Las Vegas Sun

August 27, 2014

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End of water coalition sought after $860 million pipeline plan halted

Sun Coverage

Seeking to save tax dollars, a Clark County commissioner wants to put a quick end to the Clean Water Coalition, a multi-agency organization foundering for a purpose after plans were killed to build an $860 million pipeline it was to oversee.

The Clean Water Coalition was formed in 2002 with the purpose of overseeing construction of the pipeline and coordinating efforts of Southern Nevada wastewater treatment plants, which have grown from three back then to four today.

After seeing a story in the Sun on Wednesday about several Southern Nevada municipalities still collecting utility fees from homeowners for the Clean Water Coalition, Giunchigliani said she couldn’t understand why the coalition even existed anymore.

“We’re not supposed to be protecting jobs just for the sake of protecting jobs,” Giunchigliani said. “We don’t want people being paid with tax dollars for no reason, for no services.”

Giunchigliani is one of several candidates running for Las Vegas mayor. One of her competitors for that job is colleague Larry Brown, also a county commissioner. Brown sits on the board of the Clean Water Coalition.

Brown said Tuesday the Clean Water Coalition will cease to exist in June. He couldn’t be reached immediately Wednesday to talk about Giunchigliani’s push to terminate the coalition three months sooner.

The coalition’s staff is headed by Chip Maxfield, a former Clark County commissioner who decided not to run for the commission in 2008. Maxfield, instead, supported Brown’s candidacy and Brown won Maxfield’s old commission seat.

Months later, the Clean Water Coalition board hire Maxfield as general manager of the coalition’s tiny staff of three. To avoid a conflict of interest, Brown did not vote on the hire.

In 2009, salaries and benefits for four coalition staffers, including Maxfield, totaled more than $621,000.

Maxfield could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Giunchigliani wants to stop those salaries now instead of in June. She has the support of Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who will also ask commissioners Tuesday to refund about $2.7 million the county collected from sewer ratepayers for the Clean Water Coalition. The coalition stopped accepting fees from the county and its other member agencies in October 2010. The $2.7 million represents the amount of money the county already collected for the nine months from October through June 30, 2011.

“I’m not looking for soft landings for people,” Sisolak said of Clean Water Coalition employees. “Every dollar we can save is significant.”

As reported in the Sun on Wednesday, other government members of the Clean Water Coalition — Henderson, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas — have not yet decided if they will keep their collected money or refund it. Las Vegas stopped collecting the fee in January. North Las Vegas stopped this month. But Henderson still collects the fee, and City Councilman Steve Kirk said Henderson is talking about collecting the fee from now on, but calling it something else or designating it “discretionary” money that the city can spend in any way it sees fit.

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