THE USGS PRESENTATION ON THE WATER LEVELS IN MARK TWAIN AND THE HIGHLANDS SHOWS THAT THE MARK TWAIN ISSUE MAY NOT BE AS BAD AS THE RESIDENTS THINK AND THE ISSUE IN THE HIGHLANDS MAY BE FAR WORSE THAN THE RESIDENTS THINK.
THE TURNOVER REPORT IS IN: THE COUNTY’S OVERALL RATE IS AT 11%. THE COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT HAS A 42% RATE, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT IS AT 28%, THE SHERIFFS OFFICE AT 18% AND THE FIRE DISTRICT AT 12%. NO OTHER TURNOVER IN OTHER DEPARTMENTS.
By Nicole Barde
The agenda for this meeting can be found HERE. County Manager Pat Whitten’s summary HERE and you can listen to the audio of the meeting HERE.
The meeting kicked off with representatives from the US Geological Survey giving a very interesting presentation on the state of the water levels in the Mark Twain and VC Highlands areas. You can find the presentation HERE and I highly recommend that you review it. As a sometimes data nerd I love the abundance of information and graphs…
The net-net of the presentation is that the perceived water issues in the Mark Twain area may not be due specifically to a precipitous drop in water levels. It looks like the water level has only gone down by a few feet over time. The community has about 159 wells and 4 have been deepened. There are many wells being monitored and it looks like the water level goes up and down in concert with the severity of the winters or drought conditions. The overall drop in the water table over time is very small. The issues may be more related to the age and condition of the well itself (casings) and the equipment of those reporting the issues. More study needs to be done to validate some of the potential causes for the concerns.
The VC Highlands on the other hand seems to have a severe problem. One of the problems is that there are only two wells being monitored. Much of the data is extrapolated from well data and the number and location of drills (depth) and re-drills. The monitoring has been in place since the 70’s and the water table based on the well data and the extrapolations has gone down 165 feet since 1997. There are 623 wells and there is a total of 16% which were deepened or replaced. This percentage is different in different areas in the Highlands. The presentation has the map…it’s very explicit and some areas have much higher re-drill rates. The water levels don’t seem to go up with heavy precipitation years and the presenters said that the Highlands would need several significant precipitation years in a row to bring the levels up. They asked for volunteers to have their wells added to the monitoring database. If you are interested please email : email@example.com.
There were a couple of public comments from residents, one VCH resident asked “if so many wells need to be re-drilled and we have a problem why are new houses being built”? Both Pat Whitten and Austin Osborn, Planning Director, responded that the properties are owned by individuals who bought them to build on. You can’t take away that right. Austin said that the county doesn’t want to approach this in a heavy handed way that they are looking at various options. Options such as allowing easier lot consolidation thereby decreasing the cost of permitting fees. Another option is incentivizing people not to build in VCH…such as telling developers if they buy 100/200 lots in VCH and don’t build there, that they would be allowed high density projects elsewhere in Storey county. These are just two ideas being researched. The issue here is that there are too many “straws” in the ground and it needs to be addressed.
During the staff updates Battalion Chief Jeff Nevin reported that 1275 acres were burned in the fire at TRI and that it took 5 days to quell it.
Joe Curtis, Emergency Management, reported on a Historic Preservation conference he attended in Mobile Alabama. The good news here is that the trip was funded thru a grant. A few takeaways he came back with were that the Comstock Historic District Commission is one of three in the country appointed by the governor and that it’s interaction with the County is unique and needs to remain effective. Second, that the Commission needs to educate the entire Storey County community on what the Commission does. Which is to say that they are not there to regulate but to preserve. Third, the Commission needs to convince the owners of historic structures to keep them up. It’s a responsibility.
Pat Whitten spoke about submitting a bill to the 2016 legislature to restructure the V&T Rail Commission to have 3 members instead of the current 9. He also talked about Lacy Dalton’s dog getting bitten by a rattle snake and reiterated a warning to residents to be on watch around their children and pets since this is a particularly bad season for snakes.
During Board updates, Commissioner Jack McGuffey also commented on the V&T Rail Commission. He said that in a meeting with two of the Rail Commissions current members, with himself and Pat in attendance, that it is Storey County’s recommendation to have a representative from Storey County, Carson City, and a governor appointee. Current V&T Rail Chair Dwight Millard suggested having 5 members which would also include the tourism heads from Virginia City and Carson City.
In response to a question by Commissioner Jack McGuffey at the last commission meeting on how many Human Resources pending charges or complaints there were in the county HR manager Austin Osborn provided the following summary.
FUN WITH NUMBERS:
There are approximately 136 Storey County employees (41 in the Fire District).
The turnover rate without transfers is 10.5%, with transfers it’s 12.6%. Total turnover is at 11% and anything under 15% is considered OK by U.S. standards. (It would be nice to have a comparison to other counties to see where we fall and to see a trend line over time within the county to see if we are better or worse over time)
The cost of turnover is about $133k to replace and train a replacement. (I don’t know if this is Storey County specific or a general U.S. wide number)
There were four departments with terminations and/or pending issues from July 2015 to July 2016.
Fire Department had 5 terminations. On a base of 41 employees that’s a 12% turnover rate
Sheriffs Office had 5 terminations. On a base of 27 employees that’s an 18% turnover rate .The Sheriff’s Office also had 2 transfers, 0 grievances, 1 pending litigation and 2 EEOC charges
Community Development had 2 terminations. On a base of 7 employees that’s a 28% turnover rate.
Communications had 3 terminations. On a base of 7 employees that’s a 42% turnover rate.
It was interesting to note that only when Austin presented the turnover numbers for the Fire Department did Pat Whitten and Gary Hames both spend a great deal of time explaining why that turnover happened and how it is for the most part not anyone’s fault since we may not be the highest payer among counties, etc, etc. There were no other explanations offered for reasons for turnover in any of the other departments….I think that they also deserve time to explain why they had turnover and charges/litigation. I think that due to the uniqueness of the work that a comparison of the Storey FIRE and SHERIFFS departments to other counties FIRE and SHERIFFS might be interesting and highlight if our numbers and termination reasons are unique or problematic or not.
During public comment on this I said that “not all turnover is created equal” and I asked what the break out was between voluntary and involuntary turnover as well as desired and undesired turnover. DA Anne Langer stopped me at that point and said that the numbers were too small to be able to report in a public forum and not violate contractual and privacy agreements. That the numbers were so small that people could guess who was who. Austin agreed and I said but the numbers alone don’t tell the story and then had to sit down.
When Austin reported the turnover by department he only reported the number of terminations….I asked how many employees in each department. The turnover percentages by department above are mine…they were not reported as such in the meeting. My point here is that while I understand that privacy is important I’d like to say that there are more dimensions to turnover than the absolute number or even the percentage i.e., a number may be low but the percentage high or vice versa. And to remind you that this request came up during last commission meeting’s discussion on the $45k settlement for a Sheriff’s employee . Kris Thomson ( TRI employee) stated that the Commissioners should consider looking into what’s going on in this department( sheriffs) that is creating all these settlements. There may or may not be issues in the Sheriff’s Office. If there are issues then we deal with them. But if we investigate the Sheriff then why not the entire county? Why not go back a few years? Why not report all the information?