Verhines suggests Ute project manager

Kevin Wilson

PORTALES — Less than four weeks from now, the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority could have a new project manager, paving the way for its current one to officially take over as the state’s new engineer.

It was business as usual for the authority during its regular meeting Thursday morning at the Yam Theater, but much time was also dedicated to congratulating Program Manager Scott Verhines on being appointed to the state engineer office by Gov. Susana Martinez.

“I’ve received congratulations and condolences,” Verhines said, “in the same sentence.”

Verhines’ 12 years with the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System, also known as the Ute Water Project, should conclude sometime in December.

He said between the time he agreed to take the position and Thursday, he had searched for a potential replacement to keep momentum for the project going. He brought the authority members a resume for Paul van Gulick, an engineer who currently lives in Ruidoso Downs.

Van Gulick was not at the meeting, but has familiarity with the project. He collected water system information from authority members, co-authored a data collection summary report and conceptual design report in 2000 and designed much of the project infrastructure.

The project would pump water from the Ute Reservoir in Quay County to authority members as a long-term potable water source.

Verhines said if the authority was inclined, it could replace him with van Gulick in the authority’s contract and leave everything else untouched. Verhines’ contract runs through June 30, 2012.

“To me,” Verhines said, “that was hands down the best result I could have asked for. It’s always your prerogative to go out on the street and find a new program manager. I’d ask you to at least consider this plan.”

Authority members who have met with van Gulick were on board.

“It is critical we keep the continuity,” Brumfield said. “I don’t think we miss a beat this way; there are too many things going on to miss a beat.”

The authority will make a decision on filling Verhines’ slot at its next meeting, set for 10 a.m. Dec. 13 in Melrose.

Verhines will enter his new position sometime after his successor is chosen. He said Martinez has given him ample time to take care of loose ends with the water project and other duties, and Interstate Stream Commission Director Estevan Lopez will handle day-to-day operations until Verhines arrives.

“They want me to report as soon as possible,” Verhines said, “but they also said, ‘We understand how important the pieces are.’”