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Pahrump Mirror
Pahrump, Nevada
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July 24, 1997     Pahrump Mirror
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July 24, 1997
 

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Pahmnp'Valley'Gazette, Thu,clay, J u l y '24, '1997 / Nye taxpayers burned for $87,382 in incinerator purchase The story behind an action by the Nye County Commission Nov. 7, 1995, has been a long time breaking but appears now to have been well worth the wait. On that date, under "old business" on the agenda, the Nye County Commission approved, by a 4-0 vote, an expenditure out of PETI" funds (Payment Equal to Taxes) of $87,382, to purchase an incinerator for Nye Regional Medical Center in Tonopah. The reason for the purchase was to enable the hospital to dispose of its own hazardous medical waste, thus avoiding substantial cost in- volved in the shipping and disposal of such material to a remote site. In addition, it was esti- mated that the new incinera- tor would generate an in- come of between $4,000 to 7,000 a month from other medical facilities in the county .,ecause these facilities would be able to ship hazardous medi- cal waste to Nye Regional instead of an out-of-state location as was being done at that time. Several curious items have now come up: It now appears, among other things, that the incinerator that was purchased does not meet minimum standards for the disposal of hazardous medical waste; -that the subject matter being addressed under "old business" had never been agendized at a previous meeting of the commission; that a proper bid process as required by Nevada law had not been followed; and that all of the major players present at this meeting -'the commissioners, the coun- manager at the time, Bill Offutt, and the administrative counsel, Rachel Nicholson - could have or should have been aware that violations of Nevada Statutes were apparently taking place. It appears that at least some of the major players knowingly and willingly participated in criminal violation of Nevada law. What else could one conclude? If anyone else out there has another theory, please write. In addition, according to a memo fromNicholson dated April 18, 1996, then working as chief civil deputy district attorney, a down payment of 25 percent of the total purchase price of $87,382 was paid to White Horse Technologies Inc. of Santa Aria, Calif., approximately one week before the commis- sion acted under the "old business" agenda item on Nov. 7, 1995, to authorize the purchase. A lot of allegations have been made so far in this article and some words of clarification are due the reader so thatan intelligent analysis can be made and proper weight given to the allegations. Understandably, I am frequently working on and gathering background materialTor three or four stories at a time. It should come as no surprise to anyone that occasionally I receive leads from the reading public for additional articles. Some leads include strong documentation and, if the subject matter seems appropriate for the column, receive immediate attention. Other leads are rather vague but potentially interesting. In such a case they are placed on a back burner and let simmer. About 18 months ago I received a lead in the latter category. In February 1996 information was received that if I would lool( into a purchase that had been made, for an incinerator for Nye RegiOnal Medical Center, it would bear fruit. It was a back burner type of a lead. By mid-1996 two other leads from independent sources had come in to the same effect. It was then still back burner but had a pink flag floating in the center of the soup. A few more months went by and I acquired information that indicated that the newly installed incinerator at Nye Regional Medical Center did not meet minimal standard for disposal of hazardous medical waste. The source had proven to be reliable in the past. Because of other circumstances the item remained on the back burner, but the floating pink flag became anchored, turned a darker shade of red, and began flapping in the breeze. More months went by and this led into the earlier part of 1997. Serious inquiries were made and a more formal back- ,'ound investigation initiated. The results of that investigation ,ave led to the following information which I believed to be accurate, although it has yet to be proven in a court of law: A. That a thorough and time:consuming check of the records and files available to high level administration officials at Nye Regional Medical Center (NRMC) reveals no informa- tion as to the physical existence of the incinerator presently located and in use at NRMC. B. That no incinerator of any kind shows up on the official inventory on record at NRMC. C. That no incinerator of any kind shows up under "assets" as listed as belonging to NRMC. D. Confu'mation was gained from White Horse Technolo- gies, Inc. that the incinerator purchased by Nye County was a standard commercial unit that