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Transcript of interview with Michael J. Montandon by Stefani Evans and Claytee D. White, September 22 & October 4, 2016







Mike Montandon, former Arizonan and former three-term mayor of the City of North Las Vegas (1997-2009), is a natural storyteller. As he recalls municipal governance during a period of record-breaking growth, he talks of forming relationships with developers, legislators, and other municipalities; he speaks to land use, open space, parks, trails, conservation and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA). He shares histories and stories of the Becker family's role in developing Clark County, of the Combs family's North Las Vegas pig farm; of the drama that routinely characterized BLM land auctions, and of why North Las Vegas spent millions of dollars to build its own sewage treatment plant. The guy who never ran for office in high school or college moved to North Las Vegas in 1992 and four years later was elected as mayor of one of the nation's fastest-growing cities. He ran because he realized the City was populated with people just l

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Montandon, Michael J. Interview, 2016 September 22 & October 4 [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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i AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL J. MONTANDON An Oral History Conducted by Stefani Evans and Claytee D. White The Building Las Vegas Oral History Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ii ©The Building Las Vegas Oral History Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2016 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Editor: Stefani Evans Transcribers: Kristin Hicks, Frances Smith Interviewers: Stefani Evans and Claytee D. White Project Manager: Stefani Evans iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of the UNLV University Libraries. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank the university for the support given that allowed an idea and the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Building Las Vegas Oral History Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University Nevada, Las Vegas iv PREFACE "I'm a carpetbagger. I moved here in '92 and was elected to mayor in '97." Mike Montandon, former Arizonan and former three-term mayor of the City of North Las Vegas (1997-2009), is a natural storyteller. As he recalls municipal governance during a period of record-breaking growth, he talks of forming relationships with developers, legislators, and other municipalities; he speaks to land use, open space, parks, trails, conservation and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA). He shares histories and stories of the Becker family's role in developing Clark County, of the Combs family's North Las Vegas pig farm; of the drama that routinely characterized BLM land auctions, and of why North Las Vegas spent millions of dollars to build its own sewage treatment plant. The guy who never ran for office in high school or college moved to North Las Vegas in 1992 and four years later was elected as mayor of one of the nation's fastest-growing cities. He ran because he realized the City was populated with people just like him—voters who lived west of v I-15, who had lived there less than five years, and who felt unrepresented in local government. As mayor, he applied his background as a real estate appraiser to land use issues. His timing was fortuitous—with SNPLMA, partnerships, and creative funding he was able to build local and regional parks at a rate that kept up with his city's population growth. He was re-elected twice as mayor before an unsuccessful run for governor ended his career as an elected officeholder. As a real estate professional he represents clients such as the pig farmer; as a volunteer to several boards, he continues to lend his expertise on land use and governmental issues. As he says, "I'm still in politics. I'm just not going to ever be an elected official again." vi TABLE OF CONTENTS Interview with Michael J. Montandon September 22, 2016, and October 3, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada Conducted by Stefani Evans and Claytee D. White Preface…………………………………………………………………………………..………..iv Pardee Homes North Las Vegas; Bill Gohres, Jimmy Comito, Robert Mendenhall, and Rancho del Norte; Hidden Canyon; Clark County School District and growth in North Las Vegas; Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA), Richard Bryan, Brent Heberlee, Harry Reid, and the Federal Land Subcommittee of the Regional Planning Coalition; the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auctions--drama and personalities; Craig Ranch Regional Park; City of North Las Vegas wastewater treatment plant ………………………..