TV news cameras were in the room when the Lincoln County Board of County Commissioners again discussed a possible resolution proclaiming non-support of an Area 51-like event in 2020.
County officials spent about $250,000 covering the expenses of the unwanted Storm Area 51 event in Sept. 2019.
Board members spent some time discussing the idea of making a resolution about future Area 51 events, but took no action.
Commission chair Varlin Higbee said instead of a resolution, “We’re going to try to readjust our existing ordinance for large events. The reason being is that if we sign a resolution to do an event like that again at Rachel or Hiko, or not do one, it would have conflicts with some of the other large events we do in the county.”
Labor Day in Pioche, homecoming in Caliente and Pioneer Day in Panaca are all large events drawing over 2,000 people. “We need to revamp our ordinance and see how that comes out,” Higbee said.
“Once that is done,” he said, “then if Connie [West] and her group can come up with funding and satisfy the qualifications of the ordinance, there’s a good chance we’ll let it go.”
Commissioner Kevin Phillips said it was most important that “before the board entertains such a request [for a large special event permit] with any seriousness at all, we will see that every expense is covered.” He suggested “promoters might execute a bond up to a figure which would more than cover the expense, to guarantee the county and its citizens would not be out any money for a private promotion.”
The concept of doing an event near Area 51 does have an attraction to many, “a drawing card for people to come to that location,” Phillips said.
He stated quite a few people and sponsors have expressed interest in having an event out there again and “want to be involved … but we can’t be left holding the bag next time.”
Higbee said he does not expect the state of Nevada to help with emergency relief which the county has requested because Governor Sisolak questions whether the Area 51 event really was an emergency.
However, in July 2019, fearing they could be overwhelmed with visitors, county officials drafted an emergency declaration and a plan to team resources with neighboring counties and the state ahead of events tied to the Storm Area 51 internet drive. All five commissioners felt, “We needed to be ready, because we did not know what was going to happen and we didn’t want it anyway.”
As to something happening in 2020 akin to the 2019 events in the Rachel and Hiko areas or elsewhere, Higbee said, “Promoters would have to cover the entire costs themselves; the county will not be involved at all.”
Connie West and her mother Pat Loudenklaus, owners of the Lil A’Le’Inn in Rachel, have expressed interest in having another event of some type in summer 2020. But Higbee said, “They would be on the hook for the entire cost of it themselves.”
He admitted he made the statement for the benefit of the TV cameras at the meeting, but said reporters did not stay around afterwards to ask questions and left after that particular agenda item was finished.
Commissioners will schedule time to work on revamping the ordinance.
Higbee was very clear in his comments that if an emergency such as happened in Sept. 2019 should happen again in Lincoln County, “It will be the state’s responsibility. The highway doesn’t belong to us, nor the federal lands. We’ll take care of our own people, our own county, but the rest of it will be on the state, the governor, Air Force and National Guard. We’re not spending one more penny.”