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Ten biggest stories for 2014 from Pahrump

The surprise defeat of at least two elected officials serving Nye County and the arrest of the candidate for sheriff made the short list of Pahrump Valley Times’ top news stories for 2014.

Pahrump’s inaugural Balloon Festival and the demise of the Pahrump Town Board form of government were also part of the Year in Review highlights of the past year.

Additionally, the mysterious death of a 27-year-old California woman found in the desert last October still remains unsolved.

There were many local and county-wide events that also deserve honorable mention including the Nye County School District’s funding woes.

At present, more than $17 million in various construction and renovation projects need immediate attention within the district.

Virtually every campus throughout the 18,182 square mile county is in desperate need of interior and exterior repairs, with little money to cover the overall costs.

District officials were hoping voters would support a bond question, which could have helped address the projects following the Nov. 4 General Election.

Had voters passed the question, the action would have permitted the district, with the approval of the Nye County Debt Management Commission, to continue issuing the bonds between the date of authorization and Nov. 4, 2024.

The issuance of bonds are used to fund various Capital Improvement Projects within the district.

Norton did provide some hope for addressing some of the more pressing projects within the district for the time being.

“Right now we’re okay because we still have bonding capacity up until the 2016 election,” he said. “We’ll bond as close as we can until that question and we hope that we’ll get it renewed.”

1. TOWN BOARD FAREWELL

The body will come under the control of the Nye County Board of Commissioners next week after the Nevada Supreme Court issued a ruling last August saying the Nye County Commission was within its rights in putting up a ballot measure to dissolve the board.

Commissioners had cited complaints that the town board was disrespectful of citizens’ opinions.

The measure passed narrowly in a vote of 7,294 to 7,063.

Nye County Commissioner Butch Borasky said he put a request on the county’s agenda to let voters decide whether to dissolve the Pahrump Town Board after hearing comments from a growing number of constituents.

Ironically, Nye County commissioners in June of 2011, approved a request to make Amargosa Valley a town board form of government, without even putting it on the ballot.

That came after a petition was presented with 127 signatures, far more than the 47 required.

Town officials argued that the county commission should have formally determined the board wasn’t serving the public’s best interest before pushing the measure.

Justices disagreed that a formal process was required.

2. ASSISTANT SHERIFF’S DEFEAT

In September, Judge Joe Maslich dismissed a misdemeanor charge of injury to property against sheriff’s candidate Rick Marshall, after a plea agreement was reached between Marshall and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office.

Marshall, the county’s current assistant sheriff, agreed to pay a $250 fine, $250 in restitution and perform 40 hours of community service.

Marshall was arrested April 22 along with longtime sheriff’s office volunteer, Ben Gulley, when they were caught removing $9.39 worth of campaign signs belonging to Citizens to Elect an Ethical Nye County Sheriff, a political action committee organized around keeping Marshall from ascending to sheriff.

At the time, Marshall said he was glad to put the whole episode behind him and get back to work campaigning to become the county’s next sheriff.

He eventually lost the race to Sharon Wehrly, who will take over as sheriff Jan. 5. Marshall continues to work at the department.

3. YUCCA MOUNTAIN RENEWED?

County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen, the county’s liaison on nuclear waste, cheered the results of last month’s general election during an election night party at the Spring Mountain Motor Sports Ranch on Nov. 4.

Schinhofen said he hoped it would result in Congress moving forward with the Yucca Mountain project.

Steve Horsford, the sole Democrat to represent Nye County in Congress after years of Republican leadership, will serve only one term after challenger Cresent Hardy defeated Horsford with 63,435 votes to the congressman’s 59,800 votes, a narrow margin of 48.53 percent to 45.75 percent.

Hardy won Nye County more handily by a margin of 56.01 percent to 34.63 percent.

Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman, who in January takes over as president of the Nevada Association of Counties, said Horsford did a better job than she expected and reached out to the rural counties.

The Republican power grab in Washington also weakened U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, a staunch opponent to Yucca Mountain.

4. BODY FOUND

What killed a California woman whose body was found in the desert remains a mystery more than two months after its discovery.

The Clark County coroner’s office could not determine a cause and manner of death for what killed 27-year-old Margay Kim Edwards, whose body was found Sept. 25 by ATV riders in the desert on the south-end of town along Hafen Ranch Road.

Edwards’ rental car was found Oct. 4, in a ravine partially hidden by brush a few miles from where her body was found.

Two cellphones and a computer were found inside.

At the time, Nye County Sheriff’s Detective Joe McGill said that though foul play was a possibility, investigators were leaning away from Edwards’ death being determined a homicide.

A search of Edward’s cell phones failed to reveal any additional clues to her death.

According to her father Jeff Edwards, his daughter traveled to Pahrump from southern California on Sept. 12 to visit friends in Pahrump.

He believed the people may hold the answer to her death.

“I believe that at a minimum, they have additional information,” Edwards said this week. “I really don’t know these individuals.”

The discovery of the body gained national attention late last month, including two segments on CNN’s “Nancy Grace.”

Edwards said his family last heard from their daughter Sept. 14, just after 8:30 a.m., when she called her parents from Pahrump.

Later the same day she was spotted in her car by two local residents, according to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.

5. DISTRICT ATTORNEY LOSES

When she made her announcement, there were just a few people who thought it was possible – run against an established district attorney and win.

Las Vegas-based attorney Angela Bello did just that and defeated Nye County District Attorney Brian Kunzi, 61.5 percent to 38.5 percent last month.

Following her victory, Bello also said she was quite pleased with how she ran her campaign.