………………………..……. 1–15 Business and civic relationships; Brian Sandoval, Rory Reid, Jim Gibbons, and run for governor; land use, Albert Combs, R.C. Farms, pigs, and development; Landra Reid, pig farm, Bob Combs, Tom Collins, and Ford Bronco crashes; Phoenix childhood and real estate; real estate appraisal, Bank of America, and North Las Vegas 1992 …………………………………………..…. 15–31 Land use, demographic change, and North Las Vegas; Hidden Canyon, Becker family, Barry Becker, and Mark Oiness; North Las Vegas, "Your Community of Choice"; Mayor Jim Seastrand, Clark County Commissioner Mary Kincaid, and 1997 North Las Vegas mayoral race; City of Henderson mayor Jim Gibson and City of Las Vegas mayors Oscar Goodman, Carolyn Goodman, and Jan Jones; Clark County Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates; growth and municipal bonding, capital expenditures, and unions; Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA) and Aliante, Mountain's Edge, Providence, Inspirada, and Anthem…..………. 31–42 Maryann Ustick and branding North Las Vegas; the Westside; Keil Ranch and the Fordyce Club; Dr. Richard Moore, Community College of Southern Nevada, and trained workforce; SNPLMA and secreteries of the Interior Bruce Babbitt and Gale Norton; Montandon and mayoral successors Shari Buck and John Lee; City of North Las Vegas director of finance Darren Adair, Faraday Future, and Qiong Liu; Apex annexation and Clark County; east-west traffic flows; Bob Combs, pig farm, and Apex ………………………..………………………………….……………. 42–56 vii 1 [Recording begins during interview with Mike Montandon by Stefani Evans at the Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries, September 22, 2016] So it was Pardee Homes and... So Pardee...People forget in a development agreement, the millions and millions of dollars Pardee put on the front end were long since forgotten. So now all of their privileges—they get to build whatever they want—are all people remember. They're like, "Why would you give them the store like that?" Well, we're living under a development agreement that someone else negotiated, and that's always a difficult thing. And times change. And times change and [city] councils change. But Pardee [in North Las Vegas] is built out. How long did that take, about? Actually, they're just finalizing it. They're just finishing the last little bits. And they've acquired more land kind of around it. But the original eleven hundred acres is built out. Then just south of there, a real character named Bill Gohres, G-O-H-R-E-S, bought a big chunk of land and designed and developed a community called Rancho Del Norte. Bill Gohres. He had a guy working for him named [James] "Jimmy" Comito, and he was kind of known in the community as Jake and the Fat Man, or the Snake and the Fat Man, or something like that. Jimmy was a little skinny guy and Bill was a big fat guy, and they were quite shady characters. To this day Bill will tell you that he developed Rancho Del Norte, but the reality is that he planned and designed and started construction on the whole thing and then went bankrupt; the construction company that was building it all, Las Vegas Paving, took it over and finished it. So a paving company actually built it. Yes. But [Robert] Mendenhall—I don't know if he's on your list of people to interview—Bob— 2 If you talk about the people that built Vegas, Bob literally, physically built this town, but quietly. You hear all this stuff about Apex and Faraday [Future] going out there at Apex and all the land that's available. Bob owns almost four thousand acres of Apex; he's the biggest owner out there. So he is a very quiet monster. He owns everything. Anyway, so there was Rancho Del Norte, which is, from Lone Mountain [Road] it's about a mile, mile and a half development in there. It was, again, kind of a new community. Then there was Hidden Canyon. Hidden Canyon is Cheyenne [Road] north to Craig [Road], Martin Luther King [Boulevard] west to Clayton [Street]. So it's a mile and a half by a half a mile. And then everything else is just subdivisions. Those were the only three big master-planned areas out there, and they exploded. They really did. It's gutsy people getting out ahead, real visionary types who had a very low land basis, and so they were able to spend the money on the infrastructure. The problem is today, if you buy a piece of land for $200,000 an acre, you'd better be able to build on it. Back then that land was $500 an acre, so they could spend all the money on water and sewer lines. How did the Clark County School District (CCSD) keep up with the growth out in North Las Vegas? Pretty well. Again, during the heyday the school district had a lot of people, and they were building a lot of schools. Between Dusty L. Dickens and—Oh, shoot, I'll think of the young guy's name—They [CCSD] had two really, really sharp real estate guys. They had a lot of data, and so they knew exactly what they wanted. They wanted the school to be on a sixty- or eighty-foot street, but not on a hundred-foot street. It needed two frontages. They knew what they needed, and they knew the acreages, and they had the money to pay dearly for it if they needed to. And they did a pretty good job of getting out in front of the needs. 