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Jul. 11, 2008

RPC OKs flood control


Bureau Veritas Branch Unit Manager Donald Allison, center, addresses the Pahrump Town Board Tuesday night during a presentation on the general improvement district flood-control plan. To the left, Nye County Public Works Director Samson Yao, and Bureau Veritas Marketing Coordinator Zoraida Radona is on the right.


Pahrump Regional Planning commissioners endorsed seven statements Wednesday required to create a general improvement district, GID, to manage a flood-control system.

But they wouldn't endorse the parcel fee being proposed.

The Pahrump Town Board the day before tabled action on the district over concerns of funding and allowng too much control to the GID board.

A lack of endorsement by the town board would mean a unanimous vote would be required by the county commission to set up the GID.

RPC members expressed reservations about the $315 million cost suggested by engineers for Bureau Veritas -- now projected to cost each parcel owner $30 per month.

RPC Chairman Mark Kimball said he would assure Nye County commissioners when they vote on the district at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the RPC isn't endorsing that funding plan.

However, RPC member Nevada Tolladay said:

"It seems a valid contention, having observed the history of Clark County, that we will either spend money in reparation to flood victims who sue the county for failure to having adequately protected them, or we will spend money to adequately protect them.

"If we don't do the latter, we opt only for the former. We're ultimately going to do the latter also. It's just going to be spend-y."

To which Nye County Commission liaison Butch Borasky added, "Well said."

Kimball told planning commissioners he consulted with bond counsel Kendra Follett of the law firm Swenseid and Stern on the legal steps the board should take.

Swenseid and Stern outlined a schedule under which a GID could be formed by Dec. 5, adopt rates and issue bonds for a flood-control system.

Kimball said the RPC vote on the seven motions will allow the formation of the GID and adoption of the service plan. But it doesn't require the GID to carry out that service plan, he said.

"We all know that there's a county commissioner who has another plan. Now, as I learned the legal niceties of this, I'd vote to adopt the service plan," Kimball told the board. "You can't have a GID unless you have some kind of reasonable service plan to begin with."

Walt Kuver, who was given a $35,000 contract to perform consulting work for Nye County, thought the protection of Pahrump valley from a 100-year flood would cost even more -- closer to $500 million.

"If we endorse the general idea of this plan tonight, it does not mean the GID itself must carry out that plan, any part of that plan or any other plan. It means we endorsed the plan the GID is to consider," Kuver said.

He suggested endorsing a service plan that was more affordable, starting with the mitigation of flooding off Wheeler Wash.

Kuver asked, "Are we sticking our neck out in some unjustified fear of litigation perhaps?"

The valley will have a lot of other infrastructure issues in the coming years, he said, referring to a possible municipal water and sewer district as well as road-building.

RPC member Carrick "Bat" Masterson warned without a flood-control system, "If you have a 100-year flood you get to do those (improvements) all over again."

Rick Walker, who was chairman of a capital improvement's committee, said his board went through flood-control plans a couple years ago. But he recalled when Tri-Core Engineering, the company that prepared the Pahrump Valley master plan, projected a cost of $50 million or $100 million for a flood-control system.

The GID would have the power to look at regulating other things, like streets, Walker said. The only limits would be how much the public is willing to spend on such improvements and a limit set by state statute on bonding capacity, he said.

The flood control study prepared by Bureau Veritas, outlined three possible projects.

* A total build-out for $315 million, which would include dams on Wheeler Wash, retention basins just east of a future bypass around Highway 160, then building culverts under the highway to a series of channels leading out into the dry lake bed in California.

* A $220 million plan would go as far as channeling the flows under Highway 160 but not a series of channels east to west across Pahrump.

* A $160 million plan would include the dams on Wheeler Wash and channels funneling the flows into retention basins east of the highway.

"Are you endorsing the service plan?" Kimball asked Walker.

"Yes," he replied. "This time it's hopefully coming to fruition."

"When it comes down the hill in a monsoon it can cause a lot of damage. As we grow as a community, we need some protection," Walker added.

Borasky said during a break in the proceedings he would be more agreeable to a plan that may cost $10 per month, but not $30. County Commissioners Peter Liakopoulos and Gary Hollis voted against scheduling a public hearing on the plan at all.

Nye County Public Works Director Samson Yao said it hasn't been determined how much the county will pay, but the bottom line for flood control improvements would be over $100 million.

Originally, consultants had recommended a fee of $180 per acre per year for the total plan, but Yao said a fee per parcel would work better.

Yao said the GID would only need a per-parcel fee of perhaps $4 per month for the first few years of operation. By the fifth year, when shovels hit the ground, a monthly fee of $15 per parcel would be needed, he said. The bond issue would be over 20 years.

Thousands of new parcels have already been permitted by the planning department, raising the prospect there will be more people to shoulder the cost in the future, providing the economy improves, Yao said.

While Pahrump Town Board members expressed fears of too much control by Nye County commissioners operating as the GID board, RPC member Dan Schinihofen said his biggest concern was having another elected body run the GID.

Pahrump Town Board Chairman Laurayne Murray said Nye County commissioners could designate themselves as the GID board, which would allow them to determine costs and exercise control over the district.

She recalled when the Pahrump Town Board used to have control over planning only to see it surrendered to the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission when it was created in the mid 1990s.

"Does the town get a permanent seat on that board? Can we negotiate for the district if we incorporate?" asked Murray.

"This proposal is based on an unknown -- the cost," board member Don Rust said. "And what's fair and equitable is a matter of perspective."

Bureau Veritas engineer Donald Allison assured the town board, "We tried to come up with something that was as least expensive as we could and easily maintained with construction equipment."

However, he qualified that by saying ultimately the general improvement district board and total cost of the project would determine the fees.

"It's not set in stone yet," Allison explained. "We're trying to come up with a plan that's less costly. It's pretty affordable when you consider you won't have to live through another flood."

Allison told Art Jones he wouldn't have to pay flood insurance once the flood control measures were in place.

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