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City Council to address appointments, natural gas shutoffs

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By David Giuliani

The Las Vegas City Council will meet twice this week, with issues such as appointment of city department heads and natural gas shutoff policies on its agenda.

This evening, the council will hear new Mayor Tony Marquez’s recommendations on the appointment of an interim city manager and city department heads. He could reappoint the existing managers or appoint new ones, with the council’s consent.

Councilman Morris Madrid said this morning he hadn’t received the meeting agenda for today’s meeting. He said he should have had the agenda by now. Without it, he said, it is hard to prepare for the meeting.

Marquez said this morning that he made the agenda available to the public by noon Sunday by posting it on the front window at City Hall.

At its meeting Wednesday, the council is expected to receive a report about the city’s procedures for shutting off natural gas customers.

Last winter, the city turned off natural gas to hundreds of customers during the coldest months. At the time, city officials maintained that the utility had to operate as a business.

However, many alleged that the city had turned the gas off for poor and elderly customers, questioning whether the city violated state law in doing so.

The presentation will be by officials from the city’s finance department.

Although the issue has been a hot topic in town, the council hasn’t addressed the issue yet. Mayor Tony Marquez was elected mayor earlier this month, ousting his predecessor, Henry Sanchez, who staunchly defended the city’s shutoff practices.

Marquez made the city’s natural gas rates a centerpiece of his campaign.

The state auditor last month released a report highly critical of the city’s natural gas rates, showing how the utility didn’t follow its own ordinance.

During a public forum shortly before the March 4 election, State Auditor Hector Balderas said his office may look into the city’s shutoff practices.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the council will get an update on the fire and police departments’ emergency response procedures. Marquez asked for this presentation after a truck headed to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad veered off the road north of Las Vegas earlier this month. The truck was carrying defense-related radioactive waste.

Marquez said he called council members after it happened to make sure they were in the loop.

The council will also be presented with a proposed letter from the city’s public safety advisory committee. That panel is concerned that Alta Vista Regional Hospital may be turning away rape victims, advising them to go to St. Vincent Regional Medical Center.

The hospital maintains it gives victims a choice, but a Highlands University officer stated in a report in November that a student victim was told to go to St. Vincent. The proposed letter urges the hospital to give a choice to victims.

On another issue, the council will consider approving a bid for the second phase of Lee Drive improvements.

The city received four bids on March 12, with Sangre de Cristo Gravel Products of Las Vegas turning in the low bid at $81,446. Other bids were from HO Construction Co. ($98,320), Crespin’s Paving & Maintenance Co. ($106,630) and Rio West Construction Co. ($123,700).

An engineer’s estimate for the project was $78,735.

At a glance

What: City Council organizational meeting, required to be held within 21 days after the election.

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: City Council chambers in City Hall.

• • •

What: City Council special meeting

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: San Miguel County Commission chambers in old courthouse

Council’s Wednesday agenda

• The Las Vegas City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the council’s chambers at City Hall, 1700 N. Grand Ave.

Acknowledgements

• West Las Vegas High School choir, which is the state champion.

Presentations

• Presentation by finance department on the process and procedures in place prior to shutoff of services.

City manager’s report

• Update on upcoming use of effluent water.

• Presentation on city’s emergency response procedures.

• Public safety committee’s recommendations for Alta Vista Regional Hospital’s handling of rape victims.

• Report on the federally funded Alamo Street project, which is in its second phase.

Business items

• Discussion and direction regarding process and procedures currently in place prior to shutoff of natural gas services.

• Resolution authorizing San Miguel County to join with the city to combine emergency management efforts.

• Joint powers agreement for the Office of Emergency Management between the city and the county.

• Resolution in support of a grant application by the city and MainStreet Las Vegas to the Economic Development Administration for the Grand Avenue streetscape and renovation project. The resolution would have the city accepting fiscal agent responsibilities.

• Award of construction bid for the city’s Lee Drive improvement project. Sangre de Cristo Gravel Products is the low bidder.

Hires

• Police officer.

• Law enforcement information specialist for Police Department.