LAUGHLIN — Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft was inundated with questions on his visit to Laughlin on Jan. 13.
Naft, whose District A territory includes Laughlin, bypassed the usual meeting places of the Laughlin Town Hall, the American Legion Post 60 hall and the local church to have a more casual meeting at the new Mama’s Pizza. The restaurant was packed before his arrival with about 60 people showing up, many with pointed questions for the commissioner and Alex Ortiz, Clark County’s assistant director of administrative services.
Laughlin resident Susan Talone asked about the building permit situation, noting that presently to get the permit, an applicant has to drive to Las Vegas to receive the actual permit in hand, whereas previously Laughlin residents could pick up the completed permit at the local government offices on Civic Drive. The applications for the permits can be filled out online, but the physical copy of that completed permit requires driving to Las Vegas to retrieve, causing undue hardship on Laughlin residents seeking a simple building permit.
Another big topic that was front and center for Naft had to do with the proposed Spirit Mountain National Monument concept which was introduced by Alan O’Neill at a previous Laughlin Town Advisory Board, and which drew quick disapproval by the board due to it’s boundaries including land in Laughlin south of Highway 163, which has been considered for some time to be Laughlin’s future expansion zone, and one which the board and many local developers see as already earmarked for that purpose.
Though O’Neill explained that the boundaries of the proposed national monument have not been finalized and changes can easily be made, the proposal as given to the LTAB did show the monument lines below Highway 163. When asked about the monument, Naft explained that the issue is now in the federal realm under the Bureau of Land Management and not under the purview of the county commissioners or the Nevada Department of Parks and Recreation.
“Mr. O’Neill talked to me, and I sent him to the Town Advisory Board,” Naft said.
One resident at the meeting said they had heard that Naft “strongly supported establishing the national monument,” to which the commissioner said “Not out of my mouth,” adding “I’ve not supported that.
“I don’t think that proposal is moving forward. It is out of the hands of Clark County, but I will ask our congressional representatives to look into it.”
Another hot-button issue in the now-
approved southern bridge connecting Bullhead City and Laughlin on the south side. Naft explained that is now under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard since it’s approval locally, and not under Clark County Board of County Commissioners, given the approval has already occurred and going forward. The Coast Guard is has jurisdiction over the Colorado River.
One other big item issue that came up was fielded by Ortiz: the Laughlin River Park concept which is to be a developed park area between the Marina (and now dredged lagoon area), and Big Bend State Park. This topic carries an emotional element as many folks in Laughlin see that development as the final phase of the overall project that started with the dredging. They see it as a project unfinished and one which they definitely want to see completed.
Ortiz said that, for now, the concept is dead and there are no plans to move forward on it. This drew the ire of several Laughlin residents and civic groups who have wanted the river park to move forward. Laughlin Economic Development Corporation Director and Treasurer Danny Vander Loop said he was not happy about the answer given by Ortiz. When asked directly about the project’s future by The Laughlin Nevada Times, Ortiz explained that per acre, Laughlin has received more parks and recreation money from Clark County than any other unincorporated location in the county, which puts the county in an awkward position in relation to the other towns. He said it would be problematic for the county to approve the project while ignoring everyone else’s wants and needs in relation to parks and recreation.
That explanation does not sit well with those who have been pursuing a vision for Laughlin for some time now and see the river park as one essential piece of that overall vision. Where the river park concept goes from here is anyone’s guess given the county has no plans for more investment in it at this point. That last mile of the river park development plan may require some local innovation and investment to get it across the finish line. Where the funding might come from remains a question.
Naft was in good spirits during the visit welcoming the many Laughlin residents who came out to hear him speak and to ask questions. Naft seemed to truly enjoy the exchange with his constituents, smiling and shaking many hands at the meeting. Naft said, “My career has always been in customer service and that’s not going to change.”
In his opening remarks to the crowded pizzeria, Naft said that he has been to Laughlin almost once every month since he was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Steve Sisolak when he ascended to the governorship last January. He reminded the crowd that when he first got here, he noticed a lack of healthcare service in Laughlin to which he brought in a health fair with mobile healthcare amenities such as eyeglasses, CPR training, and other services to help address that shortfall.
He asked Laughlin residents to “judge me by my actions over the last year.”
When questioned about the Laughlin Civic staff and Town Advisory Board, Naft said about Laughlin Town Manager Dr. Brian Paulson: “Brian is part of the Clark County family, and part of our team.”
When asked if he will always vote in “lockstep” with the Town Advisory Board, Naft stated honestly “No, but I will always explain why.”
As soon as he had finished his opening remarks answering general questions tossed at him from all directions, a line quickly formed of residents wishing to ask him questions that quickly stretched to the back of the restaurant. The commissioner then spent the remainder of his time meeting and greeting each person in line, answering their individual questions and wishing them well before departing.