The board of the Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) agreed on one issue at their June 20 meeting: director Sandra Ramaker should have brought her budget concerns up during the public meetings and not after the hearings closed. Ramaker had requested that her written objections be made part of the public record immediately after the vote in May.
Director Rich Bowler requested the Ramaker document to be on the agenda so each item could be discussed in public. Bowler chastised Ramaker saying “In the future we should go over the document then discuss, and do it before the vote.”
Board chair Nephi Julien agreed saying “We have open meetings for a reason, submitting after the vote denies the public a chance to comment.”
Director Bubba Smith while being less critical of Ramaker also agreed that her written comments should have been submitted and discussed before the vote.
The board then point by point discussed the content of the Ramaker objections.
Director Barbara Ellestad objected to the first paragraph, which states in part that the adopted budget “intentionally hides from the public the intent by some on the board and staff to make money from share leasing, while ignoring the importance of keeping our water here to best serve the public.”
Ellestad said the statement accused staff and board members of illegal and possible criminal activity. “Where is the proof, where is the evidence for such a statement?” Ellestad added that if there was criminal activity on the board she wanted it “investigated and dealt with.” Ramaker replied that she didn’t mean “any single individual but the whole board.” Ellestad again asked for proof.
Ellestad and Bowler then demanded that Ramaker withdraw the statement. Ramaker did not respond to the request. After the meeting, Ramaker said she would “think about it but I haven’t made up my mind,” on whether or not to withdraw the statement.
Board members then reviewed the other issues raised by Ramaker’s letter. Bowler, Julien and Ellestad repeatedly told Ramaker that each of the issues had been previously discussed during two budget hearings. “We discussed every one of these issues during two budget hearings, one lasting seven hours,” said Ellestad.
Ramaker replied “I wasn’t happy with what the budget is so I voted against it.” Bowler told Ramaker “Just because I voted for the budget doesn’t mean I supported everything in it.”
Chair Julien ended the discussion by telling Ramaker “If you feel strongly about it you need to speak up. I honestly believe that dissenting opinions help me make up my mind.”
The next agenda item was a request by Ramaker for the board to consider developing and implementing a “process by which the district’s annual budget would be prepared in accordance with or similar to the State of Nevada’s Priorities and Performance based Budgeting Instructions.” Ramaker distributed to the board a copy of the state process.
Director Bowler objected saying that he had just received the information which violates the district policy that requires materials had to be made available to board members and the public 10 days before the meeting at which the issue is discussed. Bowler noted that his request to review Ramaker’s letter criticizing the budget at the last meeting had been objected to by Ramaker for not “technically meeting” the 10 day notice requirement. Because of the Memorial Day holiday a full 10 working days notice was not met by Bowler’s request.
Ramaker said she provided a link to the site in her memo requesting the budget discussion. Bowler and Ellestad said the link wouldn’t open and they had not reviewed the material. Bowler also suggested that the board revisit the 10 day rule to clarify how material should be submitted to the board and the public. Staff agreed to place the issue on a future agenda.
After discussion, the board tabled Ramaker’s request until the next meeting.
The board then discussed whether or not to hire a full time attorney or to continue with the current practice of retaining a private legal firm. Former board member Ted Miller told the board that “You have spent millions training your current attorneys and you would have to do it all over again if you hire someone new.” After discussion the board unanimously agreed to first look at the issues that would be involved in hiring an attorney and see what legal expenses were in the next six months and then review the issue again in January.
In other business the board unanimously approved new design standards for construction of water lines in the district. Directors Bowler and Ellestad complimented the staff for working cooperatively with contractors and developers on the new standards, “without compromising public safety.”
Finally, the board approved a contract for asphalt repair during the next year with the lowest bidder, J and J Construction.