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Voters in casino town to decide cityhood question

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Voters in the Colorado River casino town of Laughlin are deciding Tuesday whether their community should become a city or remain a distant tourist cousin to much larger Las Vegas, 100 miles away.

The incorporation vote revolves around whether Laughlin’s 7,000 residents would be better served by having a local government, or by continuing to rely on a Clark County administration already responsible for the needs of some 2 million residents.

A yes vote would install a mayor and city council to represent Laughlin, rather than only the county commission.

Everyone expects a high turnout among the community’s 2,700 voters, a contrast to the rest of the state where no more than 20 percent of active voters are expected to cast ballots in the primary.

“This is very critical for this city,” said Terrence Yurick, a retired California aerospace worker who is running for mayor of the proposed city.

City lines would envelop vast vacant areas of desert and hills generally south of State Route 163 between the California and Arizona state lines. Laughlin’s casino strip along the river, which attracts recreational vehicle tourists and boaters, would remain in Clark County jurisdiction for police, fire and other services. The Fort Mohave Indian Reservation off U.S. 95, Needles Highway, would not be part of the new city.

Yurick looks across the river at rapid growth in Bullhead City, Ariz., a city of nearly 40,000 people, and says officials based in Laughlin would be better able to encourage and plan their community’s growth. They’d also be more responsive to the needs of residents than officials based two hours’ drive away.

The question isn’t just about independence, said county Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who represents Laughlin from Las Vegas.

He said the cost of adding a layer of government on a limited property tax base might surprise supporters.

“It comes down to whether they’re willing to pay a little bit more for services, or get a little less,” Sisolak said.

Some in Laughlin say they already pay high property taxes to Clark County, and the $8.8 million that goes to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for coverage of Laughlin is too high.

The Nevada Legislature would have to sign off on the cityhood plan. If cityhood prevails but the new city were to fail financially, Laughlin couldn’t return to the county. It would probably be taken over by the state.

State Department of Taxation officials have estimated the city of Laughlin would have to spend twice what it pays now for animal control, planning, police, fire, parks and public works departments.

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