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Nye County looks to sue Area 51 instigators

The Nye County Commission recently voted to direct county staff to begin the process necessary to potentially pursue legal action against the instigators of the Storm Area 51 phenomenon, which may have been something of a bust in Nye County but still came with an estimated price tag of many thousands of dollars for the advance preparations.

“Nyc County invested a large number of resources to prepare for the potential public safety issues that could have come from the Storm Area 51 event,” the agenda item information read. “Staff is requesting direction from the board to seek recovery for the time and materials used to protect the public during this event.”

The county is currently in the midst of trying to nail down all of the expenses related to the preparations, which include staff time from Nye County Emergency Management, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, first responders throughout the county and administration staff, including those working in the county manager’s office and finance department, as well as costs related to acquiring and mobilizing resources and renting hotel rooms for state and federal personnel who were assisting the county.

While those figures have yet to be fully determined, Nye County Commission Chairman John Koenig did give the public a generalized estimate of where that amount may ultimately fall once all of the calculations are complete.

“My guess originally when I was sitting in the emergency management room when this thing was going on was a cost of about $250,000 to the county. The people we were dealing with, their guess was over $500,000 for the county, which caused me to choke a little bit but again, we’re waiting to get a cost,” Koenig stated during the commission’s Oct. 1 meeting. “It is going to be a cost and it shouldn’t be a cost because we didn’t do it, it’s not our fault. So we should try to get money back if we can.”

All of the commissioners were on the same page when it came to the item, voting unanimously to approve the motion to direct staff to pursue legal action. Information on exactly who might be included as “instigators” of the Storm Area 51 event was not included. When reached for information, the Nye County District Attorney’s Office stated it had no comment at this time.

At that same meeting on Oct. 1, the commission also approved ratifying a memorandum of understanding between the county and Clark County Metro but that decision was by a narrow margin.

The agreement had been signed in conjunction with the county’s declaration of emergency for the Storm Area 51 event and was meant to allow mutual aid between the two for the Storm Area 51 weekend. However, the document included a provision that the duration of the agreement would be for five years, prompting concerns from both commissioners Leo Blundo and Donna Cox.

“It appears that the intent of this agreement was specifically for the purpose of the incident whereby the emergency was declared by the county, which was the Storm Area 51 incident,” Nye County Deputy District Attorney Marla Zlotek explained when the item was opened, noting that the agreement was something of a moot point now as the Storm Area 51 event was a thing of the past.

“I would agree with the moot point… However, there is language here under No. 14 that says, ‘Duration: The agreement shall remain in effect for a period of five years.’ What I am trying to get at is, I don’t want to see a mutual aid agreement where we have Metro coming out here for a sting event, trying to pull people over, enforce this, do that,” Blundo replied. “We have the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, who are well equipped to address the concerns of our citizens here. I just don’t want a piggyback, back-door type event where Metro is starting to pull people over here in Pahrump.”

Cox expressed her disquiet over the duration of the agreement as well, stating that she did not understand why that had been included in the first place. She asked if the commission could just amend the agreement to do away with the five-year provision before ratifying it but Zlotek said that was not possible because it had already been signed by Koenig and Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly.

Zlotek explained that the county’s only options at that point would be to ratify and then later take action to terminate the agreement or to simply refuse to ratify the document at all.

This apparently did not sit well with either Cox or Blundo. When the motion to ratify the memorandum of understanding came to a vote, it passed 3-2 with Blundo and Cox against.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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