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Gov. Sisolak skeptical of Storm Area 51 relief funds request

CARSON CITY — Two rural counties are hoping to tap the state’s disaster relief funds in order to recoup some of the costs associated with the Storm Area 51 events that saw thousands of people descend on small-town Nevada in September hoping to “see them aliens.”

But the requests from Nye and Lincoln counties face an uphill battle, as Gov. Steve Sisolak panned the requests, and specifically criticized Lincoln County officials for expecting the state “to bail them out,” after they approved event permits tied to the viral phenomenon.

Both counties pre-signed declarations of emergency ahead of two separate events, citing worries that the tens of thousands of people expected to show up could stretch the rural counties’ resources thin.

“I don’t know how this was an emergency when you gave an approval despite our concerns regarding this issue, and then expect the taxpayers of the state to basically bail out your county commission’s approval,” Sisolak said Tuesday during a state Board of Examiners meeting where the proposal was discussed. No vote was taken.

The entire ordeal was triggered by a social media post on Facebook that suggested the Air Force couldn’t stop a civilian invasion of the top-secret military installation that has long been rumored to house evidence of extraterrestrials in the Nevada desert 85 miles north of Las Vegas. The post received millions of “likes,” sparking concerns from the county officials about their ability to handle such an influx.

Eric Holt, emergency manager for Lincoln County, said that none of the funds spent by the county went towards the events themselves, which provided their own security, medical responders, trash and sanitation services.

The funds being requesting would cover costs associated with the county’s law enforcement and medical personnel, which includes overtime pay, food, fuel and more. In total, the county is hoping to get more than $200,000 from the state to cover those costs, Holt said after the meeting.

After the meeting, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said that the costs to the county would have been the same, if not more, had commissioners not approved the two event permits because they would have needed to provide police for security purposes, as well as trash and sanitation services.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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