Water manager will become consultant after his retirement

GOLDEN VALLEY - John Clayton, Valley Pioneers Water Co. general manager, will become a part-time paid consultant after his retirement takes effect on Nov. 1.

"I'll also be the water company's certified operator to keep the company in compliance with all the standards," Clayton told the VPWC Board of Directors on Thursday evening.

The board unanimously approved a $15,000-per-year, three-year contract for Clayton's services. Treasurer Noel Labonte was absent.

The contract will be subject to review and possible renewal when it ends in 2010.

In the meantime, Clayton and the board are grooming Assistant Manager Bobbie Wood to step into the manager's shoes when Clayton retires.

Wood has cross-trained to be able to step into any job in the company in the event of an emergency or employee absence.

The company has begun training another employee to take on that role when Wood takes over the manager's duties.

"You won't need to hire or promote anyone into the assistant manager position to replace Bobbie, because I'll be doing that, just without the title or full-time salary," Clayton said.

Board President Henry Peairs Jr. asked that Wood start presenting the manager's report at meetings in the future to help her acclimate to that portion of her future job, and both Wood and Clayton said they already had planned to have her assume that responsibility in the coming months.

Board member Dennis Emery said he is confident Wood has been well trained and will be able to fulfill her future duties as manager.

"It's important that all of the board members back Bobbie whole-heartedly," he said, and the other board members agreed.

The board also approved 10-percent wage and salary increases, effective April 1, for each of the company's nine employees, and a 5-percent increase to take effect in August.

"We're trying to get our employees' salaries to a rate comparable to wages paid by other water companies in the area," Peairs said.

The pay raises are part of the budget for the coming fiscal year and will increase salaries and wages a total of $22,000 for the fiscal year, with Clayton's decrease from full-time managerial salary to his consultant fee.

"The proposed budget is merely a prediction, hopefully an educated guess," Clayton said. "We looked at last year's actual figures and worked from there, but an extremely hot, dry summer or a wet, humid one could throw these figures right out the window. The budget is just a place to work from."

He asked the board members to keep the monthly profit and loss statements as a measuring stick to see how close the budget projections match reality each month.

In other business, the board:

• Has scheduled an Arizona Small Utilities Association certification training session today for individuals who want to become certified water operators. Clayton said he is expecting about 10 participants from Golden Valley, So-Hi, Dolan Springs and Chloride for the free class.

• Heard from Clayton that letters have gone out to all area Realtors reminding them of the increase in the cost of installing water-line extensions. "This is so there are no surprises for new customers," Clayton said.

• Learned the water being pumped from new Well No. 1 is virtually without pollutants. "Maybe we should consider going into the bottled water business," Clayton said, grinning. "Once the well is approved, it can go online and we can start using it."

• Approved a request from Elaine Parker, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension conservation department, to address the board in the future about water conservation. "Conservation should be a priority for everybody, but it's hard to enforce unless you charge outrageous prices like California started doing," said board member Rich McClellen.

• Agreed to review the employee handbook and board policy manual with the goal of revamping them as needed. "This water company is growing fast and we need to be sure our policies meet our needs as those needs change," Peairs said.

• Approved a one-year lease with Western Newspapers Inc. for the old water company office building on McNeal Road, with a renewal option at the end of the lease period.

This newspaper, a Western Newspapers Inc. weekly publication with a readership area of Golden Valley, Chloride, Dolan Springs, Yucca, Meadview and White Hills, will be moving into the building on May 1.

The board's next meeting is at 5 p.m. on April 19 at the water company offices, corner of Chino Drive and Colorado Road.