The idea of incorporating the Town of Pahrump has been shot down more than once over the past decade.
Despite its poor track record and lack of traction with voters, the I-word is again in the spotlight after Pahrump Town Board Chair Harley Kulkin recently announced a full-court press to get the issue in front of voters again.
More than five years ago, the town board released a feasibility report probing the pros and cons of the issue.
The board concluded that it was feasible to pursue the goal of incorporation but the issue did not sit well with many local residents.
Since 1990, several incorporation efforts involving voter approval failed.
In 1991, 1,073 residents were in favor of incorporation while 1,661 were opposed.
The issue came up again in 1995, where 1,889 opted for the proposal while 3,242 opposed it.
Roughly five years later, the number of people who opposed incorporation stood at 5,586, outweighing those who were in favor at 3,695.
Voter opposition according to the study cited that residents feared the “unknown” when the issue of incorporation came to light.
Additionally, the study reported that residents did not want another layer of government paid for by the citizens through increased taxation.
Voters also believed that city ordinances infringed on homeowner rights and incorporation would mean more developers leading to more outsiders moving into the valley.
As of the 2010 Census, there are 19 incorporated cities and towns in Nevada.
With a population of more than 18,000, Elko has been incorporated for many years.
Elko City Councilman John Patrick Rice said this week that incorporation holds numerous benefits.
“It provides services that unincorporated communities don’t receive. The City of Elko has a couple of different funding sources. One is from ad-valorum property taxes, which are paid to the county and re-distributed to the city. There are also sales tax revenues. Water and sewer are known as enterprise funds. The fees residents pay for water and sewer go directly to water and sewer and are not used for anything else,” he said.
Rice also spoke to the issue of higher taxes as they relate to incorporated towns and cities.
Many Pahrump residents who oppose incorporation have said their main concern is higher taxes.
Rice, who is very familiar with the Pahrump Valley, noted that most of those fears are unfounded.
“Whenever people hear about taxes, there is concern but on the other hand, in a municipality, you really get returns for them. I believe that we have had a terrific return. We have a wonderful park system, which includes swimming pools and softball fields that are open to the public. Our streets are in great shape and we have a wonderful transportation system. We have good police and fire departments. It’s a relatively small amount of money and our residents get a very good return. You get what you pay for and in Elko, people are really satisfied with all of the services,” he said.
Established as a town in 1906, Fernley in Lyon County was incorporated in 2001.
Not long after, Fernley attracted Fortune 500 companies like Amazon.com, UPS Worldwide Logistics, Inc., Sherwin Williams Company and numerous other nationally recognized corporations to the city’s 5,000-acre Crossroads Commerce Center.
Fernley City Councilman Dan McCassie admitted though the city experienced a few “growing pains” as a result of incorporation, the benefits were worth it.
He said those who opposed incorporating Fernley simply feared change mostly.
“We were used to doing things a certain way all the while knowing we were going to become a city but incorporation put us on the map. We have Toys R Us, PetSmart and several other large businesses putting people to work. We really ended up with a lot of benefits. We now have a Walmart and lots of restaurants. Amazon.com and Sherwin Williams are very big players here,” he said.
Roughly eight hours east of Pahrump lies another “Base Camp to Adventure.”
Blanding, Utah, is about 350 miles east of St. George.
With a population of just under 4,000, Blanding Mayor Calvin Balch said incorporation has served his city quite well.
He noted some similarities between his city and the Town of Pahrump.
“If you are incorporated there are many more things you can do. You can incorporate zoning and some people like that and some don’t. For the majority of people, zoning protects you from me and me from you. Some people want their five acres of land living in the country with their horses and that’s fine. Other people want to live in a community and they want it to have rules and regulations. They want some control and incorporation gives you that control,” he said.
Aside from additional layers of government many Pahrump residents opposed to incorporation have raised concerns about water issues.
Their major concern was giving up their wells in favor of paying for a municipal water source.
Balch said there were similar concerns in Blanding.
“That’s not the way it works here. If you’re incorporated and you want to put in a water system to service everybody, you can require everybody to hook up to it. But we have lots of people here that have wells and we do not meter their wells. It’s their water. Most people here want a central water and sewer system because wells can be undependable,” he said.
The mayor also admitted that taxes and incorporation do go hand in hand, but the residents don’t seem to mind.
“There are some things that come with incorporation. You do tax because the more people get used to it, the more services they want and that’s one of the purposes of government — to provide services to the people. Most seniors seem to want to live in gated communities that have homeowners associations that have way too many regulations. The regulations we have in Blanding isn’t half of what a homeowners association has. I can paint my house any color I want and put up any kind of shingles I choose,” he said.
Balch noted that Pahrump residents who are opposed to incorporation may want to simply research the issue rather than believing in many of the myths associated with the issue.
“I think a lot of folks just don’t understand that if you incorporate, you can then make zoning laws to suit your community. You make zoning laws that allow you to have the type of town you want. With incorporation there are all kinds of grants and federal monies that become available to help with the streets and sidewalks and curbs and gutters. Right now we are working on a sewer project that will increase our capacity by 50 percent,” he said.
Kulkin says a “City of Pahrump” is just a matter of time. And with the pending dissolution of an independent town board, the desire to put the issue before voters in November is accelerated.
“I know that it is not in the best interest of this community to allow the county to take us over. Incorporation won’t be shoved down anybody’s throat. It will be a vote of the people,” he said.