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FROM THE EDITOR: Town staff should stay put after board transition

I was blessed with a little extra time to kill the other night after work and decided to mosey over to the town board meeting across the street from the newspaper.

I used to enjoy those meetings so. For awhile there, deputies had to be stationed inside to ensure the peace.

The zany, wacky antics that made those meetings so excruciatingly awesome just a year or so ago are no more. What used to be so entertaining, today seems more like church than raucous local governance.

Is it because that polarizing figure Bill Kohbarger is gone?

Maybe.

I think it has more to do with Ballot Question #2. That’s the initiative passed by voters in November 2012 that essentially turns Harley Kulkin, Tom Waters, Bill Dolan, Amy Riches and Bob Adams into pumpkins at the stroke of midnight on the first Monday of 2015.

Pumpkins without access to millions of dollars in hard-earned taxpayer funds to play with because the town board will become an advisory board with no ability to spend money independently anymore.

It would leave anybody a bit deflated, sitting up on that dais, counting down the weeks until your minor political career is poo-pooed by a couple of county commission bandits and a bare majority of emotional voters. I did not support Ballot Question #2. I don’t think this advisory thing will last forever, but I also don’t put much faith in the Supreme Court overturning a vote of the people.

That said, I was bothered to learn at the recent town meeting that several department heads with the town are worried for their jobs, including our new town manager, Susan Holecheck. I think Holecheck is a real asset to this town and I can’t believe the misfortune we’d all share if we lured her here just to lose her after one year. What a wasted opportunity that would be.

But it’s not just her. Others inside the town staff are worried too. To them it makes sense that the county, when the Supreme Court upholds Ballot Question #2, would consolidate duplicate services, trim costs, lay off people and fortify its own flagging budget with the savings.

I agree that makes sense. But, guess what, the county has been furloughing, freezing and buying out positions for so long, the current county staff in Pahrump could not easily take over all of the duties performed by town staff. It’s just not realistic.

At that stroke of midnight, on that Monday in January 2015, I’m told nothing will actually change. What may happen is some town board members may leave, simply because they choose to not be advisory board members. That’s their problem and their prerogative.

County commissioners, hopefully, won’t decide to start tearing into things they know nothing about, and simply let the town and county staffs work with each other on a transition that makes sense, keeps emotions in check, and allows for the continued employment of people who have done well serving this community.

Sure, there will be some cost cutting. But mostly in the form of services, not people. For instance, how much money do you think this town could save on legal fees if the bulk of town legal business was performed inside the district attorney’s office instead of contracting with an expensive Reno law firm? A couple of hundred thousand?

Probably more. Use a portion of the savings to hire the town its own deputy district attorney. Sounds reasonable to me.

I’m sure there are other areas where efficiencies can be found that don’t end up costing people their jobs.

The town’s revenues, I’m told, will stay with the town no matter what.

I was worried, like many, that there doesn’t seem to be a plan in place, or at least one made public. All parties are waiting on the Supreme Court, which is like waiting for paint to dry. How unfortunate if this transition is made more difficult because it is not done properly, done too hastily, or becomes a political or theatrical spectacle. That’s my concern.

The lead up to the ballot and the 2012 vote was already pretty gruesome in my opinion. There’s no need to relive that experience. What’s done is done.

I think there are smart people at work here. They understand the issues better than the public and they are working hard to make sure this transition is less painful than it could be if left up to the politicians. I hope it works. And I hope any stress being felt by members of the town staff turns out to be unwarranted in the end.

I guess time will tell.