Nye County refuses to buy Desert Utilities
In early 2021, Nye County Commissioners began to consider the possible acquisition of Desert Utilities Inc., one of the three water and sewer service providers in the Pahrump Valley, and authorized staff to initiate a due diligence investigation into the operations and assets of the company as a means of determining whether a county purchase would be viable.
Now, 10 months later, the results of that investigation have been presented and the commissioners have made the final decision to refuse to buy the utility. However, they left the door open for future discussions on the matter, meaning that if circumstances change, the item could come back to the board.
Nye County Public Works Superintendent Darrin Tuck made the point at the commission meeting on Oct. 19, noting that although he is confident that the county, which already operates more than one half a dozen utility systems, would be able to handle operational tasks, he was not so confident about the investments that would be required if the county were to acquire Desert Utilities.
“I made several visits to the installation, with most of the commissioners. I’m a little uncomfortable with the age of the facility, ”Tuck explained. “The equipment, the wells need to be installed, there are a lot of electrical upgrades, so I’m a little uncomfortable having a utility with so many major upgrades needed. We already have a few water supply systems in Nye County that need major upgrades.
Nye County Comptroller Savannah Rucker also added his thoughts, echoing Tuck’s statements. “I share the same concerns as Darrin. The infrastructure is aging and there has been no capital investment year after year to keep this facility up to date. So not only would the purchase be a substantial cost, but we would also be dealing with capital investments that could increase utility rates for that particular utility. Several concerns are associated with this project. It’s worrying for me, ”said Rucker.
Nye County Commission Chair Debra Strickland added her agreement, remarking: “It would not be a viable purchase at this time, or probably never.”
Commissioner Leo Blundo said he was not without concern himself, but still believed it might be worth keeping the possibility on the table, in case the situation changes in the future. . His main fear, he said, was the establishment of a utility monopoly in the city, stating that he would not want to see Desert Utilities taken over by Great Basin Water Company, which is the largest of the utilities of Pahrump Water and Sewerage. If the Great Basin Water Company bought Desert Utilities, it would only be one more step, the purchase of Pahrump Utility Company, to become a monopoly.
In addition, he said he believes the county that owns Desert Utilities would be good for the community as decisions on tariffs would be made by the Nye County Commission, rather than the Utilities Commission of Nye. Nevada. “We would hear people. And I think it’s an asset for the public to be able to be so close to the people who actually decide the rates, ”said Blundo, adding that the purchase would be an opportunity for the county to ask for various infrastructure. grants that could fund necessary improvements, as well as allow potential development along the north end of Highway 160.
“I would ask this board to continue to entertain this,” suggested Blundo. “We’ll see if they sell to another company or maybe that’s something we can revisit at a later date. But I wouldn’t want to give up the opportunity to continue to entertain watching this, for the simple fact that I don’t want to see a monopoly in this community.
As for Commissioner Bruce Jabbour, he made his feelings very clear on this matter, stating that public service would be nothing more than a liability for the county and its people. “Even if they were to give that to the county, we would already be negative as far as I’m concerned, looking at the numbers,” Jabbour said.
Tuck went on to explain in detail that at present the county is already dealing with a community water supply system that needs about $ 2 million in upgrades, while another needs about $ 80,000 worth of upgrades, and purchasing Desert Utilities would only add to the county’s expensive to-do list. “As he (Jabbour) said, even though we got it for free, it will still take a lot of work,” Tuck reiterated.
Developing this idea, Commissioner Frank Carbone also noted that while the utilities the county currently operates are much smaller than Desert Utilities, the county still spends a lot of money on them. “And that’s a much greater utility,” Carbone said.
It wasn’t Carbon’s only concern, either. He said he was hesitant to officially pursue the agenda item because he was concerned that this might prevent other potential buyers from coming forward.
Acknowledging that this was a reasonable argument, Blundo then offered not to go ahead at this time, but with the option to revisit the acquisition valuation if the board so wished. to come up. Carbon provided a second and this motion was passed with everyone in favor.
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