MOUNTAIN SPRINGS, Nev. -- Drive too fast down Highway 160 and you may miss the tiny town of Mountain Springs, southwest of Las Vegas. The community seemed to blend in with its wilderness surroundings -- until recently -- when a new landmark sprouted beyond the trees.
The neighbors in Mountain Springs say they first learned about what they call "the monstrosity" from a sign put up last December that read "congratulations" on your new communications tower.
In a sea of stucco sameness, some people believe it is the lack of development that begs protection. Places like Mountain Springs where 40 homes are nestled off Highway 160 between a national forest and a federally protected wilderness area. The Whissel family, along with their menagerie of pets, Leonard, Hannah, Mocha and Uno, settled here some 25 years ago.
"It's a wonderful lifestyle," said Paul Whissel. Until recently, not much had changed. "I'm upset. I haven't talked to any residents in Mountain Springs that are in favor of it."
What Whissel is referring to is a 70-foot steel tower built to improve emergency services communications between police and fire. With funds from a homeland security grant, Clark County erected the tower next to an existing 12-foot structure currently used by the Metro Police Department.
"So we went from this single pole, single dish, practically out of sight, to this 70-foot, 13 by 13 by 70-foot tower," said Whissel.
"The only issue that was given was it's for homeland security for the greater good. Nobody's denying that, but we asked 'why weren't other locations considered and why wasn't the town told?'" said Tanya Harrah, Mountain Springs resident.
Though records related to the project date back to last summer Mountain Springs residents had no prior notice of it. Neither the county nor the U.S. Forest Service contacted the community before starting construction in December.
"Why would the forest service take surveys of turtles and lizards and snakes and beetles, this is according to their paperwork, butterflies, bats, migratory birds, night-flying birds, everything was taken into consideration except for one thing, that is talk to the people that live in this community," Whissel said.
Not content to live in the shadow of the structure, Whissel is among those lobbying for a compromise including shorten the tower to a previously compatible 30 feet -- or better yet --move it.
"It appears that it can't be moved," said Commissioner Susan Brager, Clark County. Brager is investigating the options. "If it can't be moved due to economic times and money, can it be moved in the future? I don't know, can it be moved now? I don't know and where would the money come from? I have to look at the big picture unfortunately," she said.
The big picture for Mountain Springs residents now inescapably includes "The Monstrosity," "The Beast," and "The Penitentiary" depending on who you ask.
"It's a shame," said Whissel.
Commissioner Brager says she also didn't know about the tower until she heard from Mountain Springs residents. She plans to attend a meeting of the town council tonight along with representatives from the forest service.