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District II candidates debate jobs, water, roads

All five Republican candidates running for the Nye County Commission District II made a last pitch to their constituents during the debate on Friday.

Republican candidates John Koenig, Amy Riches, Ray Grant, Sal Ledesma and David Lancaster debated on numerous countywide and Pahrump issues in the first Nye County Commission debate that was hosted by the Pahrump Valley Times. The winner of the June 14 primary will compete against Harley Kulkin, the only Democrat in the race. Early voting started Saturday.

In their opening statements, each candidate made a case why they should be elected as a replacement for outgoing Commissioner Frank Carbone, who had announced earlier that he will not run for re-election.

Ray Grant, a military veteran and church pastor, said that people’s voices “aren’t being heard by local politicians.”

“There’s no accountability and I can show accountability,” Grant said.

Former Pahrump Town Board member Amy Riches said that she had fought the taxes, retired trucking industry veteran David Lancaster said that he is “well-versed” in communications with the public and Sal Ledesma highlighted his work on numerous committees. John Koenig, current chairman of the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission and member of the Nye County Regional Transportation Commission, cast himself as “best informed” and said he wanted to get “in the middle” of water problems.

“I will be the best commissioner, the best choice. I can start day one knowing what I know today,” Koenig said in his opening statement.

Candidates voiced their opinions on some of the issues in Pahrump and Nye County.

Koenig said he would bring “common sense back to the table.”

He talked about his involvement in the mobile food vending ordinance that was passed by commissioners recently. Koenig was endorsed by the Nye County Republican Central Committee.

Riches said “she wanted to give people a voice.”

“The people did not want the water plan sent to Jason King and it was. The majority of the people didn’t want a five-percent gas tax in the middle of a recession and it was passed. There are many examples at meetings for people, they get up, they talk, and they are not heard. They are listened to but they are not really heard,” she said.

Commission District II candidates talked extensively about water. That has become one of the hot-bottom issues in the community for the last few years.

Riches criticized the proposed rapid infiltration basins (RIBs) and said that no utility company should have access to Pahrump water.

“In all of Nevada, ‘the use it or lose it’ law needs to be done away with,” Riches said.

“I don’t want anybody touching our basin. That is my role,” she said, when asked about the role of a county commissioner.

“The only role I see they can take is selecting the right people and placing them on boards and committees that deal with water. That’s one of the biggest roles of the commissioners,” Ledesma said.

“Our role is going to be to protect our water, our water is a precious resource given to us,” Grant said.

Koenig, whose campaign platform includes water, said that the county commissioners don’t “control much” about the water. He said one of the most important things when it comes to water is education. “I believe education can start here in the school, to teach the kids how to conserve water,” he said.

“One of the important things that you can do (is) educating the public,” Koenig said.

The state of Nevada issued over 60,000 acre feet of water rights for Basin 162. Additionally, Pahrump has 11,000 domestic wells. The amount of annual recharge in Basin 162 is 20,000 acre feet.

Lancaster called for leaving private well owners alone.

Candidates also voiced their opinions on how to balance high-density projects in the valley.

“Before we start giving people water rights to the land to build apartments or tract homes, we need to sit down with owners of these properties and make a deal,” Grant said.

“High density is not in my vocabulary. I don’t believe in it, I believe in controlled growth, ” Ledesma said.

He added that he was an advocate of several governments.

“We need to go back to having a local government and let them make the local decisions for this community as the rest of the county does,” Ledesma said.

Riches said that she wants to see a moratorium on growth.

“I think you have to listen to the residents,” she said.

“I don’t see any problem in growth, but I do see a problem in motorhome parks and things like that,” Lancaster said.

Commission candidates also sparred on the abatement issue.

Sal Ledesma said county’s role is “selecting the right people to look into it.” He also said officials should take into account “public reaction.”

“I am so sick of the government telling people how they can live,” Riches said.

Lancaster said, “I don’t foresee the government telling me what I can and I can’t do,” he said.

Koenig said there’s an issue when junk becomes an eyesore and degrades the value of the neighbor’s house. “At that time, the county can step in,” he said. He said abatement is a “touchy situation.”

Candidates also proposed solutions for reducing unemployment in Nye County. Some commissioners said that they first need to attract new business.

Riches praised doing away with the impact fees. She said the county needs to do away with red tape.

“What you do as a county commissioner is you clear away a lot of red tape, so the businesses can come in,” she said.

“I think we are making it too difficult for businesses that want to come in Nye County,” Lancaster said.

Koenig echoed Riches’ comments and said the reason why he wants to become a commissioner is because he wants to get rid of red tape. In his answer he also defended his vote for a five-cent gas tax.

“One of the ways to grow business is to improve the infrastructure of the county,” he said. “How else can we improve the infrastructure if not through our taxes?”

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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