Compared to the previous Virgin Valley Water District meeting, Tuesday’s meeting was shorter and sweeter for the attendees.
The first item discussed had originally been in the consent agenda, but was then placed on the regular agenda for discussion regarding the new Falcon Ridge Car Wash going in by Wal-Mart on W Pioneer Boulevard. The new business will be the final business to receive the traditional Will Serve Letter as the board passed an approval of reforming the letter to include penalties for unused Will Serves, such as the undeveloped housing communities on the northeast side of Mesquite. Those areas are already lined up for water, but there is no one paying for it, losing the VVWD thousands in possible revenues. At a previous meeting in 2014, it had been determined that there were as many as 7,000 connections that were never completed. The board approved the motion that staff is to present them with a newer version of the letter at the next meeting that will include penalties for new customers/builders who do not comply with the district’s standards within a certain amount of time.
After hearing a presentation from Marty Johnson of the JNA Consulting Group, the board approved the motion to refinance all bonds from 2006 and 2008 that could save the district money with lower interest rates. With 30% of the current operational budget of the district going for debt payments, this was a welcomed item.
The board also approved the hiring of WSRP, LLC to perform the yearly audit of the district’s books, as they have for the past few years. Due to cost of living increases and expenses, the board will pay $14,300 for their services this year, a $200 increase from last year’s audit.
In other business, an approval passed for the postponement of maintenance and repairs to the freeway water tank supply line and instead use the budgeted funds to complete the Mesquite Heights Transmission Line Project in the northwest part of Mesquite.
The VVWD also received a letter from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stating that “there are no measurable hydrologic interface between the Muddy River aquifer, where the District withdraws groundwater for culinary needs, and the Virgin River.” This is part of an issue that current VVWD Vice President Barbara Ellestad and businessman David Ballweg had been pushing for since Fall 2011. This issue stems from the Mesquite Lands Act, which BLM stipulated that a Habitat Conservation Program be conducted.
“This was a very, very expensive plan for businesses and residents in the Virgin Valley,” Ellestad said. “This would have placed another ordinance fee on every hook up in the Virgin Valley… to grade one acre of land would have been over $1,600 [in fees alone].”
“I am extremely happy,” Ellestad said, “with the work, specifically with Aaron Bunker and John Willis with the city put into this. I am also extremely happy with the work done by Warren Hardy on this… We never should have had to go through all of this, and now we have a letter that admits that.”
Aaron Bunker, the District’s Hydrologist, suggested that they draft a letter in response stating that they agree with the finding of the FWS and that the District is no longer pursuing an Incidental Take Permit and will not be a formal participant in the Virgin River Habitat Conservation Program, although they will continue to assist with monitoring as needed.
After passing a series of motions made by Ellestad looking to direct staff to investigate possible interlocal agreements such as St. George has and to continue monitoring, she also requested that staff look into whether a fee was ever implemented because of this program, and to remove that fee if it had.
Closing reports from staff were minimal. Wells 28 and 31 are up and running, and the sleeve has been installed at Well 27, staff is waiting for installation on that one.
District Manager Kevin Brown did reveal, however, that the staff’s assumptions that the water tank up by the Mesquite Airport could last another couple of years before needing repairs. “It’s in much worse shape than we thought it was. The inside has failed, they’re thinking two or three years ago. We will recommend that we tackle that project next year.”
Brown also noted that in a meeting with the Nevada Department of Transportation Tuesday afternoon, the project of putting a water line onto the bridge on Riverside Road (going to Bunkerville) is moving forward and NDOT has been very helpful in working with the VVWD staff. With this method, the District stands to save over $2 million as opposed to alternatives.