The Nye County Commission, an elected body with oversight of the entire sprawling county northwest of Las Vegas, switched position last week and unanimously approved putting the measure on the November ballot.
One commissioner said voters should be careful what they wish for.
“The town board members you hate today could become the county commissioners of tomorrow,” Commissioner Joni Eastley told the Las Vegas Review-Journal “If all you have is a town advisory board, there will be no buffer.”
Eastley lives in Tonopah, 165 miles from Pahrump. She said she switched her commission vote from a year ago and approved taking the matter to the people after hearing that Pahrump Town Board Chairwoman Vicky Parker claimed the county favored getting rid of a more fiscally responsible town government and grabbing its cash.
Parker, who has taken some political lumps chairing town board meetings, will also be up for re-election in November.
She said she didn’t think voters would approve replacing a directly representative board with an advisory body that could do little more than make recommendations to the county commission. But she said she saw no harm in asking.
Bill Carns, chairman of the Nye County Republican Central Committee, said he’d be happy to see the town board voted out of existence. He issued a statement accusing the board of two years of “contemptuous behavior” including votes against the wishes of residents, limiting free speech, raising taxes and misspending money.
Cairns headed a failed attempt last month to arrest Parker and two other Town Board members after they voted to repeal a town ordinance meant to complicate the process of incorporation. The amateur police action fizzled when Nye County sheriff’s deputies refused to take the three board members into custody.
Parker argues that town board members are responsible for just four things: the town swimming pool, cemetery, parks and fire department.
“I would hate to lose our professional fire department. We have a lot of elderly here and a lot of calls for ambulance service, she said.
The Pahrump Valley Fire-Rescue Service is the only paid municipal firefighting unit in a county covering an area comparable to the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Other parts of Nye County outside the vast Nevada National Security Site nuclear proving ground and U.S. Air Force bombing ranges are served by volunteer firefighters and medics.
Pahrump, 60 miles west of Las Vegas, is home to almost 38,000 people. The rest of the county has fewer than 8,000 residents. Because of redistricting, Pahrump soon will account for four of the five Nye County commissioners.
County district attorney and longtime Pahrump resident Brian Kunzi said that despite some confusion about the effect of the ballot measure, it would be binding.
The town board would exist at least two more years, he said, while its members serve out elected terms as required by state law.