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FROM THE EDITOR: Will Pahrump boomerang around to incorporation

I am not sure the long-term dissolving of the Pahrump Town board is going to go the way many people who supported the move envisioned.

I want to be clear before I wander into these treacherous waters that I’m not advocating a position, I’m just writing about what I hear around town.

I don’t believe that we’ve have seen the last Pahrump Town Board. I dare say before the decade has concluded, some Pahrump residents will move towards, dare I say it, incorporation.

It may move towards that direction as soon as 18 months from now, when residents next return to the ballot box.

I started hearing the incorporation term soon after Pahrump Town Manager Susan Holecheck’s employment was terminated Monday by the County Commission without any discussion by the five members. A motion, a vote and not even a “Thank you for your service” after the 5-0 decision.

A few days prior to that vote, Commissioner Donna Cox had said publicly, as reported in the Times on Jan. 2, that the town manager and other town positions that duplicate county positions would be eliminated. Part one of that prediction proved to be true. Employees around the town of Pahrump, including emergency services, which also was named by Cox, are understandably concerned.

Cox also said in the article the town will maintain its autonomy, but I’m not sure how that will work.

The commission didn’t seem to know either. Soon after showing Holecheck, who was mayor of Mesquite prior to coming here, the door, the commission asked County Manager Pam Webster to return to them with a Pahrump management plan in 30 days.

If there’s no plan in place, why remove Holecheck so quickly?

Will this and other moves by the county in the upcoming months boomerang Pahrump public opinion towards incorporation, a form of town autonomy not as easily undone by voters or the county?

Looking at the 18-month time frame, it will also be when County Commissioners Cox, Frank Carbone and Lorinda Wichman will likely be seeking re-election. While Wichman’s district is largely northern Nye and she would likely be able to avoid the fray, Cox and Carbone might find themselves with a two-front campaign: their stance on incorporation and their own political lives.

From my reading since I’ve arrived, Pahrump has long struggled with the issue of incorporation led by a group of residents and business leaders who want the various benefits they say incorporation would bring.

Now Pahrump is Nye County’s largest census area without a town board. Tonopah, Railroad Valley, Beatty Armargosa Valley, Round Mountain, Belmont, Gabbs all have town boards with a mix of advisory or elected.

A growing number of residents may begin to look at Pahrump, which has nearly 84 percent of the county’s population, and may want a singular government outside the county’s management. A real body beyond a town board. An incorporated town with a city council and mayor to bring what they believe would be stability and functionality to the valley.

This all depends on how the county manages the Pahrump residents’ interests beyond its current employees and services during the upcoming months. How will the county manage the town’s parks and recreation, cemetery, events such as fall festival, and fire and emergency services? Cox already gave a forecast on the latter.

Incorporation would not be a new idea. A 2008 study recommended incorporation, but the reaction was so hostile that the Pahrump’s Incorporation Advisory Board was disbanded in 2012.

If incorporated, Pahrump would be able to pursue grants, similar to what the Nye County Sheriff’s Office does to augment its budget. You pay taxes to the federal government, why not get some of them back? An incorporated town is better equipped, in my opinion, to lure jobs and businesses to its area. Sure, the county should be able to do those things too, but those employees are not beholden to Pahrump’s interests the way an incorporated government is invested.

Any pro-incorporation voices would have to battle through the vocal crowd who fear higher taxes, more regulations and more government. But it is important to remember the town board was voted out by the slimmest of margins: 131 votes after 14,357 ballots cast. That pushed Pahrump’s only governing body out the door, and the decision was upheld by the state Supreme Court.

It is not hard to imagine it easily swinging the other way in the future.

Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times and the Tonopah Times-Bonanza & Goldfield News.

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