Insiders say split is “mutual”
Early reports saying that Public Works Director Evan Nikirk was “dismissed” from his position by Mono County officials are being countered as untrue. Sources inside the County told The Sheet that the decision was due to differing opinions in management styles and called the move a “mutual” separation. Nikirk was unavailable, and “no comment” was the response from County Administrative Officer Dave Wilbrecht, but apparently the rift has been one that Wilbrecht’s been trying to bridge for some time.
Nikirk had been with Mono County since May 1999, first brought on as Solid Waste Director. Sharp and fairly aggressive, his skills at public works coupled with a background in engineering, he rose quickly though the Public Works ranks, serving as Assistant Director and later as Director.
He is credited with many successes in the department, including expanding the staff to a robust 59 members, who oversee the solid waste program, public facilities, roads and streets, county fleet services, capital improvement projects and development services.
Those successes, however, didn’t come without some conflict. According to County insiders, his management style was somewhat “micro” in nature, and subject to rather turbulent “swing moods.”
Sources say Wilbrecht had tried “working with [Nikirk], and offered additional training and whatever else was needed to raise his level of management.”
Those offers went unaccepted.
That led to a last, final offer of moving him back to Solid Waste, along with some financial management, at which he had demonstrated obvious talent, and at the same salary. That offer was ultimately rejected as well, and as a result, Nikirk reportedly decided to clean out his desk and go back to private consulting.
The parting, insist County sources, may not have been particularly pleasant, but was absolutely consensual. “He wasn’t fired,” they said. In fairness to Nikirk, those same sources called the situation a “great loss to the County … he was very good and it’s hard to find someone who’s as good at his position that also has a solid engineering background.”
The move, however, will allow the County to consider some changes in the Public Works structure, including a potential consolidation of some kind between PW and the Building Department.
Meanwhile, Public Works administrators Kelly Garcia and Jeff Walters, along with Wilbrecht, have temporarily assumed Nikirk’s duties. The County plans to bring in an interim Public Works Director to oversee the department while recruiting for a new permanent Public Works Director.
More County briefs
Mono County got the go-ahead from the Mono County Board of Supervisors to put the lease on the Sheriff’s Substation property up for bids. The current lessee, Mammoth Dog Teams and its owner, Jim Ouimet, are considered “eligible” bidders for the new lease, which will be a short-term agreement lasting up to 10 years.
The terms on the property, which encompasses just short of 25,000 square feet, will include demolition of the existing building, and will require some type of fencing to be erected.
The lease will also include a provision for a hazardous materials evaluation of the current building, in advance of its anticipated demise.
Whoever the new lessee is, power and water will continue to be issues, though a provision in the lease allows for a water line to be installed from the existing well nearby.
“There are some serious constraints on property (power, water, fencing),” commented Assistant County Counsel Stacey Simon. “It’s not going to be just any user that can utilize the property.”
Rent on the property will increase, but only modestly, from $500 a month currently to $600 when the bids are advertised.
Hazard and Farnetti said they ideally would like to see Mammoth Dog Teams “successful” in a competitive market, though the bid winner will have to be able to meet the financial and logistical requirements of the lease.
Should Ouimet beat all comers, Mono County Animal Control is addressing the issue of tethering. Simon said Animal Control is working with Ouimet to come up with a policy consistent within the law, but also taking into consideration what’s best for this type of dog, which the County acknowledges is “not your ordinary backyard pet.”
Simon also added that the current lease expiration, which is July 16, will likely need to be extended another 90 to 120 days, allowing for noticing, negotiation, and establishing conditions of a future use permit for whoever wins the new lease.
… And the County found a revised contract with Nielsen Communications to provide support services for Mono’s radio network much more to its liking.
Changes requested by Board during last month’s deliberation of the proposed contract include: 1.) Downsizing the duration from 5 to 3 years, and yearly increases from 5 to 2 percent. (It was also pointed out that the increase is not a COLA as such, but more for convering any upward adjustments in equipment costs and maintenence expenses.) 2.) Full documentation, and labor for repair of mobile gear (dropped off at Nielsen’s location), are both included in the base price.
The deal has 30-day opt out clause that can be executed at any time and by either party.
Supervisor Tom Farnetti said he thinks the terms are much clearer, and was “very happy with the new changes,” especially the new 2% increase, which he thought was much more reasonable.
Chair Hunt agreed, as did Supervisor Peters, who said the County is lucky to have a local provider willing to do what it takes to work with the County and move things forward.
The Board approved the revised contract 4-0, with Supervisor Bauer conflicted out of the vote. (Her husband is a Nielsen employee.)