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Proposed airport ballot question takes nosedive

County Commissioner Donna Cox wanted a ballot question in November on whether voters still wanted to proceed with the Pahrump Airport project, but couldn’t get it placed on the commission’s agenda in time, Clerk Sam Merlino confirmed Wednesday.

Merlino said Cox called her on the telephone and said she had a packet of information for a ballot question from former Pahrump Town Board member Frank Maurizio.

“It was never put on the agenda to have a vote on a ballot question. At this point it’s too late, the deadline was July 21st,” Merlino said. “They had this question and three other questions and Donna wanted to get a special meeting for Monday to get all these ballot questions.”

The county clerk said Cox could have recruited another commissioner to co-sponsor the item and still had it put on the agenda. If commissioners voted in favor of the ballot question, committees would have to be appointed to prepare arguments for and against the question under a new state law. Merlino said her office was prepared to solicit committee members.

Cox said she sent an email to county administrative assistant Lorina Dillinger requesting an agenda item for a county commission vote on five ballot questions June 28. She was told the district attorney had to review the request.

“By the time they came back from legal, with Mr. Kunzi, then they had to go on the Aug. 5th meeting. That’s when I said we can’t do that because she (the county clerk) has to have them by July 21st. Then the problem came Dan didn’t want to do it,” Cox said.

County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen said the county clerk had reminded the board for months they needed to get ballot questions to her by July 21 because a new state law required them to appoint committees to prepare arguments for and against. Schinhofen said neither he nor the county manager heard about Cox’s request for a vote on the ballot question until July 15. Schinhofen then denied Cox’s request for a special meeting Monday, one day before the deadline.

“Lack of preparation on her part does not constitute an emergency on our part. She had plenty of time to get this to the clerk,” Schinhofen said. “I was not inclined to call for a special meeting for items the DA said were not ready for the ballot.”

While Cox made the argument people worked hard to get these questions on the ballot, Schinhofen said he told her then Pahrump Town Board member Tom Waters should have his ballot question to reinstate the town board.

The airport ballot question would’ve asked Nye County residents to affirm or reject county resolution 2013-11 in which the county adopted co-sponsorship of Airport Improvement Program grants from the Federal Aviation Administration to the town of Pahrump to develop the airport.

The ballot question itself appears slanted towards opposition. It states: “Do the taxpayers of Nye County wish to assume any financial burden county wide to develop a proposed general aviation airport in Pahrump Valley?”

It states Nye County commissioners will become the governing body of the town of Pahrump effective Jan. 5, 2015, making it imperative taxpayers countywide be given the decision. Judith Holmgren, a member of the Concerned Citizens for a Safe Community, said they had difficulty getting someone to write arguments in favor of the county being a co-sponsor of the airport grants but plenty of people to write arguments against.

Their arguments for the resolution only refer to letters of support from Front Sight Fire Arms Training Institute, but add “for the most part aircraft owners in Pahrump hanger their aircraft on their own property, use private airstrips for takeoff and landing and have little need to base at the proposed airport.”

Arguments against passage are based on a feasibility study presented to the Pahrump Town Board Feb. 25. The fiscal notes criticize the proposed revenue to fund the ongoing operations at the airport, with sale of aviation fuel comprising 70 to 80 percent and hangar rentals the rest. The group states the airport may not attract the $2.56 million level of private investment.

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