The costs of an online Facebook phenomena calling for millions to Storm the gates of Area 51 and “see them aliens” in September is being tabulated within Lincoln County by those closely involved.
In reality, the event only drew a few thousand people, but it still ran up some large expenses that Lincoln County and promoters Connie West at Rachel and George Harris at the Alien Research Center now have to deal with.
County Emergency Management Director Eric Holt told county commissioners at their Nov. 4 meeting that he is reaching out to the various local departments to find out what their costs were in terms of manpower and equipment. Holt wants to know how the budgets of various agencies were affected.
Reports on TV stations in Las Vegas have noted that though millions responded to the original Facebook post, only about 3,000-5,000 visitors actually came, mostly from the southwestern states.
Still, Rachel and Hiko were suddenly transformed into instant tourist attractions, drawing national attention.
County Planning Director Cory Lytle said it “did have some positive aspects, but the entire experience was a challenge.”
He added that the costs are what “has been the primary negative for the whole event.” The price tag for emergency personnel alone may reach $250,000.
Lytle said, “People need to be aware and cognizant of what their actions can potentially turn into.”
Sheriff Kerry Lee said estimated costs just for the sheriff’s office were about $30,000 or more. “And the bill for the county of around $250,000 does not include the cost of emergency personnel from law enforcement which have so far been borne by those departments, such as the Department of Investigation and Nevada Highway Patrol, Las Vegas Metro and other forms of mutual aid from Clark County. And when those costs are tallied and submitted to the state, each department will show what were their actual costs.”
Lee added, “If the state does give us some relief funds, those agencies can be reimbursed up to 50 percent. I think all those costs will be close to another $250,000.”
County commissioners initially allocated $150,000 for emergency personnel’s meals at restaurants and lodging expenses. Porta Potties and generators were other up-front costs.
Commission chairman Varlin Higbee said of the $150,000, “so far it has covered our cash costs, our cash flow. We haven’t had to go back and dig out money from a couple of other funds available to us.”
He said a full report will be given at a future commission board meeting.
Criminal charges may be considered by the Lincoln County District Attorney’s office against Matty Roberts of Bakersfield, who created the original Facebook post.
It’s possible that Roberts violated Nevada Revised Statutes with his call for people to storm the gates at Area 51. These statutes include NRS 203-030, “provoking a breach of the peace,” and NRS 203-040, “publishing a matter inciting a breach of the peace.”
Other reports say Roberts is being sued by Connie West of the Little A’ Le’Inn in Rachel, who had to go it alone at her Alienstock event after Roberts backed out shortly before the event, claiming concerns over safety.
Civil lawsuits have already been filed, but Roberts, through his attorneys, has filed countersuit, saying there was never any contract.
George Harris at the Alien Research Center said, “He [Roberts] is a young man who is going to learn all about the legal system.”
Both Harris and West say they lost about $90,000 apiece because the large crowds expected to come did not materialize for the music festivals they were promoting at both locations.
E.T. didn’t make an appearance either.
However, both Harris and West say they would like to have similar music festival events next year. West says she has “some great ideas for next year. If it’s promoted properly with planning and marketing, and attended to.” If done right, she feels the events could be successful and could provide a big boost to the local economy.