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Troubled waters in Beatty sanitation district

The sudden Sept. 12 resignation of Beatty Water and Sanitation District Manager Rob Shirley moved the district’s board of trustees to schedule an emergency meeting.

At the time of Shirley’s resignation, he had also been manning the office alone, so, with his departure, the office had to be closed.

Securing a licensed operator to keep the system operating was the main focus of the emergency meeting.

The board approved a month-to-month contract with LeRoy Daines of Utility Services, Inc. to use his licenses at a cost of $1,000 per month. He would also provide some services, including supervising water testing.

To solve the problem of the closed office, board member Jeannie Ybarra suggested asking former employee Magaly Mendoza to come in temporarily as a trainer for new hire, Francine Salinaz. “I just hate the note on the door,” said Ybarra, referring to the “office closed” notice.

Salinaz has since started and is learning the various software systems and procedures used, with help from Mendoza.

The board was already looking for a replacement for Shirley, who was expected to retire Oct. 1, and who had offered to serve as a consultant for up to six months to help train his successor and new office staff. Shirley’s resignation, however, and his accusations toward the board and Chairman Teresa Sullivan, have made his serving in that capacity unlikely.

In his emailed letter of resignation, which Shirley also sent to the district attorney and to several Beatty residents, he accused the board, and principally the chairman, of numerous violations of Nevada open meeting law.

Shirley also accused Sullivan of micromanaging, acting without board approval, and creating tension on the board. He said that the district could not operate with two managers, and concluded, “If the chair believes that managing the water district is a priority for this position, I recommend the chair resign from the board and apply for the position of general manager as I will be leaving the office as of today.”

In response to Shirley’s letter, Sullivan wrote, “I am reluctant to respond to Rob Shirley’s semi-public resignation as I do not feel the need to cause any further tension or participate in a public discourse. Suffice it to say that you have one person’s rendition of events, and the email contains misinformation.”

She continued, “Rob Shirley provided valuable services to BWSD for several years, and I, for one, am disappointed to lose him under these circumstances. Since he has submitted his resignation, the BWSD is moving forward.”

During the Water and Sanitation Board’s Sept. 18 meeting, Beatty Town Advisory Board Treasurer Erick Gerling strongly criticized the board and urged them to find a way to work with Shirley as a trainer. In responding to Gerling, Sullivan said, “There are a lot of things that have happened over the last year or year and a half that are not known to the public and can’t be discussed.”

One of the things Shirley pointed out in his resignation letter was that the newest member of the board, Nicole Altman, was not eligible to serve on the board because she does not live within the district boundaries. Her residence is north of town near the hot springs.

Altman resigned from the board on Sept. 17. In her letter she said she felt she was an asset to the board. She said that when she was approached to be on the board she did not know that board members were required to be paying customers of the district.

“It is a distressing situation at hand,” wrote Altman, “And I felt that as a member of the community I had the interest of the community at heart. I am a tax-paying, home-owning, employee, volunteer citizen of the valley in which Beatty, Nevada is in control of water and sanitation issues. I hope that board members, general manager and the community remember that the people north of town are affected with actions taken regarding the water rights, water table and waste water treatment. It really does affect us all.”

Shirley said the things he pointed out in his letter of resignation were part of an effort to keep the district from going backwards “or the way it used to be,” referring to the troubled situation the district was in before he took over as GM in 2014. At that time the district was facing massive fines because of an incident that dumped raw sewage into the bed of the Amargosa River.

On Sept. 18, Joe Mathein, from Nevada Rural Water, and Nye County Utilities Supervisor Darrin Tuck, along with Sullivan and board member Dee Crawford, interviewed two candidates for the position of general manager. Tuck also said the county would provide assistance during the transition.

In the Sept. 18 meeting, Sullivan said that the board needed legal representation “ASAP,” and the board voted to appoint the Reno law firm of Allison MacKenzie as general counsel.

The board, in the meantime, is scheduling weekly meetings to deal with the situation.

Shirley, who has been very involved in the community, including as the original organizer of the Beatty Town Watch, says he will continue to serve on various boards. He is a member of the Beatty Town Advisory Board and has applied for the position on the Valley Electric Association Board of Directors left open by the recent resignation of Richard Johnson.

Richard Stephens is a freelance reporter living in Beatty.

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