By Linda Faas
The five board members of Virgin Valley Water District were unanimous in their praise of District Manager Kevin Brown in delivering his annual performance evaluation at their Dec. 4 meeting. Brown’s evaluation was the focal point of a light agenda that included only one other action item besides the board’s scoring of Brown’s job performance over the past year.
Brown has managed VVWD since mid-2013. Hired on in a chaotic period of financial shortfalls and charges of mismanagement and fraud by prior district employees, Brown has managed a dramatic turnaround in the district’s entire operation. Comments by board members reflected the high regard in which Brown is held by his superiors, his peers in other governing bodies around the area, and his VVWD staff.
Rich Bowler praised Brown’s forward planning skills, saying the district is “leaps and bounds” ahead of its status when Brown arrived. Bowler, while praising Brown’s leadership, also gave credit to district finance officer Wes Brown for his role in bringing financial stability to the district after a period when expenses outstripped income and massive rate increases were levied.
Board vice president Ben Davis noted Brown’s work in positioning the district for a future handoff of management. It is well-understood that Brown is nearing his potential retirement date, and is praised for creating a stable work environment for the next manager.
Travis Anderson, himself an engineer for the City of Mesquite, appreciates Brown’s willingness to work with the board in building solid infrastructure and work procedures. The transition to a GIS database has been a key to better business practices now used by the district.
The newest board member, Randy Laub, spoke of the strong personal relationship Brown has built with his staff. Laub related an anecdote of a conversation he shared with VVWD workers prior to Laub’s appointment to the board. Asking the workers if they spoke with Brown often, they indicated that wasn’t really necessary because “they trusted him” and his leadership.
Board president Nephi Julien closed out the evaluation by stating the board’s appreciation for Brown’s actions that have brought VVWD from crisis management to a forward planning body.
The board, in keeping with its 2017 procedure for discussing salary adjustments for Brown, delayed that action to March when the entire budget will be reviewed. Any salary increase can be viewed in context to other staff increases when all district expenses are considered.
In other business, the board reviewed an agreement negotiated with Glorieta Geoscience Inc., a New Mexico geohydrologic firm that is being hired to assist in siting future VVWD wells. The company will review available published and unpublished reports on geology and hydrology in Virgin Valley and surrounding area and combine data into a single database for utilization in geospatial analysis. The result is intended to aid VVWD in placing at least three of its future production well locations.
The board approved payment of $61,400 to Glorieta Geoscience for the project which will be completed in about six months.
Hydrologist Aaron Bunker gave an update on pending well projects. Well 27A is now online, having passed all state testing. Right of way actions for Well 34, north of Mesquite, are expected to move forward in the coming week. The pumphouse and piping for replacement Well 1A in Bunkerville are proceeding as planned. A used motor from Well 27 may not be usable at Well 26 as hoped. A decision must be made whether to expend repair costs on Well 26 or defer until a new well will be put online next summer. That decision is pending.
Good news came from Kevin Brown in his manager’s report. He announced that BLM manager Gayle Marrs Smith and her staff will come to Mesquite Dec. 7 with the intent of writing the language for the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the BLM and VVWD concerning Gold Butte National Monument. In 2016 VVWD had submitted specific language concerning access and management of its water rights in the proposed monument area, but the final monument proclamation did not contain that language. This left concern for future interpretation of access to those water rights under monument management. The pending MOU is intended to clarify those issues.
Brown also reported that partially due to a brisk construction environment, only one architect responded to the district’s request for proposal for construction of an addition to the VVWD headquarters building. Campbell and Associates of Washington, Utah. is expected to submit a building proposal to the board in January.