By Selwyn Harris
Pahrump Town Manager Bill Kohbarger lamented that he may not have a job if the Pahrump Town Board is dissolved and replaced by an advisory board.
Last week Judge Robert Lane ruled that the county’s ballot question, which allowed voters to decide the fate of the board in November, was valid.
The action means the county could assume the fiscal decision-making duties of the town board after the terms of the board’s oldest sitting members expire in 2014.
Pahrump Town Board Vice Chair Bill Dolan said he and his colleagues will eventually decide on whether they will appeal Lane’s decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.
“It is on our agenda and we will see what the next step will be. An appeal is always a possibility but it is a decision for the five around the table. I’m just one board member. I’m disappointed with Judge Lane and I would have thought that being a member of the bar and sitting on the bench as long as he has that he would have made his decision on the points of law. I don’t think that happened and we will see where the five of us want to take it,” he said.
The town board’s attorney maintains that the Board of County Commissioners failed to make a public determination that the town board no longer served the best interests of the public. Lane contended that the determination was made clear when a majority of the commissioners agreed to place the question on November’s general election ballot.
The question passed by a very slim margin with 7,294 voters in favor versus 7,063 opposed.
Last July, Nye County District 4 Commissioner Butch Borasky convinced his fellow commissioners to put the question on the ballot.
His decision was based on what he thought was an air of arrogance among unnamed board members as well as their apparent lack of concern for public interests.
Dolan said that he has very serious concerns about an essentially powerless advisory board helping the county to manage a town with a population of more than 37,000 residents.
“In a town this size, there is a need for that layer between the county commission and the residents. Looking at it from an economic standpoint; if you are a business wanting to relocate your company and Pahrump comes up as being one of your target areas and you look at the problems that the county and the town have had in the last couple of years and then the town board form of government is taken away by the county commissioners and made an advisory board, are you going to feel comfortable bringing your business here? I think economically the town could possibly be devastated by a move of that magnitude,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Kohbarger agreed with Dolan’s assessment and actually took it one step further by referring to the various services provided by the town, which include the fire department, parks and recreation, Chief Tecopa Cemetery, and the town pool.
“I called County Manager Pam Webster and inquired about that very question about the town’s operations and she stated to me that there are no plans that she has seen to get rid of any employee in the town of Pahrump. We are going to continue keeping the lines of communications open and probably next year in June or July we we’ll probably sit down and really hammer out an idea or plan. I’m hoping that no employee goes away,” he said.
The town manager also spoke about the fate of his employment with the town.
He said it’s very likely that his job will be eliminated if the appeal is rejected by the Nevada Supreme Court.
“I don’t think my job is going to be here but that’s life and I’m not worried about that. It will be an advisory board and they will report to the county commission. They don’t need a town manager to run this place because they will be following the county manager. I think all of the other jobs will be secure because they need the buildings and grounds crews to keep up the parks and the buildings. They need the fire department to run the ambulances and everything. They need our business license people, ambulance clerks, our billing people, plus our admin and our human resources. We have all of the know-how and the knowledge of what’s been going on,” he said.
When asked if the county can properly handle their own day-to-day duties and those of the town, Board Chairman Harley Kulkin said definitely not.
He also commented on how the county handles its finances.
“I’ve asked them all of the time about the money. I would like an accounting of the PETT money. All of the money you brought in and where’s it been spent. Their answer has always been that I can come in and look at all of their stuff but I’m not an accountant. If the FBI came in and asked, I bet they would provide the information. I can ask Mr. Sullivan from the town and he can tell me where every dime is. The county refuses to let you know where they spent all of that money,” he said.
Dolan, meanwhile, said he had suspicions about the ballot question’s terminology.
He said it appeared to be written in a manner that was intentionally confusing to the voters.
“If you read the ‘yes’ portion for that question, it was not only misleading but there was some false statements in that. It also said one very key phrase, which a lot of people would normally key onto. It doesn’t say that the Board of County Commissioners will create an advisory board, or shall create an advisory board. It says ‘may’ create an advisory board and those are two very big definitions,” he said.
Dolan also said that he believes the bad blood between the two entities stemmed from the past commission and town boards.
The vice chair said he and the other board members are now working to restore civility and mutual respect for both bodies.
“I can’t speak for staff but the elected officials are working diligently to heal this process and Pahrump and Nye County forward in a positive light,” he said.
Some local voters have expressed their desire to expedite the disbanding of the town board by demanding the resignation of the group.
Due to time constraints, results of the board’s decision will appear in Friday’s edition of the Pahrump Valley Times.