LPUD, New Position Doesn’t Pan Out

October 8, 2015 /

Lamont Reporter, News Report, Michael Wafford

The Lamont Public Utility District (LPUD) will not be seeking an accountant-human resources manager. 

Despite General Manager Nick Turner’s strong recommendation that a new position to handle accounting and human resources was needed for the district’s well-being; Directors Cruz, Prado and Hernandez voted against advertising the position. Turner said, that he has noticed that the district has needed someone in a similar position to the one proposed during the two-and-a-half years he has been with the district.

The position would handle the accounting for the district, which is currently done by Turner, as well as settle any human resource disputes within the district and keep up to date with changing workplace laws.

Director Miguel Sanchez said, the position was necessary to prevent the loss of money in the future through accounting errors and to make sure the district would not be in harm of any legal issues regarding workplace incidents due to not knowing how to resolve situations that could occur or not knowing of various workplace laws. Sanchez said, in the past the district has had accounting issues ranging from issuing checks to pay for the same service multiple times to a total of $200,000 that went missing from the district’s account over three years ago that is currently under investigation.

Director Cruz said, the position would cost too much money for the district which Director Prado agreed with. He also inquired as to whether or not it would be possible to have the position as a part-time position. Turner said, that due to needing someone who is very familiar with the district’s accounts and that having someone as part-time would mean that other office staff would have to assist with their responsibilities which could lead to inconsistencies in the accounting.The proposed salary for the position was between $65,000 to $85,000 per year for a candidate with a minimum of a four-year degree in accounting and three years of professional experience.

An item to discuss repayment to the district for committee meetings was tabled. The item was a continuation of a previous discussion brought to the board by director Roberto Gonzalez during th August meeting. Gonzalez said, that several committee meetings held in the past violated The Brown Act by not giving proper notice to the public and as a result, board members who attended the meetings should have to reimburse the district for the money paid to them to attend the meetings.

Items for the restructuring of the district’s staff as well as for the discussion of a new master plan for the district were also tabled. Director Sanchez suggested tabling, he said, that the board needed more information on the items and that a Power Point presentation would help the board and public understand. An item for the consolidation agreement with El Adobe Property Owners was also tabled for similar reasons. 

For the first time, the district was unable to meet its goal of 28 percent water use reduction. The district was able to to use 27 percent less water than it did in 2013, meaining they failed to reach the goal by 1 percent. Turner said, while they face no immediate fines due to this, savings in previous month are banked so an excess savings can give credit to future month, the ditrict will have to look at ways t reduce water usage.

Turner said, the proposal for excusing local agricultural sues for water was denied by the state. Currently, two agricultural users in the district use water for irrigation and waisting of vegetables. The state will allow this water use to not be counted against a district if the agriculture producers agree to try to reduce water usage. Turner said, the reason the district was denied was because the agriculture users attempts to reduce water use were not in irrigation. While the two producers reduced water use in other areas, including the washing of ground grown vegetables, this did not meet the states standards that of needed reduction in irrigation. Turner said, that the two producers in the district have cut water use per ton of vegetables grown, but they are now growing more vegetables.

The district will have to choose a new health care provider. Their current provider GemCare will be exiting the group health care service. As a result, the district is looking for new providers with similar policies for similar costs. The district’s insurance agency recommended a plan through Blue Shield of California. The agent also recommended the district look into using flexible spending account. The account, sets aside expected medical costs from the employees paycheck based on how much the employee believes they will spend in a year. For example, if an employee though he or she would have to spend $1,000 in medical costs for the next year, each month $83.33 would be taken from their gross pay to go toward those expenses. This reduces payroll taxes when calculated.

The board voted to move forward with the purchase of a vacuuming and jetting truck for the district. A purchase order was approved by the board of directors during their most recent meeting. The truck will be purchased through the Agency HGAC.

The district will move forward and purchase new software for its SCADA system. The software is needed to receive information from the new wells. The district’s current software is at capacity and would be unable to handle the signals fro Well 19 and Well 12 once the project is finished. 

The district will look into a possible update of Ordinance 50. The document sets the districts rates and fees, among other items, as well as how they can collect and enforce them, according to Turner.

Director Prado said, she felt like the item needed an update. The process is expected to be lengthy according to Turner and District Counsel Alan Peake. Peake suggests, the ordinance be looked at in chunks over the new few months to make it simpler to understand before going through and updating the entire document. 

Turner presented information to the board about the district’s service at Weedpatch Park. Currently, the district does provide water to the park. However, in recent months users of the park have complained of smell and color issues with the water. Turner said, when staff went to the park it appeared as though the fixtures had fallen into disrepair with the fountains and sink needing maintenance or to be replaced entirely. The fixtures are maintained by the Bear Mountain Recreation and Parks District.

Jennifer Wood-Slayton, of Building Healthy Communities South Kern, invited the district to partner with the initiative to host a workshop on Plan B. This came during the public comments portion of the meeting.

The October meeting will be held October 20 at 6 p.m. at the LPUD office.