Board votes 3-2 to raise water rates

It was a marathon meeting Tuesday night as the Virgin Valley Water District Board members and staff trudged through four hours to settle several agenda items.

The board approved the allowance of up to $25,000 go to Forsgren & Associates to talk with the Nevada Department of Transportation about placing a secondary transmission line across the Virgin River at the State Route 70 (Riverside Road) bridge that would allow the waterline to connect the south side of the river to the north side. With 37% of the valley’s water coming from the south side, Bunkerville area, this line will ensure a backup plan if anything happens to the current wells and storage facilities that serve that area. Previously, the VVWD had planned on placing the line underneath the new Exit 118 overpass once it was built, which would have cost $3.2 million. The new proposal, which passed unanimously, will only cost the district $1.2 million.

The board also approved the purchase of 2,000 feet of 12” pipe for a project to provide a second transmission line to Pressure Zone 3 over by the airport.

After a brief restroom break, the board began their final talks of the water rate increases, with summary presentations given by Water District Manager Kevin Brown and Mike Chandler of Bowen, Collins & Associates.

“We aren’t some simple, small water system. We’re complex and complicated,” said Brown.

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Mike Chandler, a representative of Bowen, Collins & Associates presented a summation of his presentation Tuesday night before the final vote of the VVWD Board to raise the water rates in the valley. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

He continued with statistics showing how deep in the mud the water district really is. With their current expenses exceeding revenues and multiple breakdowns of facilities and pipe breaks, the district must begin to catch up to where they should be financially and take care of what needs to be done. In his presentation, he also cites from a 2013 fact sheet that “debt service is typically only about five to ten percent of the general fund budgets of state and municipal governments” and notes that the VVWD is currently running at 31%, which affects operations all around.

In Chandler’s presentation, he stressed the fact that while the area runs its peak water usage in July and August, that is the level of service the district must maintain year-round to be safe. He also stressed that the district is well behind of what was projected for yearly revenues, due to users already cutting back their water usage, which reduces the fees and monies received by the district.

In the end, VVWD Vice President Barbara Ellestad stated that talks had gone on for too long and that action needed to be taken now. So, she made a motion according to the recommendations at the end of Chandler’s presentation. Those included raising the base fees for ¾” pipe to $25 and for all other meter sizes, $50 increments each, meaning that a 1” pipe would be a $50 fee, 2” $100 fee and so on.

The motion also included that there would be revision of the Volume Block Tiers based as proposed and increasing those tier rates on the 3x, 3x tiers. A new debt service base surcharge will also be added, scaled to meter size and reduced on a pro-rated debt retirement basis, with the first reduction scheduled for 2019 when the first bond is paid off.

Operations and practices of the district are to remain the same, and for those who opt to change their meter size to offset their months fees, will either be given an credit (for reducing the meter size) or they will be charged the difference in Ordinance 2 impact fees and possibly allowed to set up a payment plan over a certain amount of years. While the recommendation and motion stated to allow for a three year payment plan to cover those costs, the board will be determining how many years exactly will be allowed at their next meeting on February 17 at 5 p.m.

Finally, as part of the motion, the locked meter rates are to be raised and the rate evaluation will be revisited no later than December 1, 2016.

The above rate increases will begin with the first meter reading period in April, which staff estimated was to be around the third week.

With Ellestad putting forth the motion, seconded by Richard Bowler, it passed 3-2, with President Nephi Julien voting for it and Sandra Ramaker and Robert “Bubba” Smith voting against it.

Full details on the rate increase and information from both presentations are available at the water district’s website, www.vvh2o.

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