County gas tax increase proposed

The Nye County Regional Transportation Commission is discussing a plan to help pay for long overdue road maintenance. Under the proposal, discussed at a commission meeting yesterday, the current gas tax of 4 cents per gallon to would be increased to 9 cents per gallon.

The last time the gas tax was increased was in 1981, when it was raised from 2 cents per gallon to 4 cents per gallon. Since that time, Chairman Dan Schinhofen said, the number of miles of Nye County-maintained paved roads have increased from approximately 716 miles to over 2,600 miles.

Roads in most need of repair, according to Schinhofen include Homestead, Manse, Bell Vista, Basin and portions of Pahrump Valley Blvd. The expected lifespan of a paved road, according to Nye County Engineer Technician Tim Dahl, is 20 years. Dahl said that Pahrump Valley Blvd. has not been resurfaced in at least the past 20 years. “And the longer you wait, the worse it gets,” he said. Bell Vista, Homestead, and Basin roads are more than 30 years old.

If the gas tax is increased, Schinhofen said, he would like to see those funds earmarked for the roads that have surpassed their expected lifespan.

Schinhofen said he has been unable to identify any other feasible means of raising the necessary funds for road repairs. By imposing an increase, he added, a large portion of money, approximately 30 percent, would be generated by people who travel the Route 95 corridor from Reno to Las Vegas.

Schinhofen added that he does not want residents to panic. “We are not going to raise it next week. There will be plenty of time to discuss this. We will have more meetings. We have to put idealism aside and look at the numbers,” he said.

To add to the complexity of the paying for road repairs, Board of County Commissioner Chairperson Lorinda Wichman said that Nye County can expect a loss of $750,000 to $950,000 this year, in federal funding from the the United States Department of Agriculture through the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which expired in Sept. 2014. Though Congress passed a one-year extension of the program in 2013, it was not re-authorized last year. That money, she said, was dedicated to road repairs.

Commission member Frank Carbone said the Regional Transportation Commission will also consider the increase under a proposed ballot question.

Schinhofen said that he is hopeful an in-depth presentation will be made at the next regularly scheduled Regional Transportation Committee meeting to be held at the Nye County Commissioners Chambers located at 2100 E. Walt Williams Dr. in Pahrump on April 21 at 8:30 a.m.

Public transit system costs and operation questioned, again

The commission also heard a short presentation by NyE Communities Coalition Transportation Committee Vice Chairman Albert Bass.

Bass told the commission that he understands that Nye County does not have money to help fund a public transit system. However, he said, the program has been designed to operate at “net-zero.” Grant funding will cover the operation of the program, he said.

The commission approved to support the coalition in their search for grant funding, however, Schinhofen and Carbone remain unconvinced that there will be no cost to the county, whether through in-kind services or other means.

Bass was directed to make a further presentation to the commission which specifies exact costs, funding sources and timing of grant receipts.

Schinhofen opined that there is not a large enough need for the program. Due to the fact that the service area of the program is in Pahrump, Schinhofen said he thought it was reasonable for the town to participate in some way.

Bass said that deadlines to apply for grants have been extended, and if alternative matching grants or funding sources are not obtained, he will retract grant applications.