Proposed flagpole, phone booth would cost local taxpayers

Darcy Spears

Proposed flagpole, phone booth would cost local taxpayers

CREATED Jan. 17, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- What could you buy with $50,000? That's what the county wants to spend for a phone and flagpole down in Laughlin. Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears asks the tough questions. Should you really be paying for that?

There's a little town about an hour southeast of Las Vegas and a river runs through it.

Laughlin is a weekend getaway for some. For others, it's home.

As of July, Laughlin became home to the Colorado River Heritage Greenway Park and Trails. A project that's already cost a pretty penny.

The trail system is at $26 million tax dollars and counting.

We followed the money trail down to the actual Colorado River trail in Laughlin, where the county wants to plunk down $50,000 of your tax dollars for a flagpole and a phone booth.

Two projects that amount to an afterthought.

Darcy Spears: So these two items that could cost the taxpayers as much as $50,000 weren't thought of, weren't built, it wasn't a necessity when this thing started?
Steve Sisolak: Right. That's absolutely correct.

Laughlin is in Commissioner Steve Sisolak's district and he was the first to raise red flags in a December 18 Commission meeting.

"Quite frankly, I thought it could very well have been a mistake -- that there's no way a phone could cost $30,000," Sisolak said.

The "Code Blue" Emergency Call System kiosk the county asked for is estimated to cost taxpayers $35,084.

Safety is the main reason behind the proposed phone kiosk.  But with everybody having cellphones and the fact that there's actually service along the trail, should you really be paying $35,000 for a phone booth?

Sisolak asked that very question in the December meeting.

"Remember on the side of the road they had those emergency phones -- call boxes?  Those couldn't possibly be $30,000 a piece because they were like every couple miles on the road," Sisolak said to the rest of the commission board.

Contact 13 asked the Nevada Department of Transportation about those call boxes along Interstate 15 between Saint Rose Parkway and Primm. NDOT says they cost a little over $9,000 a piece. A far cry from $35,000.

"I just want to assure you that staff isn't giving you a high price because we're trying to spend the money.  This is what we're getting as bids," Assistant County Manager Randy Tarr told commissioners in that Dec. 18 meeting.

"And I was in favor of an emergency type thing, but this just isn't gonna work," Sisolak told Contact 13.  "I had no idea it would be anywhere near this money and I guess we didn't think through the potential downside of this."

Aside from cost, the potential downsides Sisolak sees are misuse of the phone and vandalism.

"And when it's a land line, the other problem you have is when somebody damages the phone, it's not gonna work anyway."

The other project -- a solar-powered lighted flagpole -- is estimated to cost $15,375 tax dollars.

Because it would be flying all the time, federal law requires it to be lit at night.

"Unfortunately, the flagpole was a piece that got missed in the plans," explained County Parks and Recreation Director Jane Pike.

She says flags are a county standard at all parks and trail areas.

The one in this case would go near the children's play area and outdoor amphitheater at the base of the Davis Dam.

Darcy Spears: You guys know there's a flag right there on top of the Davis Dam that you can see very nicely from that area if you look up?
Jane Pike: Yes.
Darcy Spears: Do we need another one?
Jane Pike: And perhaps we don't.  We are going back, though, Darcy, and taking a look at those project costs to see if there's any way we can reduce that price and is it truly necessary.

That's only happening since Commissioner Sisolak raised concerns and Contact 13 began investigating.

Darcy Spears: Do you feel comfortable saying, "you need to pay for this, taxpayers"?
Jane Pike: At this point, I don't feel comfortable saying that.

The expenditure was approved, but hasn't been awarded. So you haven't paid for it. Yet.

Some options being explored are whether veterans groups or other civic organizations might raise money to privately fund the flagpole.

And the county is looking for volunteer camp hosts to help patrol the trails as a possible alternative to the emergency phone.