By Mark Waite
The Nevada Department of Transportation will be asked to change the signs approaching Mesquite Avenue on Highway 160 that proclaim “prison area hitchhiking prohibited” to reflect the true nature of the facility.
Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen made a motion Tuesday to alter the wording from “prison” to “detention facility.”
“The reason I want it changed is it’s not a prison, it’s a detention facility. Nobody can be sentenced there,” Schinhofen said.
The semantics of the word “detention center” versus “prison” have dogged the project ever since Pahrump was one of the sites considered by the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee in 2007 to when it was opened in October 2010. Opponents of the detention center point to the wording on the highway sign as evidence Pahrump is now known as a prison town.
Nye County Public Works Director Dave Fanning said the town of Pahrump asked to have the original sign removed but in six months the town hasn’t commented. County Commissioner Butch Borasky said he wanted the sign changed a long time ago to its official name, the Nevada Southern Detention Center.
Incoming Pahrump Town Board member Bill Dolan advocated for the change Tuesday.
“This was one of the issues that was on my radar for after the first of the year,” Dolan said.
He wanted “federal detention center” but it may not fit on the sign.
“God forbid someone’s out here, they get busted for drunken driving that are from Ely or Reno and they get bailed out and they call someone to have them get them out and they say come to the Nye County jail or detention center,” he said. “Do you realize the people that will be driving up to the federal detention center instead of the jail?”
NDOT will build the sign free of charge, Fanning said.
County Manager Pam Webster said the sign isn’t a directional sign, but merely a notification a detention center is in the vicinity.
“It’s not intended to direct anyone anywhere,” she said.
There are no obvious signs pointing to the detention center, even approaching it on Mesquite Avenue. The detention center, which can house up to 1,072 detainees who are awaiting trial in federal court is largely obscured on the west side by a landscaped berm as specified in the Nye County development agreement.
“This will be the third change if this change is acknowledged,” Fanning said. “I wish everybody would get on the same page so we would be talking from the same page instead of being divided as we currently are.”
Commissioner Joni Eastley said, “we’re running out of hairs to split.”
Borasky cast the sole vote against the motion, he wanted to have the Pahrump Town Board make the decision.