The issue of public safety took center stage for a while during this week’s Pahrump Town Board meeting.
Town Manager Susan Holecheck questioned why Nye County commissioners recently refused to evaluate a sales tax revenue proposal that would have created much needed funding for the town’s fire department.
The town submitted the proposal to the county in January after voters overwhelmingly approved the additional revenue stream seven years ago under the Nye County Sales and Use Tax Act of 2007.
Though town officials expected the county to ratify the action during a May 19. Board of County Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Frank Carbone motioned not to evaluate the proposal, which would have provided the town’s fire department with $1 million for new personnel and equipment, funds from a portion of the half-cent sales tax that voters passed several years ago but that was never ratified by the board.
His reasoning appeared to be based on this month’s Nevada Supreme Court ruling to dissolve the town board.
The motion was seconded by Commissioner Donna Cox.
“I guess I’ll be the bad guy. I’ll make a motion based on there’s going to be a change in the process between the county and the town so I’ll make a motion not to evaluate this at this time,” Carbone said.
Commissioners agreed by voting 5-0 on the May 19 agenda item but did not present a reason.
As a result, Holecheck suggested that the county’s apparent refusal to evaluate the sales tax proposal supporting public safety, posed a threat to the town’s ability to respond to area emergencies where lives hang in the balance.
“The people of this town voted to increase sales taxes for better police and fire protection. We submitted our proposal and the county commissioners turned it down so we will not to our knowledge be receiving any money to help our fire department,” she said.
Holecheck said the inordinate number of service calls local emergency crews responded to during this past Memorial Day holiday weekend proved the town deserves the extra revenue.
She summoned Fire Chief Scott Lewis who provided details on what emergency crews faced throughout the entire weekend while at the same time noting that the voter approved tax increase would have provided for three tier I and tier II EMTs.
Additionally, the department would also have benefited from new equipment and training for fire crews.
“There may be many people in town who believe that a volunteer fire department can address the needs of our people but I will tell you that is not possible.” Holecheck said. “You mean way too much to us for that to happen. If we lose one second getting to you because our equipment is not up to date or because we have insufficient staff, then it will break my heart and every single town board member,” she cautioned.
Crews with Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services (PVFRS) were scrambling as they responded to no less than three structure fires, a motor vehicle accident and more than 70 EMS calls for service throughout the town.
Lewis, meanwhile, described in great detail what his already short-handed department was up against last Friday through Monday.
He noted that such occurrences can affect the local economy in a negative manner.
“It was just an extremely, extraordinary Memorial Day weekend from the responses and emergencies the Town of Pahrump experienced. We started out Friday evening with a large commercial structure fire along Blosser Ranch and Highway 160,” he said.
After more than two hours, crews managed to get the fire under control as well as saving the building from becoming a total loss.
Additionally, Lewis enumerated at least a half-dozen more responses where he said lives were in imminent danger.
“We had additional structure fires over the course of the weekend. We had vehicle fires and several brush fires, some at the hands of our youth in the community. We also had serious motor vehicle accidents where there were people trapped in their cars and people lost power on days where we were approaching 100 degrees. We had a number of investigations, including swarming bees that were attacking people,” he said.
Lewis went on to tell the board that his crews handled more than 180 emergencies, equal to roughly 27 per day, within a 24-hour period on the outset of the holiday weekend.
“We had people with severe medical issues such as cardiac, respiratory, CVA’s or strokes. These are the kinds of things that occur. As I was seated in the audience tonight, we had a fatal car accident,” he said.
The fire chief said that equipment was lost as a result of the heat the Highway 160 fire produced.
“One of our guys had a thermal image camera which melted in his hands because that’s how hot it was,” Lewis said.
Town Board Chair Harley Kulkin said the county’s actions went against what voters approved.
Ironically, it was the county who declared that the Pahrump Town Board was not sensitive to area voters when commissioners voted 5-0 to begin disbanding the town board in 2012.