County, North Las Vegas fight over sewage


Clark County and North Las Vegas may one day agree on a place for the city to release its treated wastewater, but the two sides have a little more bad blood to discharge first.

County commissioners and North Las Vegas officials sparred once again Tuesday over the city's request to flush treated sewage from a city treatment plant into an open, county-owned flood control channel.

Without the channel, wastewater from the new $285 million facility essentially has no place to go.

After criticizing city officials for building the plant and other past decisions, the commissioners voted to table the matter until July 5 in hopes that a solution can be reached.

But the two sides didn't seem much closer to an agreement than they did at previous meetings.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani was especially harsh, arguing that the county would only be "reinforcing bad behavior" if it were to help North Las Vegas out of its bind.

City Councilwoman Anita Wood said it was time for the county and the city to put away the past and work together on a solution.

To show that North Las Vegas is negotiating in good faith on Sloan Channel, the city has offered to end several other unrelated but long-simmering disputes with the county.

Several commissioners said the specifics of that offer sounded more like the city trying to leverage the county.

"There's not been any good faith as far as I've seen, and I've been a resident of North Las Vegas for half my life," Commissioner Tom Collins said.

The entities also could wind up facing off in court.

In the meantime, their battle continues to delay action to dissolve the Clean Water Coalition, the regional agency formed in 2002 to build a $800 million wastewater pipeline to Lake Mead.

Work on the pipeline project was suspended in December 2009, but the coalition has endured and, until recently, continued to collect fees from valley sewer customers.

It takes a unanimous vote from the coalition's four-member board to dismantle the entity, but North Las Vegas City Councilman Robert Eliason has blocked the breakup.

His latest no vote came immediately after Tuesday's commission meeting.

Wood said Eliason is simply following the advice of the city's legal counsel.

Giunchigliani called it "repugnant that someone's holding out a vote that's good for the public for a political purpose."

In any event, the Clean Water Coalition will live on for another month or so as the county and the city try to work out their differences.

The coalition board is scheduled to meet June 16 to approve a state-mandated budget for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The board plans to wait until after the July 5 commission meeting to vote again on dissolving the coalition, distributing the money it has collected over the years and terminating the pipeline project .

But the dismantling is already well under way. The coalition's records have been turned over to the Clark County Water Reclamation District for safekeeping and the agency's furniture and office supplies will be sold off at an auction today. When its lease runs out June 30, the coalition no longer will have an office at all.

"For all intents and purposes, the CWC is over," said board member and Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross. "It's just a matter of taking the right steps to get there."

One major task that remains is returning the roughly $65 million the coalition still has in the bank.

On May 26, the Nevada Supreme Court blocked an attempt by state lawmakers to sweep all but about $3 million from the coalition's coffers.

The plan now, pending board approval, is to give that money back to the coalition's member jurisdictions, with $32 million going to the county, $16 million to Las Vegas, $8 million to Henderson and $6 million to North Las Vegas.

Several board members have said they ultimately want to see the money returned to the sewer customers who paid it.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

 

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