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Group of residents want county seat in Pahrump

Some in Pahrump would like to see the Nye County seat be moved from Tonopah, the idea that has long been on the radar of local citizens and officials alike.

The latest proposal had been brought up by Pahrump resident Andy Alberti who now wants to pitch his plan to Nye County commissioners during the board meeting later this month.

Alberti said he is backed by several other Pahrump residents. He declined to comment on his idea ahead of the meeting, but said the matter would be on the agenda for the July 28 meeting, where he plans to present the slideshow outlining key aspects of his idea.

On July 12, a video “Pahrump Should be the County Seat” was uploaded to YouTube by a user named Cles Saunders.

Several county officials met the proposal with skepticism.

“Some people think that if you move the county seat here, we would close all the county offices there, and we wouldn’€™t do that because they still have to have representation by the county up there as well,”€ County Manager Pam Webster said. “€œSo, there’s a misconception with that, that it’€™s a cost savings because we have to shut these offices down.

According to County Planning Department data for the first quarter of 2015, the population of Pahrump came close to 39,000 — more than two-thirds of the county’s total population that was slightly over 47,000.

Commissioner Dan Schinhofen argued that county seats aren’t typically put in the most populous locales.

“€œYou can argue with that, ‘oh, the population centers here,’€™ but with that argument, Carson City shouldn’€™t be the capital of the state, it should be Las Vegas,”€ he said.

If the county seat was moved from Tonopah to Pahrump, some of the county’s residents would have to travel up to 300 miles for government services, county board Chairman Lorinda Wichman said.

“€œBecause of logistics and getting services to people, we are required to maintain two offices unless the county is split,”€ Wichman said.

“You have to be where people need to transact business,”€ she added.

Tonopah is located 160 miles north of Pahrump and while its population slightly tops 3,000, Webster said their offices also serve some of the nearby communities and therefore, couldn’€™t be shut down.

“There’s a thought that we can shut those offices down, and I don’€™t think we can,” Schinhofen said.

The town currently hosts the Tonopah town office, justice court, assessor’s office and clerk’s office.

Moving the county seat to Pahrump will in turn create a range of implications such as spending money for new storage for historic documents that are currently stored in a climate-controlled vault, Webster said.

“We still have all of the offices here, all the elected offices have satellite offices here, there’s a requirement to house and store historical documents and we have vaults up there to do that in,” she said. “They would have to be moved down here somehow.”

Still, moving the county’s seat to Pahrump would be up to residents. To go forward with the issue, Alberti would have to get 60 percent of Pahrump property owners to sign a petition which would allow it to go on a ballot, Schinhofen said.

“€œAll they are going to do is make people feel good that they live in the county seat, it’s not going to save us money,”€ he said. “€œWe have cut staffing to the bone everywhere but up there. If we move the county seat, we are still going to have those offices open, the courthouse is still going to be open, the records would have to be moved, we would have to build a building to house those, so I don’t see it saving us money.”€

Schinhofen said one obvious benefit of moving the county seat from Tonopah to Pahrump would be the ability of having the first board meeting of the month in Pahrump and the second one in Tonopah.

“That’€™s the big change you would see, if we did it,”€ he said.

“€œIf the people vote to move it, they vote to move it, but I think if they are presented with the facts that it’€™s not going to change anything except the first meeting of the month would be here and the second would be in Tonopah, why would we go to the expense of changing the county seat?”€


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