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Dusting Off The Same Old Mold Story   PDF  Print  E-mail 
Posted by Susan Lillard  
Saturday, 30 November 2002

Organization: Pahrump Valley Times

"For most of us, the county complex barely even exists."

Sorry if today's column is a little dusty. So is everything else in my life right now. Monday's powerful windstorm filled my house with a thin layer of grit. None of the windows were left open, but they can all use some weather treatment apparently. The appliances, the countertops, the floors, even my cat were all left coated by the storm. It's like my entire house just got back from a day at the beach. I grew up in the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona, but I've never seen dust like this before.

The stuff is like flour. You scrape off a few bushes, or crack the ground's thin shell in any way, and you release it. The construction site next door was an angry, brown cloud for most of the day Monday. I picked a lousy week to run out of vacuum bags. No matter. All this dust is actually kind of appropriate to today's topic - the Nye County Government Complex in Pahrump. Just in case you came here before reading the front page, here is the latest: After more than a year with its shutters drawn, it looks as if the county complex might finally reopen in January. Now, if you are anything like me, your reaction to this news was something like this: Oh, right, we have a county complex in Pahrump.

This is easily the largest Nye County story ever to be ignored by elected officials, citizens and the media, this newspaper included. And that was never more apparent than during the Nov. 19 meeting of the county commissioners, when local burr in the saddle E. Fox approached the podium and said he wanted to know what was going on with the county complex. The reply from Commissioner Henry Neth: "So would we." As taxpayers, we should be outraged by such a comment. But for most of us, the county complex barely even exists. It's only been there since 1999, and unless you worked there or did regular business with the county, you've probably only been inside of it once or twice.

The fact is, the building has now been closed longer than it was ever open. You almost can't blame us for forgetting about it. That's the weird part, as far as I'm concerned. This is a $6 million building, not counting the several million additional dollars that have now been spent on toxic mold removal. How do you lose something that big, even from your consciousness? Of course, the people who used to work at the complex have a different perspective. For the past year, they have been working out of cramped old buildings and trailers down on Highway 160 next to Petrack Park, but the empty complex on Basin Avenue has never been far from their minds. Some of them - and you might be surprised to learn just how many - aren't looking forward to the day when they get to move back into their permanent offices. Some of them got sick from the mold, and, as PVT reporter Doug McMurdo puts it, they wouldn't feel good about going back there if "Jesus Christ himself told them it was safe."

Who can blame them? Their first round of health complaints took months to sink in. Then the building was finally evacuated and "cleaned," but the employees' symptoms returned right after they moved back in. The daily grind can be bad enough; it shouldn't make you sick. From a reporter's standpoint, this has all the elements of a real barnburner. You've got a strange new health threat, a host of public employees trapped between job loyalty and the desire to sue their bosses, and millions of dollars in tax money hanging in the balance. So why aren't more of us talking about it? Part of the eerie silence has come as a result of the litigation now involved, which tends to put a chokehold on the flow of information. Then there is the time factor. Sad as it may sound, there are few stories that can hold the attention of some people for more than a year, regardless of how much coverage it gets, or how little.

The location of the county complex hasn't helped much, either. Tucked away up there on East Basin, it is not the sort of place most of us drive past every day. And it's hard to get upset about something when you hardly know it's there. Hopefully, that's all about to change in the next few weeks or months. If ever there was a story that deserved to have the dust brushed off of it, this is it.

Last Updated (Sunday, 03 October 2004)

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