Two changes to the Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) Cross Connection and Backflow Policy were approved by the Board of Directors at their June 19 meeting along with hiring a new State lobbyist, approving budget augmentations, and refunding $15,473 to a customer.
John Zarate, District staff member, explained to the Directors that by adding certified testers who belong to the American Backflow Prevention Association, in addition to those who belong to the American Waterworks Association, the District could increase the number of technicians able to test backflow equipment. That could make the industry more competitive and give ratepayers who require annual equipment testing more choices.
This type of equipment prevents water from backing up through a system and possibly contaminating public water supplies if not repaired.
The second major change to the policy will allow the District to test backflow equipment or make repairs on the systems and bill customers at almost twice the rate as private companies would charge.
Zarate explained that most of the time the District doesn't have a problem with customers complying with annual equipment testing requirements. "On occasion we have property owners who feel it unnecessary or don't want to comply. They try to wait it out or see if we'll take care of it. We want to create incentives for these businesses to take care of it themselves. It costs the District and ratepayers more money if we do the testing for these businesses."
The proposed device-testing charges vary based on the size of the water meter servicing the customer. For a small meter, private certified testers would charge between $75 and $100, Zarate told the Board. "We would charge $225. We want to make it steep. We want to get their attention."
He mentioned that the District has a list of 12 to 15 certified testers available to businesses in the area. "By allowing the additional testers from the American Backflow Prevention Association, that will increase the number of testers businesses can choose from. We're not trying to take them for a ride, but we want the businesses to be responsible."
Sandra Ramaker, Board member, asked why the District would not want to be responsible for the testing. "Most places are."
Zarate explained that some Water Districts take on the responsibility for testing the backflow equipment while others don't.
"We are concerned about the liability if we become responsible for someone else's equipment," General Manager Ken Rock explained.
The Board voted 4-0 to accept the changes to the policy. Board President Karl Gustaveson was absent from the meeting.
Board of Directors voted 3-1 to hire Warren Hardy as the District's state lobbyist with a monthly retainer of $2,500.
Randy Robison of Capital Strategies has served as the VVWD lobbyist for almost 15 years. He has accepted a position with Century Link, as its Director of Government Affairs. Century Link is a private enterprise that provides telephone, Internet, and television access to businesses and individuals.
Hardy served as the Board's original lobbyist in the early 1990s when the District was first formed. He also served as a Senator in the Nevada State Legislature for six years, leaving there in 2009. He previously worked for the Association of Building Contractors.
"Some of the issues you're dealing with now are issues Warren dealt with years ago," Robison told the Board. "You won't miss a beat. He's up to speed on water issues."
The Board voted 3-1 to sign a professional services contract with Hardy for the period July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013. Ramaker was the lone nay vote saying, "I don't know Warren at all or a lot about him. Sometimes I would like to see us start fresh and hire someone who hasn't been doing this."
The Board quickly voted 4-0 to refund $15,473 to a customer, Anthem Park Mesquite, LLC, who was overcharged because of a software error in the billing program.
Rock explained that the billing error was caused by a computer glitch between the meter reading software and the billing software. "The bill was 10 times higher than it should have been. The software added an extra zero to the bill. This is the only one we've seen."
The Directors approved, on a 4-0 vote, formal budget augmentation documents for the current fiscal year that are required by Nevada Revised Statutes.
Wes Smith, VVWD Accountant, explained to the Board that "in some instances we've had expenses that went down and in other cases we had expenses that went up" through the past year. The most significant difference occurred in the Repairs & Maintenance expense category that Smith was revising downward by $260,000.
"We had some revenue categories that were way down and other revenues that were way up," Smith added. A decline in customers' water use, brought in $200,000 less than originally projected a year ago.
"We went from a projected net loss of $869,277 to an actual net gain of $2,334,223," he said.
Much of that difference is attributed to the $2.7 million dollar legal settlement the District received from Vanguard Piping in May.
Click here to access the budget augmentation documents for Revenues, Expenses, and Net Income.
Click here to access the budget augmentation documents for the Statement of Cash Flows.