Apparently one board meeting of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District (GDPUD) was not enough. Nor was two or even three. Instead the board met four times in March with it yet again delaying action on the most important issue.
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Still unable to make a decision about the upgrade to the Auburn Lake Trails (ALT) water treatment plant, the board invited an engineer from Psomas to make a presentation on Value Engineering (VE) which is designed to reduce the cost or improve the function of a project.
Psomas is the firm that designed the plans for the proposed new plant, but has now held out the promise that a two-day VE workshop costing $30,000 to $40,000 might generate money-saving ideas.
Ernest Leporini, a senior project manager with Psomas, said a VE session could possibly generate cost savings of $1 million and improve the project design. However, any redesign of the plant would be an additional cost — upwards of 10 percent of construction savings — and could take several months for them to complete.
With Board President Bonnie McLane continually repeating the refrain that the district didn’t have the money to build the plant at its projected cost, board member Maria Capraun added, “We could do this process and still not have the money to build the plant.”
General Counsel John Knowlton asked how long it might take to go through the VE process and complete any suggested redesigns. Leporini suggested it might not be completed until September. However, September is also the deadline for the district to qualify for USDA and EPA funding. The district has a separate June deadline to qualify for a state grant of $685,550.
Board member Ray Griffiths spoke against a delay saying, “This is a bad idea … We need to go out to bid. If we nickel and dime this, we are going to regret it because it’s not going to get any better. Our grant and loan will vaporize as well if we keep screwing around like this.”
Interim General Manager Kelly Shively agreed, saying the project should be put out to bid. He also said he didn’t like that Psomas had designed the plant and was now talking about the VE process. He said the current plans were designed to save as much money as possible.
On a related matter, Shively reported he had checked with the USDA regarding interest rates and was told it’s currently at 3.5 percent, but the rate is not locked in until the district actually takes out the loan. Shively said at that rate, the district could borrow $5.4 million rather than the original $5 million and still be within the $7 surcharge approved during the Proposition 218 process.
Board member Kathy Otermat suggested contacting the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the USDA to ask for time extensions. But Shively said CDPH “is fed up with us,” saying the district had been working on plans to bring it into compliance since 2004. The CDPH has been calling and emailing the district regarding what is going on, he added. “They’re about done. Our grace period is just about done,” saying that he expects them to contact the district soon if nothing is done.
Still unwilling to make a decision, the board directed Knowlton and Capraun to contact CDPH and the USDA and ask for a time extension. Leporini also promised to follow up and send a formal proposal to the district for a VE session.
Changing organizational chart
The board also discussed lifting the hiring freeze and reorganizing the district while General Manager Hank White is on leave.
Capraun began by presenting the board with a salary schedule and recommendation for hiring a full-time board clerk at a salary of $40,622 a year. The clerk would report directly to the board president.
When questioned, Capraun said that technically the position of board clerk would not be a new position but rather the conversion of an existing administrative aide position, saying the person would be available to help in the office as well. She also asked if an office in the building could be designated for the board clerk.
Board member Ray Griffiths objected, saying doing so would “create a monster” since no staff person would directly supervise the person. “This is wrong, but you’ve got three votes so go with it,” he said.
McLane disagreed saying, “We were voted on by the people, so we hire who works for the people.”
Board member Kathy Otermat suggested hiring an interim part-time person until the district has a budget for the next fiscal year.
Resident Mike Webb commented on the proposal by suggesting the person should report to the general manager, not the president of the board since he has a greater need for staff help. He also questioned why a district the size of GDPUD needed a board clerk.
Shively concurred, saying the office needed an additional operations manager as well as more administrative aides since they are currently relying on temporary help.
The board then moved on to discuss a new organizational chart that Capraun put together. The discussion opened with Webb asking Capraun, “So you took it upon yourself to reorganize the district. Did you have input from the general manager on the operational needs of the district?”
The answer turned out to be no as Shively admitted it was his first time seeing the chart. To give him more time to review it, the board agreed to table the item until the next meeting. Shively went on to repeat that the district was understaffed and a second operations manager was needed.
Capraun also rewrote the job description of the business and finance manager, turning the position into that of an office manager with a reduced rate of pay. When questioned, Capraun said the topic had been discussed during one of their workshops. However, White had previously submitted to the board a job description for a business and finance manager, not an office manager.
The board then voted to hire one full-time administrative person and an office manager and approved a resolution confirming the appointment of Kelly Shively as Interim General Manager.
They also approved giving a key to the office to any board member who needed access. Otermat, McLane and Capraun voted for, Griffiths voted no. Krizl was absent.
The next regular board meeting is April 9 at 5 p.m. at the district office.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.