Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | 10:19 p.m.
Concerns over a proposed wind farm near Searchlight dominated a Tuesday town hall meeting hosted by County Commissioner Steve Sisolak in the rural community.
About 30 residents from Searchlight and surrounding areas came to the town’s community center to meet Sisolak during his first visit to the area since becoming a commissioner in January.
Duke Energy has proposed erecting large wind turbines on public land surrounding Searchlight and many residents are worried that the wind project will ruin their views of the surrounding hills, damage wildlife and drive away tourists.
Sisolak said he would like to see the project move forward, but only in a way that would benefit the community.
“If we can be good neighbors, I’d rather see that … where there’s a win-win situation as opposed to locking horns and getting nothing out of this at some point,” he said.
Sisolak said he would like to see the project set up so there would be a continual benefit for the community, such as revenue sharing, rather than a one-time payment.
“We need either to create some more jobs or get some revenue stream coming into town,” he told residents, noting that jobs brought by the wind farm would mostly be temporary as the project is built.
Duke participated in a public meeting held by the Bureau of Land Management in January, but residents on Tuesday told Sisolak they felt the company ignored their questions and brushed off their concerns.
The county is limited in influence, Sisolak said, because the project is planned for land that is owned and managed by the federal government. He promised to set up another meeting to bring representatives from Duke, NV Energy, the BLM and Sen. Harry Reid’s office to join himself and U.S. Rep. Dina Titus in Searchlight for an open discussion.
Resident Russell Coon said he and many others in the area aren’t completely opposed to the wind farm; they just dislike the location of the proposed towers around the town.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of not wanting the wind generators, it’s a matter of where they put them,” he said, noting that there is plenty of other open space in the region that is not adjacent to homes.
Other concerns residents brought up during the two-hour meeting included roads in need of repairs, the need for a four-wheel-drive ambulance for the volunteer ambulance squad and stray animals.
Sisolak said the meeting was a good opportunity for him to hear constituents’ concerns even if he didn’t have immediate solutions or answers.
“It gives us a good chance to find out what’s important,” he said after the meeting. “I’ve got a good list and we’ll see how we can work together to accomplish some of this stuff.”
Some of the residents said they were used to getting special treatment from the county under Bruce Woodbury, who had represented the area on the Clark County Board of Commissioners since 1981. Term limits prevented Woodbury from running in the last election.
Sisolak promised residents he would do his best to meet their needs, but warned that the current economic situation could make it difficult.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Bruce and he’s a great guy, but he got it when there was a lot of money and I’m getting stuck with a budget that is just a disaster,” Sisolak said.
Jane Bunker Overy, who has lived in the town for 30 years and founded the small museum there, said she was happy to see Sisolak take interest in their small town.
“We were spoiled with Bruce Woodbury,” she said. “But I’m so glad to see that (Sisolak) is here to see what our issues are.”
Sisolak has the largest district in the county, stretching from Laughlin in the south to Mesquite in the north. It also includes urban areas in Henderson and more rural communities such as Moapa Valley, Boulder City and Cal-Nev-Ari.