3 We joke about the fact that when I took office [as mayor of North Las Vegas], there was Rancho [High School] and Cheyenne [High School]; those were the two high schools in North Las Vegas. The School District built three of them on Fifth Street. They built Canyon Springs [High School], Mojave [High School], and Legacy[High School], all three on one street; three seventy-five-million-dollar high schools—boom, boom, boom, boom. Roughly how far apart were they? Well, Canyon Springs is at the corner of Alexander [Road] and Fifth. So then Alexander to Craig is a half mile. Craig to Lone Mountain is a half mile. Lone Mountain to Hammer [Lane]. So two miles north is Mojave, and then two miles north of that is Legacy. Wow. So three high schools during your term as mayor. Oh, yes—heck, in five years they just, brrrr, built them all. Yes, it was pretty amazing. And elementary schools? Oh, like popcorn. I cut more ribbons and opened up more elementary schools that I can't even remember—I mean, I can tell you these elementary schools: [Elizabeth] Wilhelm; [Eva M.] Wolfe; [Addeliar D.] Guy III; [Theron H. & Naomi D.] Goynes, and people's names I didn't even recognize. They were just popping up like crazy. How about parks? So parks were a huge focus of mine. When I took office the city hadn't added one acre of park in twenty years, and so I got real aggressive on parks. We tried to do it with big policy, but it almost always ended up being one-on-one negotiations. I mean, I sat with Renaldo [Tiberti] one time. He said, "I've got this big subdivision. What are you going to do here?" At the time we had like a fifty-cent-per-square-foot park fee. I said, "I'll waive all the park fees if you'll build a park." Because Renaldo could build a park for a fourth of the cost we could build one for. And so 4 he built the park on Hammer [Lane] and Allen [Lane]. And I did that with lots of developers. So Pardee came to us. Part of the development agreement, they owed us two ten-acre parks, and they had built one ten-acre park. They came in and said, "Hey, we just hit the number of homes that triggers, so we owe you another park." I said, "No, I'm done with ten-acre parks; I want twenty-five." We negotiated a deal. There was a little piece of land inside El Dorado that had been reserved for City use in case we ever needed a police station or something. We hadn't needed it. So I said, "We'll give up our rights to that land if you'll make your park twenty-five acres." So we got an extra twenty-five there. If I could get land from the BLM [Bureau of Land Management], anything we could get. And this is a whole book in and of itself: SNPLMA, Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act. I'm going to sound a little arrogant and take a little credit for this. But I sat in [Senator] Richard Bryan's office. He had a wonderful legislative guy named Brent Heberlee. Brent Heberlee wrote SNPLMA, and don't ever let anybody else take credit for it. And I say kid; he's not a kid anymore. But this kid wrote SNPLMA. He wrote the bill, and he pushed it hard. For years it was called the Ensign-Bryan Bill, because Senator Bryan got young Congressman [John] Ensign to help him. Every legislative session they pushed it and almost got there, but it just didn't happen. SNPLMA was a very clean, very concise, three-page bill. It was a wonderful piece of legislation. Three pages? Yes. It was wonderful. What happened, about the third session they pushed it forward, and it started getting some legs. And as soon as it started getting some legs, [U.S. Senator] Harry [Reid] jumped in and supported it, and it became known as Harry Reid's bill. But it is Brent Heberlee's bill. 5 Brent and I spent many hours looking at a couple of provisions in SNPLMA. One was called the Transfer of Reversionary Interests; it was originally designed to be able to move streets around and open spaces inside land that came from the BLM. But we both saw it as an opportunity for creation of parks on government land. Also, when SNPLMA was passed, the BLM and the government never thought it would raise that much money. They thought $750 million, tops. I said, "I think it's eight to ten