was not designed and cannot be used for the disposal of hazardous medical waste. E. Permit number AP-8062-0409 held by NRMC and issued by the Nevada Environmental Protection Agency is for a commercial incinerator for paper products. A lot of, at least 95 percent paper-type product is required. The remaining 5 percent is restricted to opaque plastics. Titis MAN'S OPINION by Brent Mathewson F. The incinerator at NRMC is used on a regular basis for disposal of hazardous medical waste among other trash and garbage products. Because of the manner in which this incin- erator operates, a "full load" is required before putting it in operation. The size of the incinerator is such that it takes about a week to acquire a "full load" in its bin. Because of this fact, hazardous medical waste sits in this bin on a regular basis for up to seven days before being disposed of in an incinerator that was not designed for this purpose. A senior official at NRMC has stated, "I'd want a lot more than rubber gloves on before I'd get close to that stuff." G. NRMC receives no in- come from other facilities for disposal of hazardous medical waste. An inquiry from a clinic in Nye County to NRMC asking for a copy of its state license to dispose of medical waste, so that this clinic could begin pay- ing NRMC to dispose of its waste, was met with silence and no response. H. A search through the agendas and the minutes of both the Nye County Commission meetings and the Nye County Hos- pital Board of Trusteesmeeting going back to Dec. 1994 has revealed that the incinerator at NRMC was discussed on four occasions. The first time it was brought up appears to be at a Nye County Commission meeting under "old business" on Nov. 7, 1995. According to the minutes, of that date, the following was discussed: Mr. Offutt stated that the initial price of the incinera- tor was $46,000. After further evaluation, "they" found the price would be $55,000 to $56,000. Mr Offutt stated Mr. Weckenden evaluated the work and believed the unit should have a feeding mechanism that is automated and a holding facility that is mode as part of the uniL Mr. Offutt thought they may have additional revenue of $4,000 to $7,000 a month from a variety of sources using the new incinerator. A decision was then made, on Wickenden't recommenda- tion, to spend $87,382 out of PETT funds to purchase an incinerator from White Horse Technologies Inc. The incinerator next shows up on the public record as item 11 on the May 7, 1996, agenda of the Nye County Hospital District Board of Trustees. It was agendized as a discussion and decision regarding a 10 percent down payment to White Horse Technologies for an incinerator ($8,738.20). Ms. Nicholson stated that the item had been taken care of during the Board of Nye County Commissioner's meeting. (No discussion took plac that day concerning an incinerator during the commission meeting referred to.) Interestingly enough, in the backup material for item 11 is a copy of a memo sent from Nicholson to White Horse Technologies Inc. on April 18, 1996. Nicholson's memo states, in pertinent part, that "24 weeks have now passed since we paid our,fwst down payment on the incinerator." If you count backward 24 weeks from Api'il 18, 1996, you get to Oct. 31, 1995 which is one week before the commission questionably approved the incinerator purchase. On July 2, 1996, during the Nye County Hospital District Board of Trustees meeting under"old business", aMr. Cudworth stated that the hospital had received the new incinerator and should begin operation within the next week. He said he will discuss fees for the use of the incinerator at the next meeting. For the July 16, 1996, meeting of the hospital board of trustees, the matter was agendized as a discussion and decision on charges for use of the incinerator for non-Nye Regional Medical Center waste. A Mr. Allen requested that the item be continued because the infommtion was not ready to be pre- sented. Since July 16, 1996, to this day there has been no further public comment at the county level regarding the incinerator at NRMC. For those readers who believe they can plainly see a bright red flag standing straight out from its pole with a strobe light blinking frantically at the top, and are wondering what to do about it, you might consider and digest the following informa- tion. Any three qualified members of the electorate in Nye County, can on their own, petition the diswict court judge to empanel a grand jury. The proper procedure is not complicated. In fact, it is quite simple. It is spelled out in the Nevada Statutes. Most libraries in Nye County have a full copy of Nevada NRS on their shelves. Go to the index and look up "grand jury" and you're on your way. Once a district court judge has been petitioned, in such a manner, he must, by Nevada law, empanel a grand jury and the county government involved is required to pay for it. There are worse things we could spend our money on. That is this man's opinion. 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