Three VVWD Candidates Answer Questions from the MLN

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As we approach early voting on October 28 and 29 here in Mesquite, the Mesquite Local News sent out a question to the candidates of the Virgin Valley Water District. Questions that have surrounding current and recent issues. Responses below are in alphabetical (by last name) order.

Please note that responses were not received from either Larry Kepler or current Board President, Ted Miller.

MLN-VVWD1oct16-14Barbara Ellestad

  1. Do you support or oppose a rate increase in 2015?  If yes, what level of increase?

The current Board of Directors has been discussing a rate increase at their public meetings since April. I appreciate the work the Board and General Manager Kevin Brown have put into the current proposal and changing the structure of the rate charges. I support a rate increase in 2015 with the varied levels and percentages that have been proposed. (It should be noted that the proposed increases vary based on meter size and amount of water usage.) I believe Mr. Brown and his staff have developed an excellent list of improvements and maintenance that must be made to the infrastructure for which much of the rate increase will pay. As a member of the Board I will work to make sure any rate increases are spent wisely.

  1. The district has received over $4 million in settlement money.  How do you believe the district should use or spend the funds.

I believe the settlement money should be devoted to repairing and improving the District’s infrastructure and on capital improvement projects. It should also be used to offset some of the rate increase which the current Board is considering. Beginning in 2011 as a reporter for the Mesquite Local News and later as Editor/Publisher of the Mesquite Citizen Journal news site, I read over 10,000 pages of legal documents and wrote numerous articles about the lawsuits. I totally supported the legal cases the District pursued and was glad the District prevailed.

  1. Do you support or oppose increasing lease fees is for water shares that expire in 2019?

I support incrementally increasing lease fees beginning in 2019. The current $250 fee is artificially too low but I oppose drastically increasing them in one lump sum. While we can and do receive about $1,600 a share from Southern Nevada Water District I think that’s too high for our local businesses, primarily golf courses, to pay. Does that constitute “subsidization” by the Water District and its ratepayers? Yes. Do I think the Water District and ratepayers should do that? Yes, because supporting golf courses and other industries in town supports the whole valley.

  1. Do you support or oppose leasing water to SNWA?

I support leasing surface water to SNWA under the current policies that allow the leases to be evaluated each year or every other year. The District does not currently use the surface water we lease to SNWA and probably won’t for years because we don’t have a way to treat the water in order to make it potable. However, I don’t think we should sell our water shares outright because they are a valuable commodity to keep in the bank. If no local entities want to lease the water then we should lease it to SNWA.

  1. Do you support or oppose a district policy that would keep water rates low for golf courses and other commercial enterprises in order to promote economic development?

Other than the lease fees referenced in question #3 above, golf courses and commercial enterprises should pay the same rate for groundwater as all the other ratepayers. Under the new rate structure being developed by the current Board, water rates will be set according to meter size. That ensures that rates will be based on actual water usage and not on separate classes for residential and commercial.

  1. The district is subject to water line failures in large part due to the installation of defective pipe.  What is your plan to deal with this issue?

The Water District has developed a list of capital improvement projects for the next six years that addresses many of the problems in the aging infrastructure. That’s the primary reason for the proposed rate hike. While some water line failures are due to defective pipe, others are a result of poor installation years ago or simply wear and tear. Obviously it is much cheaper to repair water lines before they break than afterwards so I would like to see a more proactive program to detect problems before breaks occur. That isn’t always possible under current staffing levels and limited financial resources.

MLN-VVWD2oct16-14Sandra Ramaker

  1. Do you support or oppose a rate increase in 2015?  If yes, what level of increase?

We need a reasonable 5% increase primarily to take care of neglected repairs and infrastructure. We should then have a 1.5-2% annual increase until we can balance the budget. We need to be fair to everyone, and we need to make these repairs and improvements sooner than later or we won’t be able to supply water.

  1. The district has received over $4 million in settlement money.  How do you believe the district should use or spend the funds.

