More questions that can now be answered

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The agenda for Tuesday’s Mesquite City Council meeting had an item deserving of celebration.

The council was to approve the 2013-2016 labor agreement with the Nevada and General Sales Drivers, Delivery Drivers, and Helpers & Representing the Public Sector Teamsters Local Union No. 14, Non-Supervisory Bargaining Unit, and the 2013–2016 labor agreement with the General Sales Drivers, Delivery Drivers and Helpers & Representing the Public Sector Teamsters Local Union No. 14, M-1 and M-2 Class Supervisor Bargaining Unit.

To shorten that verbiage for you, the city and city hall workers, among others, were finally going to have a union contract.

And part of that contract was for city hall workers to return to a 40-hour week, which included keeping city hall open on Fridays. But once again, there will be no raises, as hard times continue.

The contract has been negotiated off and on since May 2013.

But, the council’s approval must wait until the March 25 meeting. Both Mayor Mark Wier and Mayor Pro Tem Gno Withelder didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting. The mayor left directions for the item to be bounced to the March 25 meeting so the entire council could vote on the accord.

Hopefully, none of the council will have more pressing business and will be able to attend.

And hopefully, now that the mayor has the contract out of the way he’ll be able to answer a lingering question.

Before I became editor of the Mesquite Local News in June 2011, in other locations I had reported on what seemed to be an endemic problem with many Nevada communities: their landfills. But the Mesquite landfill was never discussed at council meetings.

Last fall as the Oasis Casino was being demolished, I wondered if the impact of that added waste was going to seriously impact the Mesquite landfill. I met with the mayor and asked him.

He referred me to Bill Tanner, Mesquite’s Director of Public Works. Tanner explained the city’s sweet relationship with Mesquite Disposal. The landfill is located out Mesquites Heights Road in Lincoln County. It sits on 40 acres well away from any development. Although it’s city owned, Mesquite Disposal operates the landfill and the city even makes a small profit.

There didn’t appear to be any problems; the landfill still had a long life ahead of it, and there was room to expand when the time came.

The last few weeks, we’ve discovered I asked the wrong questions. While there are few if any problems with the new landfill, residents at the Highland Hills subdivision are discovering that portions of their properties are built over the old city landfill. The city and Southern Nevada Health District are investigating the issue, as some sidewalks, driveways and streets are buckling as methane leaks from the underground.

I asked the mayor another question. There has been so much in the national news about cities going bankrupt because of sweetheart deals made by earlier administrations with their unions and administrators for lucrative retirements programs.

I’ve heard many citizen complaints about the spending of past municipal administrations here and discussions at council meetings about boondoggles and wasted money approved by previous councils. So I was concerned. If city government before the current administration was at times fiscally irresponsible, what jeopardy faces the taxpayers of Mesquite today to fund the retirement of previous workers and supervisors?

This council and mayor seem to be fiscally responsible. But what do we face from past administrations? If Mesquite tax revenues do not return to their previous lucrative levels, what jeopardy is there from unfunded past retirement packages?

Meeting in person with the mayor who now works in Utah may be problematic, so I planned to ask the question during Tuesday’s public comment period. But the mayor wasn’t there, and the contract wasn’t approved.

Hopefully, when the mayor feels it’s appropriate to address the issue he will. And hopefully it’s good news, that Mesquite officials never established those unsustainable retirement plans that led to cities like Detroit, Mich., or San Bernardino and Stockton, Calif., to run aground on fiscal reefs.

But it would be good to know one way or the other.

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