It will be déjà vu all over again at next Tuesday’s county commission meeting.
Commissioners will be revisiting three contentious items in particular.
The first is a proposed half-cent sales tax increase that was continued from a meeting last month after concerns were raised that plans for how the money would be spent were not being furnished to commissioners. Proceeds from the tax, which was approved by voters in 2006 but never implemented, would strictly go to public safety — Pahrump Valley Fire, the sheriff’s office and emergency services.
Called Thursday for comment, Sheriff Tony DeMeo, whose department has struggled with budget and manpower issues for years, said he wasn’t even aware the item was back on already.
“No one’s contacted me. According to the law, they have to have a spending plan and I have not been contacted. We’ve been asking for that and no one has contacted me. Contact Rick Marshall, he’s been going back and forth on this,” DeMeo said.
Marshall, the county’s assistant sheriff, says he has been working with commissioners to show where his department’s specific needs are. He says just over the last few years the department has lost 14 people, many of them supervisors.
“I hope the commissioners realize the need that we have, especially in the detention center. Sometimes we have a 75-to-1 inmate to deputy ratio. I hope they understand our supervisory situation, where we don’t have enough supervisors supervising our personnel. We are being required to be doing more and more and more with less and less and less,” he said.
The assistant sheriff confirmed that he’d yet to hear from commissioners about a spending plan, but says his department needs the item to pass to bring staffing levels up.
“Who wants an overworked and fatigued officer responding to their house during an emergency? Besides, the public voted for it,” he added.
Scott Lewis, Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Service’s chief, said Thursday that no one’s contacted him about a spending plan for his portion of any sales tax funds either, though he wasn’t certain county and town officials hadn’t discussed the issue without him.
This particular item has an opaque history regardless of the inexplicable lack of communication between local officials today. Back in 2006, after voters approved it, the item played a central role in the downfall of then-commissioner Peter Liakopoulos after it became public he’d tried to trade his vote authorizing the tax hike for a town board member’s promise to support his wife’s bid to become curator of a proposed veterans’ museum. He was convicted of a criminal offense in 2009 and ever since the sales tax initiative has been a touchy issue for local politicos.
Meanwhile, another item is sure to draw fire on Tuesday, this one involving the four Pahrump members of the Nye County Water District Board.
Commissioner Frank Carbone submitted an item that essentially asks commissioners to recall all of Pahrump’s representatives on the water board and establish a “procedure to notice, interview, and appoint new members.”
One water board member, who didn’t want to be named, suggested that the item was an attempt to refashion the board because it hadn’t somehow conformed to commissioners’ wishes.
Reached via email while he was answering questions Thursday on Karen Jackson’s KNYE radio show, “Your Opinion Counts,” Carbone said he couldn’t go into too much detail but that he felt the last time the commission was tasked to appoint new board members it ignored a number of applications from people who wished to serve.
“When the decision was made at the last meeting that reappointed everybody, we had put out in the newspaper to a lot of folks, anyone who wanted to be a part of the water district board and a lot of those folks actually sent in résumés and, you know, in an attempt at being on that board. Unfortunately, we did not give those people a chance to sit up and be interviewed. And that’s the reason why I’m bringing it back to see if my fellow commissioners agree with me or not,” he said.
Carbone added that the item wasn’t meant to reflect poorly on current board members.
“Just because a vote has happened doesn’t mean it’s final. A commissioner who disagrees with it can bring it back on the agenda and look at it. It’s not that we are slapping anyone in the face or saying they did something wrong. Let’s just re-look at it and see if we did the right thing,” he said.
Besides the tax item and water district appointments, another contentious item back before commissioners Tuesday is the Caldera P&G bankruptcy settlement, which includes an agreement that Nye County will pay $100,000 and gain access to easements on six parcels of land.
Commissioners just approved a similar agreement during its Aug. 6 meeting. However, their approval then was only conditional at the time. In federal bankruptcy court the next day, the county’s attorney, Brian Kunzi, made known his objections to language in the agreement that seemed to prevent Nye County from accessing water on its easements. His objections along with some other issues nearly derailed the bankruptcy settlement and infuriated the judge.
Kunzi even made public during the hearing that the county wished to purchase outright the entire 174-acre Willow Creek property. The judge angrily ordered an emergency settlement conference.
Kunzi and attorneys for the bankruptcy trustee and Caldera creditor Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada simply agreed to disagree over the water issue for now and move forward with the easement agreement anyway.
According to sources close to the developments, some county commissioners were pushing to blow up the bankruptcy and attempt to buy Willow Creek, so it should be interesting if those sentiments are expressed during next week’s meeting.
Commissioners will also be returning to a proposed emergency abatement ordinance Tuesday along with other regular business., including grant approvals for new iPads for court administrators, a block grant for rehabilitating housing, renewing a fireworks permit for Outlaw Pyrotechnics Inc. and a number of other items.