Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) director Bubba Smith once again, and perhaps for the last time, aired his belief in a staff conspiracy against golf courses and general dishonesty. Smith told MLN that he has taken a job starting next month as a senior benefits counselor in the Dallas, Texas area and will be leaving the board.
Smith did a presentation complete with charts of the tentative long-range budget of the district using a hand puppet. “I spent a lot of hours on water issues,” said Smith, who then gave a brief history of federal and state legislation that has changed how water is allocated and used in Nevada and the Virgin Valley.
Smith then recounted his personal experiences as a former employee of the City of Mesquite recreation department, and how he was transferred after he challenged a city decision to charge people in Bunkerville an additional fee for using Mesquite facilities.
“I called them liars,” said Smith, because they didn’t “tell the public that the county had given thousands of dollars of grant money to the city” specifically for paying the county resident share of the recreational facilities cost. Smith said he was transferred to the Senior Center but lost his job there after calling the city out for trying to charge out of city residents more for meals even though the meal funds came from the federal government “that doesn’t care about city or state boundaries.”
Director Smith called the city incidents a “Charlie Brown moment” not after the cartoon character, but after the name of the Mesquite city official he said lied to the people of the city about the recreational fees and charging higher for meals to out of city residents.
Smith then said that his presentation “was to show how the water district uses the Charlie Brown policy,” with golf courses in Mesquite. He then stated his view that the staff was plotting against the golf courses with the attitude of “We’re going to collect it from you because we can, not because we need it. What’s worse is we’re doing it based upon what Las Vegas will pay for those water shares, and Las Vegas isn’t using one single drop of the water.”
Smith was referring to the current contracts for water shares that are leased by some golf courses. The lease agreements expire in 2019. In previous board meetings, there have been discussions of raising the lease fees when they expire. Currently, leases of water shares to the Southern Nevada Water Authority pay about ten times the lease rates of golf courses in Mesquite.
“Every drop we give to Las Vegas gets banked and held, they don’t use one drop,” Smith added. Smith then recounted that he had been in “every closed door meeting in the last 10 years and they are sitting in these meetings and figuring out how they can give it to you,” pointing to the audience. Smith clarified that the taxing plans came from staff not from board members. “It is your responsibility (as directors) to protect the people from staff,” Smith added.
At this point director Barbara Ellestad abruptly left the meeting.
After Ellestad left, Smith was repeatedly questioned by Mesquite businessman and city council candidate Dave Ballweg “Are you saying that there are meetings being held and that you are accusing staff members of conspiring against the golf courses?” Smith replied “Just the fact we are having this conversation is…” Ballweg interrupted and asked “Yes or no.” Ballweg pressed Smith again “You are saying they are having meetings to punish the golf courses, yes or no?” Smith said “Absolutely yes.”
Director Ellestad later contacted the reporters at the meeting to explain why she walked out. “After all the time, money and anguish I endured helping expose what the Clark County District Attorney has called criminal behavior of former district staff and consultants, I would be the last person on earth to participate or allow a cover-up of staff plotting against golf courses or anyone else. For the second time in several months director Smith has made false accusations against the water district staff. For that reason I left the meeting in protest. Director Smith’s accusations are actually the lie in this story.”
In other business, the board approved the final budget for the fiscal year ending in June 30, of 2017. As adopted, the budget has a deficit on $6,856,458 for the fiscal year, which is covered mainly by reserves. With the deficit, there will be $7.1 million left in the reserve account. The district’s long-range projections show the deficit reduced over the next two years and ending in a surplus thereafter. The deficit is mainly due to large on-going construction projects that have been previously approved.
The motion to approve was four yes with director Sandra Ramaker voting no. Ramaker asked to have a written list of her objections to the budget included in the record. Board President Nephi Julien expressed his disappointment that Ramaker chose to submit her objections after the vote and “not discuss them in public.”
The list of objections submitted in writing by Ramaker included “First and foremost, this budget intentionally hides from the public the intent by some on this board and staff to make money from share leasing while ignoring the importance of keeping our water here to best serve the public.”