Staff worried after Supreme Court makes its town board ruling
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What happens next?
That’s the question on everyone’s minds concerning the Supreme Court ruling last week upholding the 2012 vote to dissolve the Pahrump Town Board. The body will turn into an advisory board made up of county appointees whose expenditures will likely be tightly controlled by county commissioners by the end of this year.
Though plenty of time has passed since local residents voted to disband the town board, Commissioner Butch Borasky said this week that not much has been done to create a concrete transition plan between the board and commission.
He suggested that the town’s legal counsel advised both board and staff to wait until the court’s decision is handed down.
“I have stated all along that I wanted to form a transition team but the only thing I kept hearing from the town board is their attorney advised them not to talk to us. It’s very difficult when you are faced with those kinds of answers where you are limited. You can’t force them,” he said.
Borasky, who said he has always been supportive of the town board in the past, noted that the relationship between the respective boards was tenuous at best.
“I have tried to work with them on issues between the town and the county. I have had an ally here and there on the board but it was never a strong enough bond to break the family feud that we have in the community between the town and county. It’s very difficult if you have somebody advocating from the pulpit that Nye County is no good. It is mind-boggling to sit at a town board meeting and hear that meeting after meeting,” he said.
The Pahrump Town Board was formed more than 30 years ago as a non-paid government body.
Elected members volunteer their time while serving four-year terms.
Town staff on the other hand are paid employees.
As such, the court’s decision weighs heavily on the future of the staff and the families they support.
At present, Town Manager Susan Holecheck oversees roughly a dozen staff members at the town office alone.
At the same time, department heads oversee the daily duties of their respective employees in buildings and grounds, the fire department, cemetery and pool.
According to the town’s budget year ending June 30, 2015, expenditures for the town total $1,238,663 for administration, which include salaries, employee benefits, capital outlays as well as services and supplies.
The town’s parks and recreation department’s expenditures according to the budget total $1,291,378.
The largest expenditure goes to public safety where the fire department’s budget shows $1,860,207.
All told, expenditures for the end of June 2015, total $4,432,248 which also includes arena activities and television.
Though nothing has been set in stone, Holecheck said this week that there is much concern among staff members who are still in the dark about their future and ability to earn a living.
The town manager has been on the job for less than a year. She said she has been shopping for a new home in the valley as of late.
“When the word came down, I wanted to immediately give the staff a sense of comfort because they are all concerned. I am also concerned because it just so happens that I am supposed to be buying a house next month. Everyone is concerned and they hope to have a job but we know that the county is looking at some budget constraints. Obviously that is making town staff very concerned if they will be able to continue working for the Town of Pahrump,” she said.
Holecheck said she is now working with the county to establish exactly what needs to be done for a relatively smooth transition.
“I reached out to County Manager Pam Webster and she responded right away. The county has already asked for certain documentation like employment agreements and job descriptions as well as personnel policies. They have made those requests and we are granting them,” she said.
Additionally, Holecheck said she would hope that county officials would provide a “fair warning” to town employees whose positions may be the first to go.
“I am here to do a good job for the town, which I was hired for, but it is what it is. If I have six months left or whatever, I am hopeful that the county would at least give us all a heads up and make any abrupt action. I am hoping there will be a time period because finding another job is not something you can usually do the very next day. It’s going to take some time for all of us,” she said.
County Commissioner Donna Cox said this week that one concern is to avoid duplicating various positions once the transition is made.
“We will see where there are places in the budget that needs to be looked at. We’ll probably have more information in a few weeks. At this point, it’s more or less consolidation. I know there be some positions that will be gone because there’s no sense in having double positions. We won’t need the attorneys anymore or the manager,” Cox said.
Borasky, meanwhile, said he has nothing but great respect for town staff and the duties they perform daily.
“They have always been pleasant even while knowing all of this goofy stuff was going on. I applaud those folks because they are all very professional. I strongly support the town staff. They are fantastic people,” he said.
Town Board member Dr. Tom Waters said it is possible to bring back a town board form of government in the future.
He noted that he would not be interested in throwing his hat into the proverbial ring, when and if the action were ever to occur.
“There’s more than one way to do it. First you can just ask the commissioners just to say we want an elected town board and the commissioners can say okay. I know we have a couple of commissioners that would probably not agree with that. One is named Donna and one is named Dan, but I think the others might. The other method is to get a petition signed by enough of the voters to say that we want our town board form of government back,” he said.
Waters said he obviously wants to see what happens early next year once the transition officially takes place.
He cautioned that time is of the essence.
“If we wait too long and people are fired or let go, on the staff and then you get the town board form of government back and try to recreate the town that we have right now, that would be extremely difficult. It really depends on what their plans are for the Town of Pahrump after the elected town board is gone,” he said.
Waters pondered the future of the town’s advisory boards who routinely report to the town board.
“If they are dismissed or just not used, that in itself could be detrimental to the town. If we have an advisory board in place of the elected town board and they’re not listened to, that could also be detrimental. At this point we don’t know what the commissioners’ plans are but I don’t want to try and second-guess them,” he said.
Holecheck, meanwhile, provided just a glimmer of hope to those who did not support the 2012 ballot question.
“The town is still going to be in existence. The town is not going away but the government of the town is going to change slightly,” she said.
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