Follow an open process

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By Optic Editorial Board

Last week’s Las Vegas City Council debate over a water line extension to the Solid Waste Transfer Station, the first phase toward getting it to Airport Road, was messy and just plain unnecessary, but the council made the right decision in denying the extension as proposed and allowing city staff to resubmit the project at a future meeting. But moving forward from here is going to take some work.

Let’s back up and review the situation. Last month, council members delayed approval of a line extension to the Zemway area north of town until they had time to look into concerns that had been raised. Councilor Tonita Gurule-Giron had asked to see specific documents — which she had every right to review — related to the existing water line and its various water taps. She also raised questions about Mayor Alfonso Ortiz’s family connections as they related to the water taps, and the mayor adamantly denied any improprieties involved.

Then, last Wednesday, city staff again presented the first-phase project proposal, but it had been substantially redrawn. Now it was going to include the city’s transfer station and cost two or three times more than previously estimated. And, once again, there were questions about water taps, some of which Gurule-Giron called illegal.

Councilor Diane Moore rightfully chimed in that the process wasn’t being followed, and that she felt as if it were being rushed through.

Moore was also correct, in our opinion, to suggest that the extension is needed. Looping the water line as proposed will improve water quality in the area, and the increased water pressure created by the extension is needed to maximize fire protection for parts of the city, including the transfer station.

The vote to deny the proposed extension and allow staff to resubmit it later was a split decision, with the mayor siding with Moore and councilor Andrew Feldman and voting in favor. That means that, more than likely, its approval next month will be another 2-2 vote among council members, and the mayor will again cast the tie-breaking vote. That would be unfortunate, since it would only result in lingering questions about the mayor’s perceived interest in the matter.

What would be better is for the city staff to address head-on, and without mayoral involvement, exactly how those water taps came about, so the public (and Gurule-Giron and councilor David Romero) will be able to see what the city is getting. The project, ultimately, may need to be approved, but not before some legitimate questions are openly addressed.