This is not new money. As part of the Lonetti settlement, he bought back $4 million in water shares that we paid him $4 million for. It was a wash except for the fact we spent a large amount in litigation, we have not received these funds as of this date. The funds should go to infrastructure and maintenance and capital repairs.

  1. Do you support or oppose increasing lease fees is for water shares that expire in 2019?

I do not want to pre-suppose an increase in shares that expire in 2019. We need to establish policies on how water shares are leased or purchased and how we price them.

  1. Do you support or oppose leasing water to SNWA?

I oppose any moves to send water out of the community without fully understanding how much we have, the impact of growth, climate changes and demands from other states on the Southern Columbian River Basin. We need a futures study that considers all these factors before simply leasing out water.

  1. Do you support or oppose a district policy that would keep water rates low for golf courses and other commercial enterprises in order to promote economic development?

We need to look at the marginal value of water to the golf courses and all businesses. By that, I mean working with them to estimate their marginal net profits that come from water. This approach would not be based upon the dollar return to the local water company but would be based upon the return to the golfing or any industry for their investment in land, property and human resources. Basing water prices on marginal net profits is something we should discuss.

  1. The district is subject to water line failures in large part due to the installation of defective pipe.  What is your plan to deal with this issue?

The repairs must be made. We need long-term infrastructure and capital investment policies and procedures. This piecemeal approach simply does not work.

MLN-VVWD3oct16-14Robert “Bubba” Smith

  1. Do you support or oppose a rate increase in 2015?  If yes, what level of increase?

While it is difficult to know an exact response without more information about the budget deficit the Water District is experiencing, in my previous experience as a Public servant I have believed first in making cuts to existing “fringe” or “non urgent” budget items first. It is too easy for government agencies like the Water District to fill in the gaps with more taxes. The public doesn’t have that option, they must adjust their expenses to balance budgets, the VVWD should do the same. The obvious is increasing taxes through rate hikes does not always produce the desired results of more revenue but usually results in the consumer using less water to avoid paying more creating a vicious cycle.

  1. The district has received over $4 million in settlement money.  How do you believe the district should use or spend the funds.

The VVWD has become obsessed with focusing on all the distractions and personal agendas rather than providing the people with the best water service possible. Focus on delivering water and maintaining the water source. The District is lucky to have many great employees. They need to be enabled to use their talents to do what they do best…. serve the public with water.

  1. Do you support or oppose increasing lease fees is for water shares that expire in 2019?

Similar to question 1, I generally oppose tax increases. There is a time and place when no other options are available when increases have to be discussed. If I remember correctly there are built in trigger points for established increases. I would honor those agreements.

  1. Do you support or oppose leasing water to SNWA?

The simple answer is I oppose leasing water to SNWA. If not for the law being changed recently that would not even be an option. The State of Nevada had established that the water belonged to the people of Nevada and any water not being used for the purpose it was intended for was subject to being reclaimed by the State. That was inconvenient for SNWA so they lobbied and got in court a change to that language. Now we are all subject to their business model which ultimately would take everyone’s water. Having said that I do believe opportunities exist to take care of the Virgin Valley water needs and still have a way to work with SNWA to solve the needs of Las Vegas.

  1. Do you support or oppose a district policy that would keep water rates low for golf courses and other commercial enterprises in order to promote economic development?

I have tried several times to work with the golf course industry to create a long term solution that would guarantee water rates that they could plan for, so they could not only know they have water available to them but also be able to budget for future increases. I would do the same for other industries if it would help sustain jobs for our community and promote economic development.

  1. The district is subject to water line failures in large part due to the installation of defective pipe.  What is your plan to deal with this issue?

The water District received a settlement from the pipe company to offset those expenses. It would be interesting to comb through the budget expenses to see if those funds have been used in other areas. I’m very familiar with the creative accounting that takes place on a regular basis in government agencies. It is easy to justify “this and that” expenses to be remotely attached to those funds. However with the financial situation that exists at VVWD I would not be surprised if those funds have evaporated into the general fund.

Speak Your Mind

*