Bello has lived in Las Vegas since 1972, she graduated from Las Vegas High School in 1979.

She stressed an open door policy and said she would meet with anyone.

Asked why she feels qualified to be Nye County DA, Bello said, “I’m an attorney, I think I’m pretty darned good at it. I’m confident I’m qualified in that respect. I’m diligent. I take the law very seriously.”

Kunzi blamed the loss on being a registered Democrat and getting caught in the Republican sweep.

6. MEDICAL POT LICENSED

Last month, Nye County Commissioners approved a medical marijuana license to Nye Natural Medicinal Solutions, dba NuVeda, for a production and cultivation facility at 2801 E. Thousandaire Blvd.

Commissioner Dan Schinhofen made a motion to strike a recommendation from the Nye County Water District requiring the company to donate three acre feet of water rights. County code requires such donations for parceling each lot but not for issuing medical marijuana licenses.

County Planning Director Darrell Lacy said an ordinance to require medical marijuana establishments to donate acre feet of water may take a couple of months to prepare.

NuVeda, which includes Pejman Bady, a doctor who formerly worked at Health Care Partners in Pahrump, was one of three applications reviewed by the water board last month.

7. WILLOW CREEK SAGA

The failed Willow Creek Golf Course was renamed last month following a contest sponsored by Utilities Inc., who now owns the site, acquiring it in bankruptcy.

Local resident Susan Mora’s “Discovery Park” was the winning entry after more than 200 submissions were received.

For her effort, Mora won a brand new Maytag High Efficient washing machine from Home Depot, and a Utilities Inc., $75 credit rebate.

In October, Utilities Inc., officials sought public input to gather ideas on how to best utilize the property after the company took possession over the 160-acre site following a bankruptcy court ruling last year.

The utility plans to redevelop the site bordering Calvada Boulevard, Mt. Charleston Drive and Red Butte Street into an educational oasis to foster learning about native species of flora and fauna, teach conservation concepts and provide recreational opportunities.

Willow Creek Golf Course has been closed since November 2008.

In 2009, Nye County issued a letter recognizing the ponds became a health hazard and demanded the situation be addressed.

The Nevada Department of Environmental Protection issued a finding of alleged violation against the prior owners and the Fifth Judicial District Court issued a permanent injunction mandating the former owner immediately remediate the ponds to bring them into compliance.

More than two years ago, the district court declared the ponds were “a clear and present danger to the community.”

On Nov. 7, 2012, Jim Scott, the owner of Caldera P and G, the former owners of the golf course, was jailed for 21 days by Senior Judge Bob Rose for failing to follow a district court order to clean up the ponds.

As the year closes out, reportedly contentious discussions between the county and Utilities Inc., continue regarding cleanup plans for the ponds.

8. MOTOR RESORT GROWS

In October, the operators of Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club were taking big steps to expand its operations beyond the well-moneyed sports enthusiasts who use the racetrack.

While targeting high-end users was the initial plan of facility owner and CEO John Morris a decade ago, things have changed in terms of amenities, various activities and plans for the future.

Todd Crutcher, resort marketing director, said at the time, the expansion is intended to draw non-motor sports enthusiasts and locals to the resort, he said.

Crutcher also said there are plans to open some events to local non-members, rides with a professional driver, or driving the track while following an instructor. A planned go-cart facility and movie theater will also be open to locals.

Morris and Spring Mountain partners bought close to 200 acres of land in 2004, and installed a 2.2-to-3.4 mile road course and a driving school along with a fleet of eight Corvettes. The site featured just two tent structures and portable restrooms.

The Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club is located at 3601 South Highway 160.

9. BALLOON FESTIVAL DEBUTS

Pahrump Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Mike Dreyer remained cool in the days leading up to Pahrump’s inaugural Balloon Festival even though weather conditions threatened the cancellation of the event last March at Petrack Park.

More balloon flights are canceled due to windy conditions than for any other reason.

“Fortunately, we were able to get 23 balloons up on Saturday and Sunday,” Dreyer said. “Overall, I thought the festival was one of the greatest events to ever happen in Pahrump. It was a phenomenal tool to bring the community together.”

Hundreds of locals were on hand to witness the first balloons being inflated and going airborne.

The process took about a half hour to complete.

The flights lasted roughly 30 minutes where the balloons reached a height of close to 3,900 feet from the valley floor.

Overall, the festival attracted more than 20 balloonists and 52 vendors.

Estimates range from 2,500 to more than 4,000 visitors for the three-day event.

10. EARLY MATRIARCH PASSES

Complications from cancer claimed the life of Irene Wulfenstein who passed away Saturday, Dec. 20 at her Pahrump home.

She was 76.

Wulfenstein moved with her husband, Ray, to Pahrump in 1972, where the couple started a small motel business when state Route 160 was nothing more than a lonely deserted road in the middle of nowhere.

“We started development out here in 1971, and moved here in 1972 with the dream and goal of building an RV park, a motel, and a car wash,” Ray Wulfenstein told the Times in July 2013 after selling his popular sports bar Wulfy’s located on state Route 160.

The establishment is now known as Draft Picks.

Longtime resident and real estate developer Tim Hafen’s family was well established in the Pahrump Valley for several decades prior to the Wulfenstein’s arrival, but the families eventually became quite close after time.

Daughter Cindy Colucci said her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the late 1990s and battled the disease until it went into remission after undergoing radiation treatments.

The cancer returned nearly two years ago.

Roughly four weeks ago, the family visited Disneyland for the final time with Irene.

“We were riding Thunder Mountain four and a half weeks ago,” Colucci said. “She was suffering, but she would not let you know it.”

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