Pahrump’s growing pains ease as population shrinks

After a dizzying surge that lasted for decades, the unthinkable has happened in Nye County’s largest community.

Pahrump has shrunk.

The bedroom and retirement community 60 miles west of Las Vegas shed 42 residents, or about one tenth of one percent, during the first quarter of the year.

It marks the first time since 1991, when Nye County began compiling its own population estimates, that Pahrump has seen a decline from one quarter to the next.

Some long-time county residents wonder if this might be the first decline in the town’s relatively short history.

“I don’t remember ever seeing that happen,” said Nye County Manager Ron Williams, who has worked for the county for 27 years. “I don’t know if there’s ever been a drop.”

Pahrump is now home to about 39,000 people, but when Tim Hafen moved there to grow cotton in 1951, he represented a 1 percent population increase all by himself.

At the time, the valley’s population stood at about 100.

“Ever since then, I don’t think it’s ever gone down, at least not that we recorded,” Hafen said.

The reasons Hafen and others give for the decrease should sound familiar by now.

Most blame a softening real estate market in Southern Nevada and across the country. They also point to the downturn in the nation’s economy overall, which has prompted many Americans to hunker down and stay put.

In other words, people aren’t moving to Pahrump because people aren’t moving anywhere at the moment.

And the numbers seem to bear that out.

The town of Pahrump issued building permits for at least 12 new single-family homes every month from January 2000 to October 2007. Since then, the unincorporated town has seen those monthly permit totals drop into the single digits three times.

In February, just two residential permits were issued, down from 60 in the same month the year before, and 76 the year before that.

“The construction business has really slowed down,” Hafen said. “There’s been very little activity in the last half of ’07 and now in ’08.”

The final phase of his 874-home development, Artesia at Hafen Ranch, is now on hold.

Not everyone is sorry to see things slow down a bit. For years, county officials and local leaders have struggled to meet the town’s growing need for everything from sidewalks to sheriff’s deputies, lifeguards to library books.

“The breather doesn’t hurt; that’s for sure. We’re still playing catch-up,” Williams said.

There is a downside to the downturn for government services in the scattered, cash-poor county. Williams said county officials had to carve $1.2 million out of this year’s operational budget of about $67 million when revenue from sales and other taxes fell short of expectations.

The same thing happened last year to the tune of about $1 million, but the shortfall was covered by higher-than-expected revenue from mining operations in the county.

The slump also caught school officials by surprise.

Superintendent Rob Roberts said the Nye County School District budgeted for its usual 5 percent to 10 percent enrollment increase this year, only to see its population shrink by four students.

“It actually allows us to catch our breath a little bit,” Roberts said.

Over the past four years, the district has added 40 modular classrooms to its six schools in Pahrump.

Roberts will help cut the ribbon on the town’s fifth elementary school in July, and current plans call for a new high school to be built within three or four years.

Static growth or even a decline in population could change that, Roberts said. “The probability of building a new high school is diminishing daily. It would be easier to throw up a few buildings to do what you need to do.”

Williams said he isn’t sure what is causing the current slowdown. He has heard a few interesting theories, though.

One is that people who used to live in Pahrump and commute to Las Vegas have been pushed out of town by the skyrocketing price of gasoline.

But Paula Elefante doesn’t buy that.

The executive director of Nye County’s economic development authority said the spike in fuel prices might prompt someone to buy a smaller car, but it won’t cause a commuter to trade a house in Pahrump for one in Las Vegas.

“In my opinion, that would be quite costly,” she said.

Elefante doesn’t believe the county’s latest population estimate, either. “I think we’ve been kind of static, with a little bit of an increase,” she said.

No such slowdown has occurred in Southern Nevada’s other major bedroom community.

Mesquite grew by more than 6 percent last year and now boasts more than 19,000 residents. The city 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas on Interstate 15 has doubled in size since 2000.

Building Director Kurt Sawyer said Mesquite is on track to issue more residential building permits this year than it did in 2007, the city’s second busiest year for new home construction.

Sawyer acknowledged, however, that many of the city’s smaller contractors are suffering at the moment. Mesquite might find itself in a situation similar to Pahrump, he said, “if it wasn’t for Pulte Del Webb.”

Sawyer said the national developer has built 330 homes in Mesquite so far, and its plans include more than 6,000 homes in all.

Last year, the average sales price for a home in Mesquite sank more than $40,000 while the number of days it took a home to sell increased by 20 percent. Even so, overall home sales grew there in 2007.

Pahrump’s slight population drop in the first quarter of this year came on the heels of a 61-resident increase, modest by Pahrump standards, in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Such tiny gains and losses seem insignificant when compared to growth in the Las Vegas Valley, but they mean a lot in a community that literally sprang from nowhere over the past few decades.

The community didn’t get electricity until 1963 or telephone service until 1965.

“You can’t start much of a town without those things,” Hafen said.

Eventually, though, the town took off, and Pahrump quickly grew to overtake its boom and bust rival to the north, the Nye County seat of Tonopah.

The two communities have been headed in opposite directions ever since.

Today, Tonopah has fewer than 3,000 residents, while Pahrump accounts for almost 83 percent of the county’s total population.

Nobody expects Pahrump to keep losing people. In fact, many believe the slight decline may have already reversed itself, though that won’t show up until the second quarter population numbers come out this summer.

“It’s temporary, no doubt,” Hafen said.

“Southern Nevada is going to come back. It’s a question of when.”

Williams said two projects could turn the tide. Home Depot is on track to open a store in Pahrump late this summer, and the town was just picked as the site for a new federal detention facility that could bring dozens of jobs to the community.

For the moment, though, the school district is hedging its bets.

“We have budgeted next year for zero growth,” Roberts noted, sounding surprised to even be saying it. “That’s absolutely no growth.”

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean or 702-383-0350.

Mojave Poppy Bees
Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list. (Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology)
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like