North Las Vegas named among worst-run cities, but leaders hoping for change

North Las Vegas was recently named the eighth worst-run city in the United Statesby the financial news blog 247wallst.com. The list, published in USA Today, cites continued declines in median home values and near nation-worst foreclosure and unemployment rates in counting the city among the nation’s 10 most-mismanaged municipalities.

Officials in the state’s fourth-largest city prefer to tick off an equally lengthy list of reasons to expect a revival.

City leaders have long pointed to projected gains in consolidated and property tax revenue as possible markers of an economic rebound.

They’re betting that turnaround will start west of Interstate 15, where plenty of APEX Industrial Park’s 22,000 acres sit awaiting a tenant.

The 20-year-old park, first annexed by the city in 2008, is already home to a solar power plant, an open-pit mining operation and an 1,800-acre landfill.

All that stands between the city and millions more in APEX-related property tax revenues is water.

Much of the site remains without ties to Clark County’s water grid or the city’s own nearby $300 million wastewater treatment plant.

Mayor John Lee hopes to see those hookups in place by the end of the year.

Once completed, Lee expects things to move quickly.

“We just had a meeting here with all the water (authorities) in the valley,” the first-term mayor said. “It’s a huge industrial area for us, and we’re just cutting a deal with the county now to tie into their sewer (infrastructure) and start building out there.

“Our (consolidated) tax formula says we don’t have enough industrial (activity) out here, so that’s one of those things we can do to change the formula.”

Land Development Associates Vice President Lisa Cole agrees.

Cole, who helps guide new APEX tenants through the permitting process, said if anything, the site’s water infrastructure hurdles are a little oversold.

She mentioned several new APEX businesses — including British pyrotechnics company La Maitre USA and natural gas provider Delta Liquid Energy — that have found more than enough water to meet their onsite needs.

“We constantly battle against this perception (of water shortages) because the park is located outside the main valley,” Cole said. “We actually have plenty of water to serve existing users and future buyers as well.”

APEX isn’t the only development blueprint leaders hope to render 3-D in the coming years.

Lee has indicated that Park Highlands, the 1,500-lot master-planned community between Centennial Parkway and Grand Teton Drive, could start to come online by 2015.

Applications have also been received to bring a state-of-the-art thermal energy plant to the area, and officials hope the city can land a proposed Southern Nevada medical school near the Veterans Affairs Medical Center off Pecos Road and the 215 Beltway.

Meanwhile, more than half of incorporated North Las Vegas — some 30,000 acres — remains undeveloped.

A city with that much room to grow leaves a lot to the imagination.

“(Park Highlands) should be one of the keys to helping us turn things around,” said interim city Finance Director Darren Adair. “All that area, including APEX, has some of the best growth potential in the valley.

“(Park Highlands) is really the only undeveloped master plan of its size left in the valley, so if we handle that and the APEX buildout correctly, I think the city will go from being the region’s unwanted stepchild to being its prince.”

Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter James DeHaven at jdehaven@viewnews.com or 702-477-3839.

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