By Selwyn Harris
The Pahrump town board approved moving forward with the second phase of a proposed tourist destination project on Tuesday.
The board voted 3-1 to spend $207,000 with Contour Entertainment Inc., the company tasked with creating a destination concept touted by board members as among the only means they have of trying to create jobs in Pahrump.
Figuring in costs for the first phase of the project, the town will have so far spent more than $361,000 since the board approved funding the effort’s first phase last summer.
The money is drawn from the town’s tourism fund, which amounted to just under $1,000,000 before the project began.
Mike Darby cast the sole vote against the project.
Board member Harley Kulkin, who initially was a big supporter of the project had reservations once the first phase report was submitted to town officials last October.
At the time, Kulkin expressed his displeasure with what Contour Entertainment delivered to the town.
“I think we are on the wrong track somehow. It just isn’t the big thing that we’re looking for. I don’t have another 20 years till they build up something. I want to see it happen now. I want thousands of jobs now. And I know the right idea would work,” he said then.
Following a discussion with Contour Entertainment President Chris Brown early Tuesday, Kulkin suggested that he now has renewed confidence in the project.
“I’ve wrestled with this very much because I want to make the right decisions. I have been talking about a theme thing for a long time. I have listened to a lot of people and have heard some interesting things. If we are going to turn this town around and do something, then we’re going to have to have the courage to stand up and do something. A lot of people don’t understand that once this thing starts to get built out it’s something that is going to furnish all kinds of jobs. Not just service oriented jobs, but engineering, management, and all kinds of things,” he said.
Board member Dr. Tom Waters said he too has spoken to local residents about the project.
Waters said many residents have questioned him on how the funds up to this point have been used.
“Before we commit any more funds, how much more could be done. As I talked to residents of Pahrump, they are saying we paid $150,000 and what have we gotten for that? We have gotten some reports and other things, and they are saying to me, before we give any more money, let’s make sure that we are on the right path. From what I just heard from Bill Kohbarger, we are on the right path, but I still have that thought of where are we going?” Waters said.
Town Chair Vicky Parker also raised a few questions to Brown about funding the project.
“I think the issue really narrows down to what we can afford. It looks to be that you have created a proposal within the parameters that we can afford. The next question for the board is do we believe that you can create that Wow Factor. Looking at your track record and some of your pictures; your years of experience, I believe that you can create the Wow and that is what this comes down to. We haven’t seen the Wow yet, but I believe that you can,” she said.
Brown’s response reiterated what Contour Entertainment’s goal was from the beginning.
“I appreciate your confidence, but I do want to just issue a word of caution which is that we are not interested in developing a concept that is not financially viable in the reality of this market,” he said.
Kulkin, meanwhile, said he was concerned about how much money would eventually need to be spent to see the entire project through.
He emphasized that he doesn’t want to see the town run out of funds prior to final phase.
Brown estimated that more than $600,000 will be spent on the project before shovels hit the dirt.
He said there are many other things that need to be addressed before the actual groundwork begins.
“To get all the way through conceptual development, and financial planning, the work that has to occur with the state legislature to get incentives in place. There were some additional costs that were not included, including lobbyists at the Carson City level to help get the legislation pending to pass. The direct response is that amount of some $600,000, plus, depending on what other costs are adding in there was intended to get you substantially through that process so you would have a vision, you would have a pro-forma, you would have a business plan that is associated with that. You would also have the state legislation in process with the intention of getting that approved, which is something that cannot happen until the legislature sits in 2013, next year,” he said.
On the subject of costs for the ensuing phases, Kohbarger said the amount is not excessive, especially if one considers the entire scope of the project.
“That’s actually pretty cheap. How much money does a casino spend before dirt is turned? How much money did Walt Disney spend before dirt was turned? A normal project like the CCA Federal Detention Facility, how much money did they spend before dirt was turned? It was probably three or four million dollars with engineering, and all of the other studies. That’s the nature of the beast,” he said.
Kohbarger added that an idea known as “Adventure Springs” is just one of several concepts Contour Entertainment is working on to develop.
The concept may possibly include what is being touted as a “Field of Dreams” baseball training camp, which was warmly embraced by the town board when discussions first began.
“There are some concepts, but nothing that has been set in stone yet. They have some good ideas. It was in the phase one final report and they are trying to expand on that. It’s an ever-changing project that will hopefully fit like a glove once it’s defined. In phase two, they are going to finally put together what they feel is the “Adventure Springs” concept and they will be bringing back that in conceptual form with drawings, illustrations and the whole works,” Kohbarger said.
Prior to Tuesday’s town board meeting, Brown discussed the project at the Nye County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Kohbarger who was present, said some of the commissioners had strong reservations about the Contour project.
“Two members of the county commission have a different viewpoint. Mrs. Eastley I thought asked some very good questions. Mrs. Lorinda Wichman, I don’t remember asking questions and I don’t remember Commissioner Gary Hollis asking questions. Mr. Butch Borasky made a comment that we can’t use the park project, but he needs to read up on those rules and regulations before he states that comment and Mr. Dan Schinhofen is just Mr. Schinhofen. He doesn’t seem to want anything to happen in Pahrump. If I’m wrong, then he can prove me wrong, and I would happily sit down and listen to him,” he said.
Kohbarger noted that a five-member ad hoc committee was formed for the project.
He also said that a lobbyist will be sought to help move the political effort along.
According to the town’s backup material, fees for a lobbyist are expected to top $40,000.
“It is not our job to create the image that was to be brought forth. That is Mr. Brown and Contour Entertainment. With all due respect, if we were that good, we’d be sitting over there making the money he is. We will be contacting a lobbyist. We have five people in mind. We went to the Nevada League of Cities Executive Director Dave Fraser. I shared some stuff with Dave, he knows the lobbyists, and he’s been doing it for eight years in Carson City,” he said.
Once the final phase is completed, Kohbarger said it is unknown when groundbreaking will take place on the project.
He did however say a perfect scenario would be roughly 18 to 24 months.
As far as a location, Kohbarger said he wanted to keep the information confidential to avoid those thinking of buying up nearby parcels of land and inflate the selling cost to the town.
“It will be inside the town of Pahrump,” he said.
Phase two will proceed without the services of Don Holbrook who was hired as a subcontractor for Contour Entertainment.
Holbrook, who is presently fighting litigation from the City of Huber Heights, Ohio, allegedly performed substandard work on an economic analysis for that city.
The lawsuit states that Holbrook failed to conform to the terms of the contract and did not conform to industry standards.
Another Holbrook project in a town near Houston, Texas, is tied up in bankruptcy court.
Holbrook and Contour Entertainment were introduced to town officials by former Pahrump Community Economic Developer Al Balloqui.
Kohbarger said Contour was hired by the town after a thorough check of references and the background of the company.
He noted that no other similar companies were sought out for the project.
“At that present time, no because we really didn’t know what direction we wanted to go into. Contour’s references were checked and verified. They looked great and we couldn’t find anything negative about them,” he said.
In reference to Holbrook, Waters said that the town’s business contract was exclusively with Contour and no one else.
The ad hoc committee will soon hold a kickoff meeting to review the schedule and tasks for the new phase.
The meeting will also focus on options for site selection based on size and available land options.