UTAH

Water conservancy managers are among Utah’s highest-paid public employees

Nov 13, 2018, 3:00 PM
Several of Utah's water district CEOs and managers earn well over $200,000 each year, the KSL Inves...
Several of Utah's water district CEOs and managers earn well over $200,000 each year, the KSL Investigates team discovered. (KSL TV)
(KSL TV)

Some of the best-paid people on the public payroll aren’t elected. They’re the managers and CEOs of our state’s water conservancy districts, a little-known network of government agencies that receive enough taxpayer money to pay one-third of their employees $100,000 or more.

Those salaries, according to a new report by KSL Investigates, are among the highest in the state. They are on par with district judges, and, in some cases, even higher than the governor himself.

The incredible wages of water conservancy district managers

Water conservancy district pipes

One-third of the water conservancy department’s employees earn $100,000 or more, according to a KSL Investigates report. (KSL TV)

Water conservancy districts have an important job. They are the people in charge of the water resources across our state; the ones who make sure that clean and fresh water comes out of our taps whenever we pull the handle.

But even though those positions are on the public payroll, their leaders, for the most part, are not elected. Those leaders are among the best-paid public employees in the state, with the top-paid managers and CEOs bringing in more than $200,000 a year.

Utah Taxpayers Association Vice President Billy Hesterman thinks that their salaries have run amock.

“It’s obscene,” he told KSL TV. “We don’t understand why someone at this level needs to earn that kind of money.”

KSL Investigates spoke to Richard Bay, CEO of the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District and the top-earner on the list. Bay, however, doesn’t accept Hesterman’s criticism. Instead, he insists that his work more than makes up for his salary.

“I think the public is getting a great bargain for my services,” Bay told KSL’s Debbie Dujanovic. “My years of experience, my abilities to develop and negotiate for new water sources, my ability to oversee the operation and maintenance of hundreds of miles of pipeline serving over a million people in Salt Lake Valley.”

Bay’s district, he says, is responsible for the water supply for one-third of the state’s residents.

His unique talents, he argues, make his salary worth it. Recently, he helped negotiate a deal that got Kennecott Copper to invest millions of dollars into cleaning up polluted groundwater, saving the district far more than the cost of Bay’s salary.

Still, that salary has significantly increased over the past few years. When he started in 2007, Bay brought in an annual salary $176,562. Today, however, he earns $273,406 per year, an increase of almost $100,000 in just eleven years.

One of the best-paid public employees in Utah

Richard Bay, the best-paid water conservancy district CEO on the payroll, speaks to KSL’s Debbie Dujanovic. (KSL TV)

Bay isn’t the only water conversancy expert earning six figures. Several of the top-paid water conversancy managers earn well over $200,000 each year, with many more than doubling Gov. Gary Herbert’s $109,900.

Those water conservancy managers rank among the top-paid public employees in our state.

Technically, the number one spot for the highest-paid public employee in Utah goes to Utes coach Kyle Whittingham, who makes $3.3 million per year. Most of his salary, however, comes from private sources and not from the taxpayers.

But when it comes to salaries paid with taxpayer dollars, Richard Bay isn’t far behind Utah’s best-paid city employee: Provo City Public Works Division Director David Decker, who earns $318,530.98 per year. And he’s actually slightly above the second-highest paid city employee, Salt Lake City Chief of Police Mike Brown.

“This is reaching a level that’s far too high for us,” Hesterman says.

He believes that those salaries wouldn’t have gotten so high if the public wasn’t paying attention. “We often think of school districts, cities, counties, the state, but we forget about this level of government.”

More to the story

Not everyone agrees, though, that those salaries are too high. When Debbie Dujanovic, a member of the investigative team behind the report, talked about this on her KSL Newsradio show Dave & Dujanovic, her co-host Dave Noriega said that it’s unfair for the public to criticize the pay for a job they don’t understand.

If you missed their discussion live on the air, you can still hear what they both had to say on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

Listen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google Play Music

Today’s Top Stories

Utah

The Deuel Creek Fire began late Sunday night in Centerville. Photo credit: John Wilson....
Devin Oldroyd

Deuel Creek Fire starts in Centerville overnight, evacuation order lifted

The Deuel Creek Fire began late Sunday night in Centerville.
9 hours ago
Tooele City announced its firework restrictions Sunday evening. Photo Credit: Tooele City's Faceboo...
Devin Oldroyd

Tooele City releases fireworks restrictions map

Tooele City announced its firework restrictions Sunday evening.
1 day ago
Photo credit: UDOT...
Devin Oldroyd

Semi-truck rolls on I-80 at U.S.-40, Silver Creek Junction

What caused the semi-truck to roll is still under investigation at this time. All lanes in the area have been cleared and are operational.
1 day ago
Image from the scene of the shooting on South Major street in Salt Lake City (Photo courtesy of SLC...
Chandler Holt

UPDATE: SLCPD investigating party shooting that left one in critical condition

Police received multiple calls regarding shots fired near 1485 South Major Street at around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday July 3, 2022. 
1 day ago
The scene of the shooting at 900 S. 200 West (Photo courtesy of Adam Sotelo)...
Chandler Holt

UPDATE: Shooting on TRAX platform leaves one dead, one injured

Police responded to reports of shots fired on a TRAX platform near 900 South and 200 West at around 10 p.m. on Saturday night.
1 day ago
Man dies at flight show during his performance in shockwave jet truck....
Waverly Golden

Man dies during performance at Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show

Battle Creek Police Department, Federal Aviation Administration Officials, and the fire department are still investigating the accident. 
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Water conservancy managers are among Utah’s highest-paid public employees