billion." And it was eight to ten billion dollars. So all of a sudden we just had this golden credit card, because one of the things included in SNPLMA was parks, trails, and open space. You talk about serving together. So there was a committee that...Oh my gosh, right in front of me, the singer, lieutenant governor. Oh, Lorraine Hunt. Yes, Lorraine Hunt. So Lorraine Hunt had created this committee called the Federal Land Subcommittee of the Regional Planning Coalition; it was composed of all the mayors. So the mayors got together with the BLM every three months, and we decided what land was going to be put up for sale and where the money was going to be spent. We all kind of had a gentleman's agreement in the first round that Henderson and North Las Vegas would ask for equal amounts somewhere in the ten million range; that Las Vegas would stick to fifteen to twenty million; and Clark County would stick in the twenty-five to fifty million. We agreed. We asked. And everything we asked for was approved, because there was more money coming in than anyone expected. So in the second round we all kind of had a gentleman's agreement that we would all double what we had previously asked for. We went in and it all got approved. But there's still hundreds of millions of dollars left over. In the third round Clark County started making noise, like, hey, screw the agreement; 6 we're going to ask for more. So everybody went nuts. So we [North Las Vegas] went in and said, "We need a hundred million dollars. We want to buy the Craig Ranch Golf Course and turn it into the biggest regional park." They said, "Okay." Just gave it to us. And it's just like manna from heaven. Money was flowing in. So we went through a building phase—not just we, but all the valley jurisdictions—of just building like there was no tomorrow. I don't know if you've been to Craig Ranch Park, but it's like nothing you can imagine and it should be. It was a hundred and twenty million dollars. So it was pretty fun stuff. Now, is that money gone? Yes and no. Two things have happened. One, it was such a big pot of money that every single legislative session there's been a modification to SNPLMA adding another piece of the pie. When Brent wrote it, there were five things the money could be spent on—environmentally sensitive land; Clark County multispecies habitat conservation; parks, trails and open space; administrative costs; and schools and water. That's where the money went. And then somebody added in clarification of Lake Tahoe. And then somebody added in... And now there's forty different things that that money can be spent on. So what's happening is the pond got smaller and the straws in the pond got there. So it just doesn't have quite the policy impact that it once did. But it did make a big difference. Well, you think about it: just in parks, trails, and open space we spent billions of dollars. That giant [Charlie Frias Park] at Tropicana [Avenue] and Decatur [Boulevard] and the Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex [at Tenaya Way and Lake Mead Boulevard] in Las Vegas? All that was SNPLMA money. Now, what about the water features at the parks that we have now? They call them splash 7 pads. Was that part of that as well? Yes, yes, everything. Everything that you see was SNPLMA money. Like I said, it was a golden ticket for a long time. If BLM land sales ramp back up again, it could generate another round, but we're almost out of BLM land. There's not much left for sale. We've hit the mountains every direction. So if we've hit the mountains for North Las Vegas, have we hit the mountains all the way around the valley? Pretty much, yes. We either hit the mountains or we hit some other geographical feature. We really are limited by growth to down the I-15 corridor toward California; if we go up the I-15 corridor toward Utah, we hit Indian reservation land. We hit Sunrise Mountain. Toward Mount Charleston, we can't go any further into the Spring Mountains. Henderson can kind of trickle out around Boulder City, out in that area, but it's all protected. There's a lot of wilderness area out there. Now, did Boulder City participate in the SNPLMA? Yes. So what was their percentage compared to...? I don't recall. Boulder City is in a different situation in that they own two hundred square miles of land. So they're in a little different situation there. And their no-growth policy assures that all that will remain clear land, right? Well, most of it—huge tracts, hundreds of square miles—have been put aside for tortoise preservation and for solar. So they're not going anywhere. You've answered way more than I had thought. And I hate to say this, but I'm barely getting started. I so enjoy talking about these things. 