The Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) Board of Directors quickly approved three task orders for its engineering firm Bowen, Collins, & Associates (BCA) at its July 17 meeting.
The first was a continuation of an annual contract that provides technical and system configuration support for software and hardware at arsenic treatment facilities in the district. The cost ceiling was set at $10,000.
"It will provide greater flexibility for coverage of the facilities without having to have someone in the office," remarked Mike Chandler, representative from BCA.
The second task order, worth $16,539, will allow modifications for Well #2 that include replacing the current pump with a more efficient submersible one. The well will also be cleaned.
General Manager Ken Rock recommended cleaning several other wells at the same time and save separate mobilization costs.
"We had a choice to add a booster pump to the current one or rehab the whole pump. We decided it would improve efficiency by replacing the whole pump and eliminating the booster pump," Rock said.
"The last time this well was rehabbed was 1996," advised Aaron Bunker, Chief Hydrologist for the District.
The third order to BCA will have the company updating the District's Master Plan that was last reviewed in 2008. That version was based on a projected population in the Valley of 35,000 to 40,000 people by the end of decade. It was also limited to anticipating the needs of the distribution system without consideration for wells, treatment plants, reservoirs.
"It didn't look at all your water sources or water rights," Chandler informed the Board. "This reflects that typical long-term horizon for what-if scenarios as well as the next five years for capital improvements. You recently had a rate increase to get back on track so we'll look at water rates again."
Board member Richard Bowler commented that "a re-evaluation is well within order. We need to look at the five year picture and our current growth patterns and abide by them."
Ted Miller, Board representative for Mesquite agreed saying, "I hope we keep the Master Plan utmost in our minds. This should be our bible."
All three task orders were approved on 5-0 votes.
Rock was given approval to finalize the purchase of a three acre lot adjacent to the District's headquarters on Riverside Drive.
Bowler remarked that by purchasing the land the District would not have to expand or build a new facility somewhere else. "I commend Ken (Rock) for seeing the for sale sign and moving out on it."
The final purchase price on the lot is $340,000. It last sold for just over $1 million.
The Board also approved a suggestion by Rock to move $1.5 million from the District's liquid account into Certificates of Deposits that will earn higher interest rates. The money is part of the $2.8 million the District received earlier this year in a legal settlement with Vanguard Piping for defective pipes installed around Mesquite.
"We spent $93,000 in April, May, and June fixing some of the defective laterals," Wes Smith, District accountant advised the Directors. "Right now the money is earning 35 basis points. We could get .65 percent up to 1.3 percent interest by putting the money into CDs. That could net us $6,000 to $9,000 more. That still leaves just over $1 million in the reserve account if we need it."
"I want to remind the public that we've been repairing the pipes over the last few years out of our General Fund. The ratepayers have been paying for those repairs," Miller explained.
Rock followed that up with a reminder that "there is no obligation for the District to earmark the money forever. We have it set aside now but at some point it will be payback time for ratepayers and the General Fund. We will wait a year or two to make sure all the repair and replacement work is done and then we can discuss where to put the remaining funds."
The Board voted 5-0 on the action.
Smith asked the Directors to change the capitalization threshold on budgetary items from $1,000 to $5,000 and modify the depreciation policy guidelines which they did on a 5-0 vote.
Board President Karl Gustaveson read a statement regarding a District employee recently arrested by the Mesquite Police Department on 10 counts of burglary. "The District has fully cooperated with Mesquite Police Department in an investigation of a now former District employee. The District employee has been terminated. The investigation or matter is still underway. This is a very unfortunate situation. The District as a whole has worked very hard to engender the trust and respect of the public and will continue to do so. Additional questions should be addressed to the Mesquite Police."
Rock reported on recent work to identify and map current and proposed rights of way in the Gold Butte area for access to the District's water rights that lay within the proposed National Conservation Area. The District has water rights to 2,154 acre feet per year in the Nickel Creek area and a smaller amount from the Micah Noch Spring.
"We've asked for the potential Wilderness area boundaries to be moved so our access roads will be out of the Wilderness. Nancy has been helpful in making it clear that our water rights are very important," Rock explained.
Nancy Hall, Director of the Friends of Gold Butte environmental organization, addressed the Board saying that, "one of the reasons we're bringing this to you is because we have a meeting scheduled in August to sit down with Senator Reid's staff. I don't have all the technical information on exactly how the legislation will be written (for the NCA designation). But we need to make sure the delegation in Senator Reid's office understands what the Water District needs so that we can encompass that within our proposal."
"We know that some of the roads up in that area are very important to stay open and continue to provide access. You need to have the ability to maintain those roads," she added.
A Wilderness designation in any of the Gold Butte area prohibits mechanized and motorized access.
"I'm asking to work with Ken, Aaron, and the staff so I can make sure all of the Water District's concerns are encompassed within our proposal," Hall said.
"We need to be able to mechanically maintain the roads," Rock added.
"The real purpose of this is to make sure that our needs end up in the legislation," Board President Karl Gustaveson remarked. "It has to be in the legislation or we won't have the access."
Hall added that, "The legislation hasn't been written yet. But we're happy to work with stakeholders to make sure the proposal addresses everyone's concern. One of the things we advocate is that all of the roads that are designated in the Transportation Plan of 2008 continue to be open. We would like to have that written in the legislation that those roads will remain open."
"What Friends of Gold Butte wants to ensure is that we secure everything the Virgin Valley Water District needs as we move forward," Hall remarked.
"We need those rights of way tied down before it ever gets to legislation," Kenyon Leavitt, Board member said.
After some discussion by the Board, the Directors did not take any action on the agenda item.
Without guaranteed access to that water it may become inaccessible in future years. See MCJ story Tombstone a Cautionary Tale for Mesquite