Officials renew debate over road funding

Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen was able to persuade the board at the last meeting to allocate $500,000 to continue the chip seal program, but he couldn’t convince them Tuesday to allocate $1.3 million for paving a handful of streets.

Both funds would be taken out of an endowment fund set up from the proceeds of the Payment Equal to Taxes the county formerly received for the Yucca Mountain project. Commissioner Frank Carbone had concerns about draining the funds.

“I want to make sure the county doesn’t have some other use for it,” Carbone said.

Schinhofen said there was about $4 million left in this particular endowment fund. But County Manager Pam Webster warned, “this is not being replaced. It’s not being replenished. When it’s gone, it’s gone.”

The Obama administration zeroed out funds for the Yucca Mountain project in 2009. Formerly Nye County received over $10 million per year in settlement agreements with the U.S Department of Energy that were renewed every five years.

Schinhofen wanted to pave at least almost a mile of Barney Street from Jaybird Street to Gamebird Road. He said that would provide a complete loop on the south side from Highway 160 to Highway 372. Public Works Director Dave Fanning estimated the cost of that project alone at $400,000.

Commissioners searched for other funding sources like Secure Rural Schools, funding that goes to counties with large acreages of national forest. Fanning suggested waiting a month, he has been holding Secure Rural Schools funding in case a Manhattan water grant isn’t approved.

“Somewhere between then and there we’re going to raise the gas tax, like at the next meeting,” Schinhofen quipped. County commissioners three times asked voters to approve a ballot question raising the local four cent per gallon gas tax, only to see it go down in defeat by three-to-one margins. The commission has the authority to raise the gas tax without voter approval.

Webster said she’d try to obtain funds through the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The only other unpaved street that would be paved would be 6,674 feet of Gamebird Road between Barney Street and Winchester Avenue, Fanning said. Three others — Homestead Road between Gamebird Road and Manse Road, Dandelion Street between Homestead Road and Malibu Avenue; and Leslie Street from Highway 372 to Zephyr Avenue and from Cabot Street to Sunshine Circle — would be repaved.

Earlier in the day, the Regional Transportation Commission — two county commissioners and former commissioner Cameron McRae — had an agenda item to consider a one-cent per gallon increase in the gas tax for each of the next five years, but Schinhofen suggested pulling the item to see what county commissioners voted on the half-cent sales tax.

The RTC approved a list of streets to be addressed under the chip seal program, after eliminating a proposed 10.75-mile chip seal of the Ash Meadows Road from Highway 372 to Bell Vista Avenue, also known as the Bob Ruud Highway; Harris Farm Road from Linda Street to Timberland Drive and Luke Street from Woodchips Road to the end. That reduced the original 26.5 mile list of roads to fall under the budget.

Fanning explained unpaved streets targeted for paving instead of a chip seal have a higher criteria for travel expectancy, like more average daily traffic counts. While it costs $25,000 per mile to chip seal a road, he said it can cost $180,000 per mile to pave it.

“Asphalt will meet the requirement for 20 years whereas chip seal lasts five years,” Fanning said.

McRae said 6.6 miles was designated for paving if the county has the funding. Fanning explained the chip seal list was prepared from petitions by residents and suggestions by the public works department.

“I hate the squeaky wheel getting the grease,” McRae said.

But in his dual role as Nye County School District transportation director, McRae said the RTC has given priority to chip sealing streets with school bus routes. Fanning said petitions, school buses and residential volume also play a role in deciding which streets get selected. The depressed economy can result in some neighborhoods with less residential traffic volume.

Schinhofen said one of his priorities for chip sealing on the list would be 10,332 feet of Hafen Ranch Road, almost two miles, from Indian Reservation Road to Superior Lane. He also advocated for chip sealing Murphy Street from Highway 372 to Moapa Street and Moapa Street from Z Street to Murphy Street.

The county budgeted $516,800 for the road base work, Fanning said. He said chip sealing began when the county began its dust abatement program in the 1990s.

On another public works matter, fireman John O’Brien wanted the county to organize a committee to come out with suggestions on how to reduce flooding after the July 28 rain event he said dumped 2.7 inches on Pahrump.

“People complain about studies. We don’t need any more studies. What we need to do is compile the data,” O’Brien said.

He agreed with a suggestion by commission chairman Butch Borasky the county needs a flood district.

“Every time it rains in Pahrump it floods,’ O’Brien complained.

He said developers built up the Pahrump Valley without any regard to flooding concerns.

“Water runoff wasn’t their problem, it wasn’t our problem. It was nobody’s problem,” O’Brien said.

The county tried to take action a few times in the past, he recalled. In 2007 the firm Bureau Veritas prepared a $380,000 study that outlined a series of nine dams to catch flooding from the mountains, followed by a series of channels and other flood improvements that would have cost $315 million. Nye County engaged in talks with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about getting matching funds for storm water improvements in the past.

Every time there’s flooding there’s damage to public and private infrastructure, O’Brien said, urging a change in philosophy.

PVT staff members assisted in reporting this story.

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