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County bill keeps town government running as usual

When the Pahrump town board as it exists today goes away in January, the current town administration will continue as is. At least that was the crux of an amendment to Nye County Code approved Tuesday.

The specific code concerns the Unincorporated Town Government Law.

Some public officials got a civics lesson, when commissioners approved an amendment to exclude unincorporated towns of Amargosa Valley, Round Mountain and Tonopah, where there are elected town boards, but also Pahrump, which will no longer have a town board elected by the residents.

District Attorney Brian Kunzi conceded the bill generated a tremendous amount of misinformation. He received phone calls from callers claiming the county was attempting to abolish all the town boards.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. This is actually something that has been in the works, we were waiting on the Supreme Court to make their decision because we have an anomaly in our code. For the town of Pahrump to continue operating in its current form we have to eliminate the Unincorporated Town Government Law,” Kunzi said.

Commissioner Lorinda Wichman was confused over Kunzi’s comments Pahrump would now be exempt from the law. Tonopah Town Board member Horace Carlyle also had questions over the law; he asked if a town is going to be exempt, what authority do the town boards have that are elected.

Pahrump voters approved ballot question No. 2 in 2012, reverting the Pahrump Town Board to advisory status beginning in January 2015, with members appointed by the county commission.

A simple clause in the bill states “adoption of the ordinance codified in this chapter provides for the unincorporated town government law to be applicable to each unincorporated town in the county” but then strikes the language “not having the town board form of government” and adds language “except the unincorporated town government law shall not apply to the unincorporated towns of Amargosa Valley, Pahrump, Round Mountain and Tonopah.”

To further confuse matters, Kunzi said Chapter 269 of Nevada Revised Statutes, the Local Government Act, contains two chapters, one which applies to elected town boards and any exempted town boards, giving more powers, and another part of the chapter which allows very limited powers.

“I don’t think it was anyone’s intent the structure of the Pahrump government would change because the Pahrump town board would go away,” Kunzi said.

“So we’re not taking over everything? Darn!” joked Commissioner Dan Schinhofen, who often adds a little levity to board meetings.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau in May gave an opinion requested by the two state legislators representing this area, that if the Unincorporated Town Government Law applied to Pahrump the county commission had to amend all ordinances pertaining to Pahrump, so they could conform to the law.

The LCB said the county had a wide range of options, from allowing an elected town board to continue to dissolving the unincorporated town and taking over all functions.

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