The February 19 meeting of the Virgin Valley Water District was dominated by a lengthy discussion of water line placement for two pending Sun City subdivisions. Developer Pulte Homes has submitted final plans for approval of 108 homes in Horseshoe Ridge and 68 homes in Tortoise Mountain neighborhoods. In design plans for those two areas, Pulte engineered all homesites to follow its existing practice of placing lateral water connection lines at the center of each lot. This design plan is not in compliance with VVWD standard placement of water lines at the adjoining property line where they can be more efficiently serviced by the district.
The existing Sun City Anthem development, to date, has used the center lot, single connection design, citing simplicity of its plan for the homeowner. That design was apparently verbally authorized by previous VVWD management. Pulte has no written contract that allows that center lot design to be used throughout the entire development. Pulte has built about 1800 current homes in Sun City, with at least that many proposed for the future.
Over the years VVWD has dealt with continuing issues of water line failures. VVWD crews repair and replace up to as many as 190 water line breaks a year that occur throughout the city. The high number of breaks is caused by a combination of factors, including the impact of high temperatures and highly corrosive soil on water pipes used by the district. Reducing the frequency and cost of repair for those breaks is of paramount importance for the district and the community because of the damage such breaks cause to streets and private property.
VVWD moved from “V” brand piping, used in the early development of Sun City and other areas of the City, to Centennial pipe, expected to provide a longer life expectancy for the lateral pipelines. VVWD was awarded a financial settlement against “V” pipe manufacturer due to early failure of those pipes. That pipe change produced good early results, but by 2018 the Centennial pipe was failing at the fastest rate of any pipe used in the district. Each street repair patch costs VVWD about $800. With a standard design plan of two pipes laid side by side on the property line, VVWD is able to repair/replace two pipes in one asphalt patch for almost the same cost. This preventative measure saves VVWD line crews time and money and reduces the number of street patches that are a constant frustration to impacted neighborhoods.
VVWD district manager Kevin Brown makes a solid financial case for enforcement of the standard double pipe placement at the property line, as it reduces overall costs for the district.
That standard was repeated in the September 2018 code approved by the board. In comments from the VVWD line crew, it was asserted that the single line patches in Sun City are costing the district extra expense that is borne by all district ratepayers.
VVWD board member Travis Anderson, who is also Mesquite city engineer, is concerned by the impact the VVWD standard will have on future Pulte engineering and construction. Southwest Gas is also working to add natural gas service to Sun City. Anderson, while agreeing with the rationale of the VVWD standard for water line placement at the property line, sees the quandary of engineering future Pulte development in hilly neighborhoods. The VVWD standard could require water lines to be buried near gas lines and diagonally cross portions of a lot under the driveway. This could potentially cause major expense to a homeowner in case of pipe failure, or possible confusion as to location of water and other utility conduits. Pulte contends that VVWD property line placement could mean laying water lines below gas lines and/or near telecommunication and electrical lines.
Pulte project manager John Schippert attended the meeting, appealing for a variance to continue the center lot placement of water lines for his 176 engineered plans. He contends that VVWD allowed that plan from the beginning of construction for the entire Sun City project.
With a clear division between the developer and the district, board president Nephi Julian made it known that it is necessary to bring all future residential development in the district into compliance with adopted standards so that all developers understand development rules and the district can improve its cost efficiencies. He asked Schippert and Pulte to acknowledge that policy.
Concluding the question before the board, VVWD approved a variance specifically for only Pulte’s two pending projects. Schippert and staff were directed to convene a meeting with their utility providers to discuss engineering and utility placement for future Sun City neighborhoods to avoid future design variance requests. The variance approval for the 176 homes was passed 4-0, with Rich Bowler excused absent.
In other board action, Layne Christiansen Construction was hired to rehabilitate Well 28. That well located north of Mesa View Hospital, is 17 years old, needing repairs to keep it in service. The board voted unanimously, 4-0, to accept Layne Christiansen’s low bid of $380,000 to complete that work. Well 28 is one of three district wells in current production, and will be taken offline as new Well 1A comes online in March.
The board discussed proposed purchase of .6 acre of land on Hardy Way as site for Well 26A. That well will replace Well 26 that is located nearby in the center of a City of Mesquite maintenance yard. The City is asking $75,000 for the land, while VVWD would sell a small metal building appraised at $18,000 to the City. Net cost would be $57,000 for the district. After discussion of relative cost of city land for VVWD compared to other utilities, the proposal was tabled. VVWD staff was directed to seek a more favorable financial arrangement for acquisition of the property.
VVWD begins it budget hearings for Fiscal Year 2020 in an extended meeting on March 5, beginning at 9am.