8 Oh, this is wonderful. I often think about SNPLMA; you could write a book on these BLM auctions when they started selling land. We had kind of a gentleman's agreement on how it was going to work. This is both a good and a bad thing. Once we decided that auctions were going to happen, everybody got together and said, "Okay, North Las Vegas gets to go first." That was both good and bad. We got to go first, because other than Brent Heberlee, nobody was more involved in getting the bill passed than I was, and everybody kind of knew that. I spent so much time working on it. And second, nobody was sure if it was going to work. So if anybody was going to fall on their face, the others were more than willing to let me do that. So how does a BLM auction work? So it was interesting. The first auction was really telltale as to how it was going to work. The BLM put a piece of policy in place that I thought was just terrible. When you appraise something, the purpose of an appraisal is to estimate market value, market value being that price at which a knowledgeable buyer and seller have a meeting of the minds. Well, the purpose of an auction is to end at market value. Well, the BLM set this policy saying, we're going to appraise it first, and that's the opening bid. Well, no. No, an appraisal is supposed to match the closing bid and not the opening bid. So their policy basically ensured that BLM auctions will only work in a rising market, and only if there is a time period between the finish of the appraisal and the auction. The reason BLM auctions haven't done anything for the last five years is because they get an appraisal and nobody will start the bidding at that price. During the growth period people were willing to bid above appraisal because [they could count on the land gaining in value] over time, passage of time. So the first tract of land that was put up for sale is what is now Aliante; it was nineteen 9 hundred and six acres and the appraisal came in at $35 million. And the BLM—for just no reason, and in my opinion, completely illegally—modified the appraisal and said, "No, we think its $40 million." They just adjusted it. I was ready to go toe to toe with them, but it bid for more than $40 million, so moot point. So the first auction was really interesting. Again, the drama was so incredible. I was sitting there with my entire economic development team; all we wanted was two bids, because there has to be a backup bid. So the first guy bid $40 million, the second guy bid $40 million 200 thousand, and we were like, "Ugh." We don't care; it's sold. But the interesting part was just the drama, in that Greenspun had a very, very flamboyant leader at the time named Phil Peckman, who was running around with his bidding paddle, smiling and twitching it. He was like, I'm going to bid; I'm going to be a buyer; everybody watching me? He was kind of that way. And we all knew that he had partnered with Del Webb; Del Webb's guy was standing right next to him, also with a bidding paddle and everybody watching him. And then Frank Schreck, a very powerful attorney, was sitting very quietly in a corner with a bidding paddle. And then the Olympia Group had theirs. Olympia Group would huddle for like two minutes and then come out and go, "Forty-two million 100 thousand dollars." And before they even finished the sentence, Schreck would go, "Two hundred thousand." He'd just flick his paddle and he would raise it a hundred thousand. Then they would huddle for two minutes and they'd raise it a hundred thousand. And before they even finished, he'd flick. It turned out Frank was bidding for the partnership of Del Webb and Greenspun put together. So those guys were shills. It was just the whole drama and it was funny because—and also just the body language. Frank was sitting like this, leaning over with his paddle; he had an 10 attorney sitting next to him, and the attorney was on a cell phone the whole time, and Frank wanted to make it clear, I'm not listening to anybody; this is all me. And so the drama was just a beautiful thing. So everybody had a role to play. They did. Then for the next three auctions after that, which were Mountains Edge, Inspirada, and Providence; John Ritter [of Focus Property Group] won all of those auctions. At the first one he won, he ended up paying more than he expected to. And when they said, "Sold," he went like this and they got a photo of him with his hands in his face and it made national news all over. From that day on he had a PR guy making sure that he was smiling and raising his arms at every sale. It was just fun to watch the whole drama. Then at the final auction, the last big auction that BLM held was North Las Vegas. It was at the peak of the market. It was 2005. So