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December 19, 2014

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Town might cash in further on sunshine

Fourth lease in energy zone could bring Boulder City another $2 million a year

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STEVE MARCUS / LAS VEGAS SUN FILE

This solar field is part of the Nevada Solar One 64-megawatt solar thermal power plant in Boulder City’s Eldorado Valley Energy Zone.

Boulder City leases land in its Eldorado Valley Energy Zone to three solar-power companies, and on Tuesday the City Council may add a fourth.

NextLight, a San Francisco-based renewable energy company, wants 1,100 acres to build a 100-megawatt plant, enough energy to power about 75,000 homes.

Boulder City has become a hub for the renewable power industry thanks to its quick approval of solar sites, access to power lines from the Hoover Dam and 350 sunny days a year.

The land leases are earning the small town big money.

The three existing leases net the city about $2 million annually. The NextLight lease would likely be for more than $2 million per year for the next 40 years.

• • •

In a letter to newspaper reporters, the lawyer for beleaguered Henderson City Manager Mary Kay Peck claims “political motivations” are involved in the manager’s apparently imminent departure from the city.

The lawyer, Norman K. Kirshman, didn’t elaborate beyond noting it’s municipal election season.

City Council members scoff at the notion that they have anything to gain politically by firing the city manager.

On Tuesday they will decide Peck’s fate.

The council agenda presents these options: termination with cause, termination without cause, resignation, agreement on a severance deal, and administrative leave.

Another agenda item, following the Peck matter, is appointment of a new city manager. That would likely be Mark Calhoun, an assistant city manager who has been filling Peck’s place for the past month.

Calhoun has worked for the city since 1983.

Peck was named city manager 18 months ago, without a search outside City Hall, to replace Philip Speight, who held the position for 19 years.

When he left, Speight recommended Peck, who had been an assistant city manager, and the council voted 4-0 to give her the job and a $225,000 annual contract.

Councilmen Andy Hafen and Steve Kirk, now candidates for mayor, both voted to approve the hiring, as did Mayor Jim Gibson and Councilwoman Gerri Schroder. Councilman Jack Clark was absent from the meeting.

So how has it come to this?

Peck, who has been a city employee for 14 years, was ordered to take 30 days off, with pay, and told not to speak with other city employees during that time.

The forced hiatus, which a city spokeswoman said was a vacation, ends this week.

What was Peck’s downfall? Sources tell me Peck disagreed with staff members over budget figures, micromanaged and was abrasive with employees.

Kirshman, her lawyer, says that’s all false. But he refused to discuss or speculate on reasons for the dispute.

If there had been problems with Peck’s performance, he says, they should have been aired in an evaluation. There haven’t been any, he said.

Until now.

• • •

The North Las Vegas City Council has trimmed more than $15 million from this year’s budget — cutting department budgets by 3 percent and continuing a hiring freeze.

And to cut $30 million from next year’s budget, the city has reduced department budgets by another 3 percent, continued the hiring freeze and cut about 70 vacant positions.

The city now has to slice another $8.2 million off next year’s budget because revenue is dropping.

On Wednesday the City Council will discuss how to do it.

Among the possibilities: layoffs and outsourcing City Hall jobs.

The massive shortfalls are the result of falling sales and property tax revenues across the state.

The city is negotiating with the city police union and has won deferrals in cost-of-living pay increases from the firefighters union.

However, the city employees’ Teamsters Local 14 has rejected a cost containment package.

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