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Carson City weighs in on town board’s future

The Pahrump Town Board will be dead as of Jan. 4, 2015. Or will it?

The Legislative Counsel Bureau, which advises the state Legislature on legal matters, was asked to explain the ramifications of the Nye County takeover by State Assemblyman James Oscarson, R-Pahrump and State Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, following the May 8 Supreme Court decision rejecting an appeal by the Pahrump Town Board over the November 2012 ballot question dissolving the entity. Voters passed the question by 7,294 votes to 7,063.

But the county commission will have a range of options, from continuing with a town board elected by voters to dissolving the unincorporated town and taking on all of its functions.

The LCB rendered an opinion the Pahrump Town Board will cease to function Jan. 4, 2015, even though the terms of two members — Bill Dolan and Amy Riches — don’t end until Jan. 1, 2017. Dolan is a candidate for commissioner and Riches says she will step down at the end of the year.

The LCB opinion issued May 16 by deputy legislative counsels Stephen Avillo and Heidi Chlarson states, “the town members whose terms expire on January 1, 2017 were elected to their current terms of office at the same election at which the town board form of government of Pahrump was discontinued. Since their terms of office did not begin until January 7, 2013, these members were not incumbent members of the town board at the time of the election.”

The town board oversees the Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Service, parks, the municipal swimming pool and the Chief Tecopa Cemetery. But the LCB outlined a list of other powers the county could assume with the takeover under Nevada Revised Statutes, besides the town property. It includes regulating translator signals for TV and radio broadcasts; regulating ambulances, taxis and public transportation, garbage disposal; operating an airport; revisons and codification of town ordinances; licensing taxes on certain businesses; regulating traffic and parking; prohibiting the running of certain animals at large; determining what constitutes a nuisance; enforcing disorderly conduct, loitering and prowling ordinances; regulating the storage of gun powder and other explosive or combustible materials; prohibiting the unsafe discharge of firearms; providing for a rabies control program and appointing law enforcement officers.

“The Nye County Board of County Commissioners will be required to hold at least one monthly meeting to transact the business of Pahrump,” the LCB opinion states. It adds, “all ordinances adopted by the Pahrump Town Board that are in effect on January 4, 2015 remain in effect and must be enforced until changed or repealed by the Board of County Commissioners.”

Commissioners already passed an ordinance that provides for the Unincorporated Town Government Law to be applicable to each unincorporated town in the county not having a town board form of government. If the county wants to change this provision for Pahrump, it must amend Nye County Code before Jan. 4, 2015. If the county commission doesn’t amend the county code and the Unincorporated Town Government Law applies to Pahrump, the county commission must amend all ordinances pertaining to Pahrump so they conform to the law, the LCB said. The ordinance must designate town boundaries, services to be provided, the creation of a town advisory board composed of three or five members and determine whether they will be appointed by county commissioners or elected by the residents.

If the county doesn’t amend county code, it must pass an ordinance before Jan. 4, 2015 creating a town advisory board, the LCB states. “The duties of a town advisory board are to act as a liaison between the residents of Pahrump and the Board of County Commissioners and to advise the Board of County Commissioners on matters of importance to Pahrump and its residents,” the opinion states.

The county commission must consult with the advisory board on matters relating to Pahrump, solicit the advice of the town advisory board in preparing a tentative budget and allow the town advisory board to recommend its own ordinances and codes, the LCB said.

Those are similar to other communities without a town board form of government like Beatty and formerly, Amargosa Valley.

“The Nye County Board of County Commissioners may authorize the town advisory board to control any expenditures that are part of the town’s budget,” the LCB said. The town advisory board could also be given authority to manage a list of town services.

County commissioners could by resolution dissolve an unincorporated town, pursuant to the Unincorporated Town Government Law, the LCB said. In that case, a resolution would need to be passed, following a public hearing.

“If Pahrump is dissolved as an unincorporated town, the Nye County Board of County Commissioners would have sole authority over the territory now encompassed by the boundaries of (the) unincorporated town, subject to the provisions of Title 20 of the NRS relating to county government,” the LCB said.

Though voters decided to discontinue the town board form of government, the LCB said it could be restored by a petition proposed by residents, or the county commission may establish the town board form of government by ordinance.

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