A contract to hire retired engineer Webb Owen was approved by a 3-2 vote at the special meeting of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District board Tuesday.
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Owen came to the meeting to discuss a proposal he submitted to the board to review the design plans for the Auburn Lake Trails (ALT) Water Treatment Plant although he admitted it had been at least 15 years since he had been out to see the plant.
Owen described his background as an engineer, including 25 years as the owner of his own business which he later sold to Psomas — the same engineering firm that produced the plans for the plant. He is currently retired and only does limited consulting.
When asked his opinion of value engineering, Owen said when he read newspaper accounts of the controversy, his first question was why do it when 90 percent of the design work had already been done. Instead he agreed the right action was going out to bid to find out what the actual cost of the project is going to be. He said what he was proposing to do was to look at the project from an independent professional perspective so the board is assured they are following the right course.
Board member Norm Krizl said he continues to be openly critical of value engineering because of deadlines they are facing and because it make no sense to revisit engineering plans when they are already out to bid.
Those bids are due back July 15.
Owen agreed saying that a value engineering review after 65 percent is worthless because the cost decisions are made at 20-25 percent of the design report stage.
“Unless there have been huge mistakes, I’d be surprised if the direction you are going isn’t the correct one,” he said. He went on to note that while there might be a few things that could bring down the price of the project, they could also be the source of future ongoing costs. He cited the example of eliminating the building that houses the pumps as one cost saving measure that might come out of a value engineering session. But he said over the lifetime of the pumps, the building would reduce operating costs.
“So what you’re offering is a professional review of our plans and not a value engineering process,” affirmed Krizl, adding that he was concerned with the board already having a professional engineer on staff. “Second guessing him was a poor choice of this board to do to staff.”
Board member Kathy Otermat then asked Owen if Psomas had designed a “Cadillac version of a water treatment plant” at ALT. He responded by saying his review would answer that question, but said he would be surprised if it was. Using the example of pumps again, he said some engineers might say putting the pumps in a building was a Cadillac plan. But if you leave them outside, you pay for it over the long-term.
In the course of the discussion, potential conflicts of interest were raised in hiring Owen. He currently has a non-compete clause in his agreement with Psomas but he didn’t feel it would apply because he didn’t solicit the work. Interim General Manager Kelly Shively also noted that Psomas listed Owen as doing some of the design work of the ALT project and asked for additional clarification on that work.
The cost of the contract was put at $12,000, half of which board member Maria Capraun said the El Dorado Water Agency would pay for. However, board member Ray Griffiths objected, saying he didn’t think the review would add anything to the project other than add another $6,000 to its cost.
However when it came to a motion, McLane, Otermat and Capraun voted for the review while Krizl and Griffiths voted no.
The board then moved on to another agenda item, voting to reinstate retro step increases for the represented employees to the first pay period after March 25.
In another action, a screening committee for the office manager position was established to include the Interim General Manager, Maria Capraun and Kathy Otermat, Ray Kringel — who’s a public member of the Finance Committee, a representative from HR2GO, the firm handling the district’s human resource functions, and CPA Vaughn Johnson. Otermat said once the applications have been reviewed, interview dates will be set up and conducted with the Interim General Manager making the final selection.
Krizl objected to the process, saying Shively should be doing it rather than the board or members of the public. “This whole process is wrong.”
Capraun also introduced for review an update of the general manager’s job description to be discussed at a future meeting.
She then proposed approving 21 new board policies that had previously been reviewed by Interim Counsel John Knowlton.
Resident Bill Evans asked why the public was not furnished with any of the paperwork related to items on the agenda. Capraun responded by saying board members had copies.
But your own policies say any documents being discussed should be available on the table at the meeting, countered Evans. You’re talking about things when the public has no idea what you’re talking about. The board is not following the very policies they are about to vote on, so adopting them makes no difference.
Knowlton said the board is making documents available upon request and that fits the policy. “If there’s been demand for them, they’ll get it,” he said.
Krizl agreed with Evans, saying the situation was unacceptable. “We’re not receiving things as board member until a day or two before the meeting. We’re getting stuff handed to us when we go for a bathroom break. The whole thing is broken,” he added.
Ray Griffiths commented the new policies were a waste of time. “A lot of policies have been pulled out and used to whack people around the head and shoulders,” he said, adding that preparing them had cost a lot of money although “money doesn’t seem to be an issue.”
The board then voted on the new policies with McLane, Otermat and Capraun voting for them and Griffiths and Krizl voting against.
The next regular meeting of the board is 9 a.m. July 9.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.