Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hawthorne project postponed; Skyview Academy abruptly closed

Hawthorne project postponed
Skyview Academy abruptly closed

December 1, 2007

Due to the nationwide slump in the residential housing market, plans to build a massive industrial, commercial and residential project in Hawthorne have been indefinitely postponed.

The project, which would have included a multi-building plant and distribution center for flooring and building materials, a shopping complex and upwards of 2,000 housing units, has been postponed "because of the plummeting housing market," according to Shelley Hartmann, executive director of the Mineral County Economic Development Authority.

The shelving of the construction project, which will result in substantial financial losses for Mineral County, was preceded by another fiscal casualty, the abrupt closure of a large, private boarding school in Hawthorne, Sky View Academy, which pumped nearly $1.6 million annually into the county's economy.

Hartmann said Bob Conner, chief executive office of Peninsula Floors, Inc., of Livermore, Calif., the company that was to build the project, "is rethinking the project but has put it on hold until the economy gets better."

Conner did not return several telephone calls placed to him by the LVN."Mr. Conner told me that his company's sales volume is about 50 percent off from what it was last year. But he told me he hopes to eventually build the project in Hawthorne, but on a smaller scale," Hartmann added.

Mineral County Commissioner Jerrie Tipton said, "The housing downturn is taking place in Nevada and all over the United States. People are purchasing less flooring and building materials, and Peninsula Floors just doesn't think it is time to start up this big project."

Fallon attorney Mike Mackedon, who has represented Mineral County in its dealings with Conner and Peninsula Floors, said, "There's a crisis in the housing industry, and it has been sudden and reflects a steep decline. Peninsula Floors Company has seen recent layoffs, but we hope the project can go forward if the economy improves."

Groundbreaking for the project was to have begun in January of 2008, and the project's eventual cost was to be between $175 million and $200 million.

Conner told the LVN in July that he hoped the project's initial phase would be completed in the summer of 2008, and that well-paying construction jobs would be offered to workers in Hawthorne and Fallon. When the project was completed, it would have included solar-powered homes, a bowling alley, miniature golf course, shops and a movie theater.

The continuing decline in home construction and sales has affected Nevada's overall economy as well as the state's housing market.The Nevada Department of Taxation reported Thursday that taxable sales in the state fell in September, the six consecutive month showing a decline. A prime reason for the slump was caused by construction-related downturns in the housing sector, the department indicated.

Concerning the closing of Sky View Academy, a nondenominational boarding school for teens, the cause of the shutdown was related to a hazing incident between groups of boys attending the school, which is located between the Hawthorne Army Depot and downtown Hawthorne.

Mineral County Economic Development head Hartmann said because schools officials were confused over what state laws pertained to hazing, the school was abruptly closed and its 120 students returned to their homes across the nation or sent to other institutions."This also has been hard on Hawthorne's economy. Approximately 63 staff and teachers lost their jobs which resulted in a loss of $1.57 million annual payroll."

There also have been substantial local losses for the hospital here and doctors who treated the students and staff," she added. There are no immediate plans to reopen the school, Hartmann said.