Following the recommendation of its government affairs consultant, Warren Hardy, the Mesquite City Council agreed Tuesday, Jan. 24, to develop its own plan for the conservation of the Virgin River riparian eco-system.
Hardy is a former state senator and assemblyman and has worked as the city’s legislative counsel since last year. But he also has consulted with Clark County officials about the conservation and rehabilitation plans required by federal regulations.
The goal set for Hardy was for the city to conform to a single conservation plan and either merge with Clark County’s efforts or drop its partial participation in the county plan.
Hardy noted there are several species in the Virgin River that are not covered by the county plan. He said he suspected there would be an increase soon in the fees charged to pay for the plan. He said county officials would not confirm a looming increase, but nor would they deny it.
He suggested the city modify its plant to conform with requirements of the federal government by adding the desert tortoise to its list of protected species. The city plan would also include the Virgin Valley Water District and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
Al Litman moved to accept Hardy’s recommendations and work with the other two entities are getting the single plan and fee structure formulated. Geno Withelder provided the second and the motion passed unanimously.
The council also approved the first reading of Bill No. 469 which would establish the city’s noise control ordinance. Although approval of the first reading of the draft and setting a public hearing for Feb. 12 passed unanimously and without comment, several protestors complained during the public comment period that the ordinance does go far enough to protect the citizens. Following the guidelines of the Nevada Open Meeting Law, the council did not respond to the public comments, but will wait until Feb. 12 for the open discussion during the public hearing then.
The Open Meeting Law also played a role in another council action.
City staff had been directed to find a way to cut costs in producing the estimated annual $27,705.92 price tag in producing the council meetings’ agenda packets. A staff report said the council held 79 meetings from Jan. 1, 2012, through Dec. 11, 2012, and 12 packets per meeting were compiled and printed.
For options to reduce costs were presented to the council. The council chose the option that would save about $24,000. That was to go “paperless.” The packets would be provided to council and staff electronically. It would cost just under $4,000 to provide the council and staff with iPads to read the packet during meetings. But City Attorney Cheryl Hunt had modified the first proposal, and some agenda packets still will be printed for members of the public.
The cost-saving measure passed unanimously.
The most contentious item of the evening resulted in a 4-1 vote to maintain the status quo. Councilman Karl Gustaveson had requested discussion about the progress the city has made in learning more about alternative power sources to the Overton Power District (OPD).
He said he was concerned because he keeps reading about city councilmen and the mayor attending OPD meetings and rumors that staff and councilmen are meeting with other power providers. He said if Mayor Mark Wier is directing councilmen and staff to attend meetings, all the council and the public should be made aware of what is being accomplished.
Councilmen George Rapson and Kraig Hafen responded that the mayor does not direct them. They have attended meetings of the OPD board in Overton and Mesquite as private citizens. Rapson read a brief summary of what city staff has done about the mayor’s Nov. 27, 2012, direction for City Manager Andy Barton to “explore alternative power providers in the region.”
Dixie Escalante Rural Electric Cooperative in Beryl, Utah, responded that it could not provide power to Mesquite at any rate lower than OPD.
Wier, Rapson and Hafen met Dec. 4 with management from Valley Electric Association of Pahrump. VEA managers said they might be interested in the Mesquite market and would consult with OPD. The two power providers met Dec. 11 in Las Vegas. The staff report said, “It appears that little, if any activity between the two parties will occur in the future.”
The city also provided a letter from Thomas H. Husted, VES Chief Executive Officer, who complained that information about that meeting provided to the OPD board by the company General Manager Lamar Leatham was “misleading and factually incorrect.”
Husted said Leatham told him Mesquite’s efforts to find another power provider were “an effort in futility,” although OPD would cooperate with the city’s efforts. However, Husted added, Leatham also told him “if VEA assisted the City of Mesquite in any way it would be considered an act of aggression.”
The summary also noted that Rapson, Hafen and staffers met with NV energy officials
Jan. 15. Nevada’s largest power company said it would be willing to either provide a city-owned utility with power or become the city’s power provider itself. NV Energy will develop several options and present them to the city later this month.
The summary also mentioned the stalled Toquop Power Plant. The plant, which is at the end of the permitting process, would have two 550 megawatt generators. But since Mesquite power demand at it top during the summer is 55-60 megawatts the city could not take over that facility unless another customer to use the excess power could be found.
The mayor concluded the discussion by stating that the council never would make any decision about what power company the citizens of Mesquite should use. That will always be left to a vote of the citizens, he said.