now, Aliante sold for $47.2 million. The next parcel similar in size went for $639 million. It was the first auction ever that John Ritter did not show up; he sent one of his lieutenants. I knew from the moment he walked in what's going on. John Ritter never comes to an auction to lose, but he'll gladly send his second in command to lose. He was not there to win; he was there to bid up the price and screw the other guy. Tom Devore, [Ritter's lieutenant], sat down in a corner right near an emergency exit and he sat back and he just kept flicking that paddle. Same thing, Garry Goett with a whole team up there, screaming and yelling. Garry would take two minutes to decide and Devore would just kind of flick. Devore bid $638 million dollars, and all the attention ran up to Garry Goett. I happened to be sitting right behind Devore. As soon as the auctioneer went up and said [speaking loudly], "Mr. Goett, what are you going to do?" talking to him, Devore just quietly slipped out the door and left. He said, "We've got six hundred and thirty-nine million and we have a—sir, sir, where did you go?" And 11 he was gone. And that was Ritter's guy? Yes, Ritter's guy. There's like a book in that. It was all just so fascinating. For us, for the cities, what happened is by the time that auction came around, $639 million dollars, five percent went to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, 10 percent went to the Clark County School District, and 85 percent remained behind. BLM had already purchased all the environmentally sensitive lands and habitat conservation. So the remaining eighty-five percent was ours to spend on parks and trails. That's a lot of money. With that pot of money what was the jewel? Craig Ranch. Craig Ranch? Oh, by far. Well, the really big dollar ones were... The Clark County Shooting Complex was $85 million. Craig Ranch was a $130 million. Trop and Decatur was probably $40 or $50 million. There were a number of $40- or $50-million projects. That's the Charlie Frias Park? Yes, yes. But the big ones were really Craig Ranch and the shooting range. So tell us about Craig Ranch, the park. It was an old golf course. It was not a very good golf course, but it's a great park. No golf course really makes very much money here. They typically exist only for the value of land around them, and Craig Ranch didn't have any homes around it. So there's no way it was ever going to make enough money to justify its existence. We had hit a point where every home builder in town was trying to buy it. They were just going to scrap it and make it a subdivision. We had subdivisions coming out our ears, and 150-acre green spaces are irreplaceable. So I took that exact argument 12 to the federal government, and I said, "Look, I need a big, big pot of money to preserve a 150-acre green space." And they said, "Well, it's already a green space." I said, "It won't be in a year; it will be a subdivision." So we bought it; the City of North Las Vegas bought it using SNPLMA money, and we converted it to a park. We couldn't leave it a golf course because federal money is not allowed to be used to make a profit. Right. So what kinds of amenities are in that park? Everything, literally. I mean it. It's got a skate park. It's got tennis courts. It's got sand volleyball courts. It's got basketball courts. It's got a $30 million amphitheater for concerts and the like. It's got three dog parks. It's got a community garden. It's got eleven pavilions, where you can hold family reunions, weddings, and that kind of thing. It has baseball fields. It has softball fields. You name it. It's literally Central Park. There's nothing quite like it. So it's a pretty fun place. I'm very proud of it. Craig Ranch Park. What else do you consider as the high points of your administration? I joke about this all the time. I recognized something very early on: we were growing very fast, and revenues were going up very, very fast. This is a big policy issue that I can spend a lot of time talking about. But there are a number of laws in place that basically say when your revenues are growing, the unions can take anything they want; they can ask for a 100 percent raise, and if you can afford to pay it, they'll get it. It's a bottomless pit. And so as municipal revenues were going up, I realized I really only had two options. Either just give it all to the union—we would have literally been paying firefighters half a million dollars a year if we didn't otherwise spend it. So I had to put it into capital improvements: I built five fire stations, two police stations, a new city hall, a new judicial complex, and two new libraries. But if you add all that stuff together, they don't add up to the new sewage treatment plant. Sewage treatment