Final preparations are in place for the expected rush of an unknown number of people coming to Rachel and Hiko Sept. 20-22 for the Storm Area 51 events, plus music festivals at both locations and a UFO conference at the Alien Research Center in Hiko.
However, there might be a few lawsuits filed by the county following the events.
“We didn’t ask for this,” County Commission chairman Varlin Higbee said in August, after event creator Matty Roberts posted the Storm Area 51 idea on Facebook and over two million signed up claiming they would come.
Now the county is looking at hefty bills from events it didn’t anticipate or want.
“We don’t want such a mass of people to come to our rural county all at once,” Higbee noted in earlier statements, “but it’s likely they’re coming anyway.”
An article this week in the Las Vegas Review-Journal noted the county might consider pursuing legal action against Facebook and the original event organizers to recoup some of the costs.
Commissioners on Monday moved $250,000 from the Lincoln County Land Act fund to go along with an earlier $50,000 they had set aside to help cover costs for the events which are anticipated to draw as many as 30,000 to 40,000. But Higbee said, “The real numbers will probably be much lower than that.”
County Planning and Building Director Cory Lytle said, “This money is no joke, we’re on a shoestring budget.”
Therefore, as the Review-Journal reported, “the county might look to press charges and seek restitution from Roberts and Brock Daily and anyone else who was pushing the Storm Area 51 movement.”
County District Attorney Dylan Frehner said, “Anybody who is promoting illegal activity, we will be seeking to possibly prosecute.”
He continued, “The possible gross misdemeanor charge of publishing a matter in breach of peace or other crimes would carry up to a year in county jail and a $2,000 fine on top of the restitution sought.”
Commissioners might also decide to seek any money the state doesn’t match from the emergency declaration the county previously made to the governor.
Eric Holt, county emergency management director, said the extra $250,000 comes from an interest-accrued account in the Lincoln County Land Act funds, which county recorder-auditor Amy Elmer said had $750,000 available.
Holt said at the meeting the county is budgeting $90,000 for meals to feed the expected 350 first responders from at least 15 agencies, including state, local and private offices.
Higbee said the Timbers Lodging and Grill will handle feeding first responders.
The Review-Journal reported that Sept. 12, Roberts and Daily issued a cease-and-desist letter to Connie West, owner of the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, to no longer use the original name of the event they had planned, “Alienstock.” Roberts and Daily pulled out of the event Sept. 9, in favor of holding an event with the same name in downtown Las Vegas.
In the meantime, Higbee said he wanted “to recognize the number of state and local agencies of the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Nevada Highway Patrol plus others who have all donated resources from three different counties.
“The sheriff’s department has received donations from three different counties. Metro Las Vegas is helping out as well. All have donated time and resources to which we give a shoutout and a big thank you to the many folks willing to kick in and help us.”