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October 21, 2014

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ANSWERS: CLARK COUNTY:

Employees get OK to switch unions — and 3% raises

With no comment, Clark County commissioners approved what amounts to about 3 percent raises for 16 employees of the Clark County Fire Department last week.

More raises for the fire department? When does it end?

These aren’t employees classified as firefighters. The 16 employees are fire auto and equipment technicians, fire auto and equipment specialists, fire auto and equipment supervisors, fire chemical engineers, fire equipment technicians, fire mechanical supervisors, fire protection engineers and a fire materials controller.

Until the unanimous vote by the commission, all of these county employees were members of the Service Employees International Union. But by its vote, the commission voted to include these employees in the International Association of Fire Fighters union.

With that change came the pay raises.

Why did the county even vote on this, especially because county commissioners have never been able to get what they think is a real salary concession from the firefighters union in tough economic times?

They were forced by a Feb. 10 order of the Nevada Employee-Management Relations Board. That board decided that these fire department positions “have a greater community of interest” with the fire department than with other county classifications. If the county wanted to fight the order, it would have to file suit in District Court.

So how much more is this going to cost the county — which, of course, really means how much is it going to cost taxpayers, and what are we getting for the extra money we are paying?

Don Burnette, chief administrative officer, said: “Those 16 employees are doing the same thing they did on Monday, we’re just paying them collectively $60,000 more a year at a time when we’re making cutbacks and concessions throughout county government.”

The average salary of these 16 employees will rise to $75,465.30, not including benefits.

•••

Has the poor economy had an effect on how bids are submitted to, and accepted by, Clark County, which has the ability to keep a company alive for years with some of its larger projects?

Consider this: The Water Reclamation District last week asked commissioners to reject all bids on a $55 million water treatment project because all the submitted bids had problems. One contractor that had been disqualified because it turned a bid in too late filed a protest. And Richard Mendes, the district’s general manager, said companies are carefully watching competitors’ bids. So, he posited, the county should be doing the same.

Why are competing contractors doing that?

Because they are fighting for a shrinking pool of dollars for publicly funded projects. It is making them question everyone’s move. Mendes said more bids and bid protests are coming in.

“So things that passed in the past without challenge ... are being challenged,” he added. “There’s a new standard for accuracy.”

He added it only makes sense that if a company is going to be entrusted with $55 million of taxpayers’ money, it should exercise good judgment and care in submitting the bids, because that goes “a long way toward giving us comfort that they’re going to do the work on the job properly.”

Do you know what kinds of problems these bidders had?

Four bids had 22 problems, the county said. In one, a bidder’s contractor’s license wasn’t filed; a total bid price was not correctly calculated; one of them used a form that wasn’t part of the bid package.

Some commissioners seemed frustrated. Commissioner Steve Sisolak said he had never seen every bid rejected. “If we’re going to start doing this now, it’s incumbent upon us to do this every single time,” he said of checking for bid accuracy.

Steve Sisolak

Steve Sisolak

“If Water Rec is going to be the agency that sets the standard,” Commissioner Larry Brown added, “I’m going to support that.”

•••

County Quote of the Week

“Is there anybody in the state of Nevada who does this work?”

— Sisolak, before the commission approved a contract not to exceed $1.4 million for software and related items with Northwoods Consulting Partners of Dublin, Ohio. The company’s document-imaging, work flow and document-generating software will be used by the Child Support Division of the Clark County District Attorney’s Office. The answer to Sisolak’s question was “no.”

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