to Graceland in Memphis, Tenn. Saturday and was administered the oath of office by Kim Clendennen, secretary of the Concerned Citizens for a Safe Community and a notary public.
“I made a pledge to be very conservative and save as much money as I could so we could put it on other items. So I will be doing my meetings down here if I have to do them alone, unless the law mandates different, so I can have one-on-one with the people in my area. It does cost a lot of money, you have to pay to go back and forth, lunches and dinners,” Cox said.
Commissioner Butch Borasky, who was just elected chairman, said he had spare room for any commissioner who wanted a ride. Borasky requested a half-ton Chevy Silverado pickup soon after taking office in 2007 along with former Commissioner Peter Liakopoulos. Borasky said the county-furnished Toyota Corolla was too dangerous for the ride up Highway 95.
Borasky encouraged commissioners to travel up to Tonopah, as there is a split-second time in video conferencing to Pahrump. All five commissioners had often traveled the 165 miles, though Hollis in the last year often stayed in Pahrump. Eastley often stayed in Tonopah for Pahrump meetings.
The first county commission meeting of the month by law is held in the county seat. During the campaign, Carbone talked about saving money by video conferencing, but he wanted to attend his first meeting in Tonopah.
“I’m interested in bringing transparency to the meetings. I will be probably asking a lot more questions in the future and taking a lot more time as we get going throughout the years. So I want people to know while this wasn’t a very transparent meeting, there will be more transparency in the future,” Cox said.
Commissioner Dan Schinhofen, who was elected vice-chairman, took exception to that remark.
“What was not transparent?” he asked.
Cox said there wasn’t enough backup to keep the public informed. She also suggested publishing notices of the commission meetings in the newspapers and on television.
Carbone was thrown into the hot seat right way, casting the third vote for hiring Eastley as assistant county manager see related story on A1 , a decision that didn’t sit well with CCSC members in the audience. Cox is the president of CCSC, an organization originally formed to fight against the Nevada Southern Detention Center.
Carbone had a number of questions. He wanted to know where $339,228 in funding came from for providing county services to the Nevada National Security Administration. The answer: the U.S. Department of Energy.
“Is this something we do on an annual basis?” Carbone asked.
On another item, Carbone asked Information Technology Director Mark Hatfield about issues with the sheriff’s department radio system. The two Motorola base station radios purchased Monday for $11,655 will solve an immediate problem in Gabbs communicating with pagers, and Tonopah public works radios, Hatfield said. Ultimately, it will cost $60,000 to fix the conventional radio system on Mount Brock, outside Tonopah, he said.
“You’re going to have a lot of radio decisions to make over the next 60 to 90 days related to the trunk system,” Hatfield said.
Carbone noted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management provided funding for the Tri-County Weed Board, when it came to an item to share the $180,000 purchase price of a building for the weed board with Lincoln and White Pine counties.
“I’d like to have people understand it so they know where the money’s coming from,” Carbone said.
After former Pahrump Regional Planning Commission Chairman Mark Kimball and Pablo Encinias, a member of the Southern Nevada Transit Coalition, were appointed to the capital improvements advisory committee, a suspicious Carbone asked, “How many applications did we actually get? Did something else slip under the door we didn’t know about?”
Carbone wanted to know how long the county would pay $10,000 to Robert Andersen for his legal representation on the writ of mandamus Nye County and other plaintiffs requested in the Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to finish the licensing application for Yucca Mountain.
Commissioner Dan Schinhofen said the hearing was postponed one month. The money will be needed for any court actions, he said. Andersen’s fee increased to a not-to-exceed amount of $60,000.
Nye County Nuclear Waste Project Office Director Darrell Lacy said Andersen has done a great deal of work pro bono, meaning for free. If the case is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court it will mean more county legal fees, Lacy said.
“My concern is we are dealing with courts. You have one extension after another after another. Does this look like this is the way it’s going to be or do we have a one time definite issue here?” Cox asked.
Borasky postponed action on appointing liaisons to different boards, saying he wanted to ask county commissioners first. That includes the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission representative, the Regional Transportation Commission, Southern Nevada Workforce Investment Board, Nye County Water District Board and the coveted nuclear waste liaison.