Mention the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant in Moapa and you’ll get a variety of responses from people. Some want to close it down -- it’s a health or environmental hazard -- while others defend it as a necessary part of the power grid and expound on the upgrades, which are making it environmentally compliant.
While those issues stir up public feelings and arguments, the people who work at the plant go quietly about their business operating the facility until NVEnergy management or additional government regulations decide their fate. And about 10 percent of that full-time work force lives inMesquite.
Plant Director Dave Sharp, who moved to Southern Nevada about five years ago is not aMesquiteresident but says he wishes he were.
“I would live inMesquiteexcept my wife didn’t want me to live (there),” he told the MLN. “She wanted me to live down in Vegas so when she came to visit me we’d be in Vegas!” His wife, an artist, is still living in their home in centralUtahand visits him inLas Vegas. Their decision was based on the economics of trying to replace their house and studio inSouthern Nevadaat the height of the housing market.
“I know a lot of people I worked with inUtahretired inMesquite, and I think we have about a dozen employees who live there.”
Actually, Sharp has more than a dozen employees living inMesquite. Operations manager Darren Patten estimates the number to be 15 people who work at the Moapa plant and 20-25 who work in other facilities in the Arrow Canyon Complex at Apex and commute toMesquite.
Patten lives inMesquiteand commutes with maintenance manager Don Hopper to the plant daily. Both men moved there from other small towns, Patten fromUtahand Hopper fromFloridaand both agree on why they loveMesquite.
Patten is adamant when he explains, “For me (it was the) small town atmosphere…and as I crest the Apex hill and look at the brown haze on thevalleyofVegasI don’t want to live there.” He adds, “It’s just more family oriented. Eight golf courses have a lot to do with it too! And they treat the junior golfers, mine (his son) is one, very well.”
Hopper agrees, focusing on the smaller schools. “I moved here from northernFloridaand worked at a coal facility there and when I moved here my son was in middle school getting ready to go into high school and my daughter was in high school.”
Hopper noted he had lived in a really small town inFlorida, and liked the small school system there.Mesquitefit the bill with a small school and by meeting his wife’s primary requirement -- “My wife required one thing – a Walmart!”
Hopper also agrees he would not want to live inLas Vegas.
“When we go to Vegas or have to go to Vegas, we drive down the hill and see the cloud and it just…(Hopper left it at that). We come to work every morning…we come down the hill and see the (Moapa) valley, we see the plant. It’s all clean, everything looks nice. Some of the worse things I see (are) driving to Vegas.”
The impact of employees like Patten and Hopper and the other NV Energy employees who choose to live inMesquiteis tangible. Sharp would not provide exact salary estimates for his staff but explained, “They are competitive to the markets,” adding, ‘Management people including supervisors have specialized skills and are pretty well sought after so they (NV Energy) pay competitive market in the range of what western utilities pay.” He also noted that many of the other jobs at the plant are paid, “good wages. They’re a union job.”
He said union workers easily make mid to high, five-figure salaries, with some workers and managers making six figures.
“Coal fired power plants provide a lot of jobs,” he said.
Reid Gardner maintains a full time force of about 150 people with staff expanding during regularly scheduled maintenance and repair schedules.
“We obviously don’t keep a full work force to do all the work all the time but when we go into an overhaul we might have 600 employees.”
Many of those workers will live inMesquiteor nearby contributing to the local economy. Whatever the disagreements about the Reid Gardner plant, one thing is certain, some of the best jobs inMesquitearen’t here: they’re 38 miles south down Interstate 15 in Moapa.