Ute Water Project may get new manager

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

The $300 million Ute Water Project for eastern New Mexico communities may have a new project manager by May. Or the job could go to the current project manager.

Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority members announced that Scott Verhines submitted his two-weeks notice to Louis Berger Group Inc. of Albuquerque in late February. Verhines said he intends to start his own private company. Then, he hopes to reapply for the job as Ute Water Project manager.

Clovis Mayor David Lansford, who is also the ENMRWA chairman, said the Louis Berger Group Inc. firm had been contracted on a month-to-month basis to manage the Ute Water Project. The contract with Berger expired in February, officials said.

Upon Verhines’ resignation from the Berger Group, Lansford said Verhines and ENMRWA members agreed to a temporary contract for two months. That contract will not exceed $25,000 for Verhines’ services as a project manager. Lansford said Verhines began his two-month contract on March 1.

“I really wanted to focus on this (Ute Water) project,” Verhines said about his decision to resign from Louis Berger.

Lansford said the money to pay for Verhines will come out from either the $2 million received from the state or from cooperative agreement money ENMRWA members have. Lansford said Verhines will be paid out of the same pool ENMRWA members use to pay for project manager services.

Orlando Ortega, Portales’ mayor and ENMRWA vice-chairman, said the contract would allow the ENMRWA members extra time to make a decision on what to do with Verhines and his position.

“We can do this in order not to miss any strides,” Ortega said.

ENMRWA members should decide whether to keep Verhines with his private company or select a new project manager by May 1.

Verhines said his firm will be entering a proposal that would allow him to continue to work as the project manager.

“I’m hoping I get the position,” Verhines said. “We’ve developed a good relationship. We’ve got good momentum. There’s a risk (when you resign and reapply for a post). It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.”

Verhines said he has been project manager since October of 2003. Verhines said he does not have a name for his consulting firm and hopes to have a name sometime next week. Verhines said his staff will include a mid-level engineer and an administrative assistant.

“We’re very satisfied with his work,” Lansford said about Verhines. “He makes sure to address the ISC (Interstate Streams Commission) and Bureau of Reclamations with their concerns, among other things.”