Members of the Las Vegas City Council apparently weren’t the only key players left out of the loop when the city administration quietly tried to change the intent of more than $1 million for a water project.
Robert Quintana, president of the Storrie Project Water Users Association, said Monday that no one informed his group about the change either — and the association was very much involved in the issue.
A couple of years ago, the state Water Trust Board approved $1.2 million for a study to install pipes for the association, reducing the more than 40 percent of water loss because of evaporation.
In return, the group was to give the city more water storage rights in Storrie Lake.
But last year, then-City Manager John Avila started working to change the purpose of the money for an effluent line along Cinder Road. Officials say that the board approved the request to change the intent earlier this year.
Avila said in an interview last week that the effluent lines would have gone all the way to Storrie members to spread treated wastewater on alfalfa fields.
He also said that the city planned to put in a sewer line in the same trench because of the system’s lack of capacity in north Las Vegas. This plan had the encouragement of businessman and former City Councilman Carlos Gallegos, who has a 32-lot subdivision on the north side.
Quintana said he never heard about that idea from Avila or any other city official. He said as far as he was concerned, the original plan was a go. Shortly after the city found out it had the money, Quintana said he met with Albuquerque-based Molzen-Corbin and Associates, an engineering firm, to start work on the plans.
“We spent quite a bit of time on the design for the delivery system,” Quintana said.
In recent weeks, City Council members have publicly questioned what the money is for, and one councilman, Andrew Feldman, has called the changed intent a “political move.”
However, Gallegos has taken exception to such views. He said the City Council should have known about the changed purpose and that George DuFour, the city’s utilities director, certainly knew about the issue.
DuFour has said he was in a meeting with Avila about the matter but that he was new on the job and didn’t know where Cinder Road was at that time.
Gallegos said he has enlisted the aid of both state Rep. Richard Vigil and Sen. Pete Campos.
“If I hadn’t pursued it, we would have lost the money already,” he said. “Everyone is looking at this as if it’s just helping Carlos Gallegos. This is helping the city. Every time a house gets built, the city gets tax money, the schools get money. Down the line, it will help me.”
The city had planned a special meeting for today on the state money, but it was canceled.