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VEA makes move to fulfill Pahrump community center commitment

The Nye County Commission has given the thumbs up to the letter of intent from Valley Electric Association outlining the cooperative’s desire to make good on promises made to the community by donating $5 million, plus necessary land, to construct a new community center in Pahrump.

The community center idea was broached several years ago and was presented to the public in 2016 as one of the many benefits that would come if the cooperative’s members were to vote in favor of selling a 230-kilovolt transmission system to GridLiance.

The member-owners did ultimately vote to allow the transmission line sale, which closed in late 2017. In the months that followed, there had been some action to move forward with constructing the community center but the cooperative then became immersed in a period of upheaval. Then-Chief Executive Officer Tom Husted had abruptly announced his retirement in April 2018, which was followed by a series of headline-grabbing events, including sexual misconduct and embezzlement allegations, as well as the arrest of former utility CEO Angela Evans. No charges have been filed.

With months of turmoil dogging Valley Electric Association and continual changes in leadership at the member-owned cooperative, many area residents were questioning whether the promised community center would ever actually see the light of day.

VEA has now made it clear that though the utility does not wish to spearhead the task of developing the center itself, it is still willing to put out $5 million and provide the land needed to build a community center.

“Approximately three years ago when Valley Electric sold its redundant transmission line, some of the representations that the co-op made to the public were that they were going to … give $5 million and some land for construction of a community center,” Nye County Manager Tim Sutton explained during the commission’s Sept. 17 meeting. Sutton detailed that there had been a group formed to discuss the matter but when VEA started experiencing “internal issues,” those discussions had ground to a halt.

“Since then I have been approached by VEA representatives, who asked if the county would be interested in taking over this project and being responsible for the $5 million donation,” Sutton stated, adding that the land originally identified for the project is adjacent to VEA’s Pahrump campus.

Nye County Commission Chairman John Koenig had just one main question about the item, asking, “Does that mean I have to build a community center on that piece of land or can I build that community center anywhere in the town of Pahrump that I wish, using that money?”

Commissioners Leo Blundo and Debra Strickland seemed to have the same concern, with both agreeing that the land directly adjacent to VEA’s main campus in Pahrump was not the most favorable in terms of location or adequate space for parking.

Sutton said he was unsure whether the county would be required to build on the land donated by VEA. However, he noted that the letter of intent is non-binding so the item being addressed was merely to determine if the county was amenable to taking over the project.

Strickland said she thought the county should go ahead and accept the letter of intent and simply work on the details later. Blundo also suggested the county organize a committee to determine those specifics.

The motion to approve the letter of intent passed 4-0 with commissioner Donna Cox absent.

“It is expected that either a committee, a nonprofit organization, a key community member or Nye County will spearhead the effort to create the Pahrump Community Center,” the letter of intent states. “Once such entity/person is identified, that entity/person shall create a plan for the Pahrump Community Center, including location, size and intended use.”

The letter of intent goes on to state that VEA, Nye County and the key entity/person must all agree on the resulting proposal and once an agreement is reached, VEA will provide the $5 million and associated land. The funds and land are to be placed in a trust with the sole purpose of developing the community center. The letter of intent will expire on August 6, 2020.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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