For the first time in several meetings, the board of the Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) voted unanimously on all issues before the group. The Dec. 15 meeting had two major issues on the agenda, addressing repairs of the Flat Top Mesa and airport water storage tanks and the annual evaluation of district manager Kevin Brown.
Manager Brown briefed the board on the problems found in the two storage tanks that serve the higher elevations of Mesquite. The tank located near the airport “shows significant deterioration of the interior protecting coating.” Brown said that there was corrosion of the tank walls, floor and roof supports.
Another issue Brown raised is that the Flat Top Mesa tank, although in the same water pressure zone as the airport tank, is 12 inches lower in overall height. This difference prevents the total filling of the airport tank without overflowing. If the tank could be raised, there would be “up to a 5 psi increase in the pressure zone helping the higher elevation area of that zone,” said Brown.
Brown requested the board fund a contract with Sunrise Engineering to perform an engineering study for the two tanks, with the proposed cost of the study not to exceed $6,700.00.
The board voted unanimously to proceed with the study.
The other major issue of the meeting was the annual evaluation of district manager Kevin Brown, which is required by state law to be done in public. Each director was previously given an evaluation form that covered several areas.
Board Chair Nephi Julien asked each director to comment on the performance of Brown during the last year, starting with director Sandra Ramaker who had served on the board the longest.
Ramaker said of Brown “We’ve had a great relationship,” and added “The district is running well.” Ramaker then gave Brown “excellent” ratings on each area of the evaluation form.
Director Rich Bowler also gave Brown excellent ratings, “I didn’t have one negative remark.” Bowler also had asked several employees of the district about Brown before the meeting, “I’ve yet to meet an employee who isn’t pleased.”
Director Smith also complimented Brown and noted that working for five different people is “extremely difficult.” Smith also said “As elected officials our job is to be a buffer between the public and the staff.” Smith complimented Brown for listening to the public as well as the board on issues.
Barbara Ellestad, the newest member of the board noted that Brown “took the job without a raise for two years.” She told the board that Brown deserved a raise for the work he has done in the last year. One area of improvement Ellestad said she would like to see is having more alternatives on issues, “I am big on alternatives and sometimes we haven’t always been presented alternative solutions, but you are doing a much better job than last year.”
Board Chair Julien also complimented Brown and opened up a discussion on a possible pay raise. Julien asked the board to have a unanimous decision on any raise, “This isn’t an issue that we want a three to two vote on.” Julien then opened the discussion for public comment.
Several members of the public told the board that Brown deserved a raise. Businessman Dave Ballweg told the board “I don’t think you could find a better manager than Keven.” Resident Mike McGreer supported a raise but said “Kevin is only as good as the employees,” and asked the board about employee raises. Bob Shively also supported Brown, “I would endorse a 10 percent raise with the understanding that we pay our debt down.”
Board member Bowler said that he had compared salaries with other districts in the area and that Brown “is paid way less than the manager of the Moapa Water District and the OPUD.” Bowler also told the board “We know what poor management can cost us.”
In discussion directors Bowler, Ellestad and Julien suggested a ten percent raise, while directors Ramaker and Smith suggested a five percent raise. Chair Julien suggested they split the difference and approve a 7.5 percent raise. The board agreed, and the raise was approved unanimously. With the raise, Brown will make just over $100,000 a year in salary. The raise will be effective the first pay period in 2016.
Brown emotionally thanked the board and his staff for their support. Brown also told the audience that there had been comments that suggested the district was “operating in the red.” Brown, supported by district accountant Wes Smith, emphatically stated that is not the case. “We are operating in the black, in particular with the recent rate increase,” said Smith.