plants are not sexy. 13 No, they're not. Nobody wants to talk about them. Nobody wants to have anything to do with them. But? But they just want to know when I flush it goes away. And so I spent $300 million building a wastewater treatment plant. Others might disagree, but if you spoke to the finance director today, he would say the city only exists financially because it can charge for its own sewage treatment. We were the biggest city in the United States with no sewage treatment capacity. We were paying the City of Las Vegas to treat our sewage. Las Vegas realized somewhere about 1999, 2000 that North Las Vegas was growing and they had us; they owned us. So they would call us and say, "We need to expand our sewage treatment and it's all your fault." So we'd pay them $25 million to do an expansion and they'd say, "Thank you." And then they'd raise our fees. It didn't matter. They could do anything they wanted; because it's not like we could go tell our residents, "You can't flush this week." No, you can't really say that. The City of Las Vegas was very, very upset with us when we decided to build our own plant, but they forced it. They forced our hand. The day that I said, "I think we'll build our own," they were charging us $8 million a year. By the time we started construction on our own, they were charging us $15 million a year. They could do whatever they wanted. How long did it take you to build the plant? From start to finish it was five or six years. It was a long process. Well, you have to bond $300 million; that's not an easy process to start with. Who built it? You know how those government projects work? It ended up being a combination, several of the 14 big contractors. I think CH2M Hill, but by the time they were done they had created an entity called NLV Water Inc. They created an entity just to build it. Where is it? Nellis Air Force Base. That's a story in and of itself. Negotiating with the colonels out at Nellis Air Force Base is probably one of the more interesting things you could ever do. It's the reason they change colonels every two years, because as soon as the colonels develop relationships, the Air Force likes to put a new one in. So that they... So that they don't give away the store. But at the time we had two problems that met. First, wastewater loves gravity. You want to be downhill. Nellis AFB had a location that was at the bottom of the hill. Everything goes downhill to their location. Putting it there was going to save us $100 million in lift stations and pumping stations, and they knew it. So the Air Force were able to get big dollars out of us. And second, after the Nine-Eleven attacks there was not nearly the demand for visitors golfing on the Air Force site that there had been before Nine-Eleven, so they had twenty-seven holes of golf that they just didn't need and that they couldn't afford to water. So I said, "Give me nine of your holes of golf, and I'll give you free effluent to water your other eighteen holes." So that's how we ended up making a deal. Perfect. Did they have ground water out there anyway? They have ground water at the corner of Fifth and Craig. They come out and run the pumps once a month just to test them, but it's strictly backup water. So what they're really using is treated water from the treatment plant? Well, they use effluent for their golf courses, and they use Southern Nevada Water Authority for 15 water-water. So it works well. So every time I ask you a question— It goes somewhere else. —it leads to another entity; for example, Nellis Air Force Base. Well, my life as mayor was about relationships with other entities. It really was. If I didn't have a relationship with Mayor Ferraro in Boulder City and Mayor Gibson in Henderson, we couldn't get things done. They're all so closely related. Even to this day, right now as we speak, the BLM is trying to amend their RMP, their Resource Management Plan. It's a twenty-year plan. It was written in 1998, and I wrote most of it. So now we're about two years away from the end of a twenty-year plan. So they're trying to rewrite it. They're basically trying to put a collar around the valley and pull it tight. They're going to really throttle the growth of the valley. It looked like we were doomed, just doomed, but then the BLM got a new state director named John Ruhs, who had been here previously, and he got reasonable. But the only reason John Ruhs is reasonable is because John Ruhs knows the players here, and they're able to talk with him. We're finding that it does really seem to be about relationships, being able to know who you're working with, who you can work with, and who you can trust and who you can't. Yes, yes, more than anyplace I've ever been. For me this is really i