VVWD Board determines rate increase will not impose a significant impact to businesses despite opposition

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Tuesday night’s Virgin Valley Water District Board Meeting was anything but simple as the board members discussed the current plan for rate fee increases and the impact that it would have on businesses.

To determine what impact the rate increases would have on Mesquite and Bunkerville businesses, a letter of intent was sent out on December 22, 2014. Of those sent out only five responses were received from various industries, pleading their cases. Among them were three golf courses, a church and a theater. The consensus among all five was an astounding yes, that the rate increases would have a catastrophic effect on their businesses.

Darren Stanek, the General Manager for Wolf Creek Golf Course, provided a thorough reply to the letters, stating that the proposed increases would cost the course an additional $27,966.58 a year to operate their facilities. However, as he cited in his letter, the business may be forced to spend another $74,252.16 per year for Obamacare, bringing an increase of over $100,000 in costs that may result in staff changes, and ultimately reduces the amount they can offer their customers.

“We understand we are all in this together and that a price increase is coming,” Stanek said in his letter. “We just ask that you have an open mind when deciding how much of an increase you feel golf courses should pay.”

Representatives from Conestoga and Oasis Golf Courses also replied, citing that the ‘whole picture’ doesn’t work, and that another method needs to be approached. One idea that is presented is a ‘slow rollout’ of the increases, spanning over the next five years, something that would allow water customers to ease into the eventual rates.

After nearly two hours of conversation and individual members of the board sharing their point of views, a vote of 3 – 2 was recorded that the proposed rates would not have a significant economic burden on local businesses. The motion was carried through by board members Barbara Ellestad, Richard Bowler and Nephi Julien, while Sandra Ramaker and Robert ‘Bubba’ Smith opposed it.

As the meeting wrapped up, a report from Water District attorney Bo Bingham revealed that ongoing talks with John Lonetti, who was found to owe the water district more than $3 million, are proving to be difficult, as Lonetti has refused to the stipulations the Board installed at the January 6 meeting, when Lonetti failed to make his payoff due date. Those stipulations were that the district would give Lonetti an additional six months to pay off the settlement amount, but that he would have to pay 15% interest each month. At this point, he is refusing. While Lonetti did pay the initial $50,000 into escrow at the beginning of the settlement, no other money has been received. “I just want to make sure that the public understands that we had included that money when considering the rate hike,” said Ellestad.  “We do not have that money. And now, we are struggling to come to an agreement to get that money that the court awarded us.”

How this will affect the rate increases and tiers will remain to be seen. The next meeting for the VVWD will be Tuesday, February 3 at 5 p.m. at their office, 500 Riverside Road.

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