The board of the Del Norte County Solid Waste Management Authority was criticized by community members during its regular meeting last week for failing to hire a new authority director, a position that has been vacant for nearly a year.
“I’m having a difficult time wanting to recruit an executive director without a clear mission statement,” said authority chairman and Del Norte County Supervisor Roger Gitlin. “I appreciate the audience when they say, ‘Get to it.’ We are. But that is a process that takes time. It can’t be rushed.”
The staffing issue came up as part of the larger restructuring discussion the authority board has been holding in regard to the direction and goals of the agency responsible for managing trash and recycling issues in Del Norte County.
Board members Roger Gitlin, Mike Sullivan and Mary Wilson have said they support scaling back the authority’s pursuit of additional recycling programs, among others, for the community and combining the authority’s top two administrative positions into one contract position for the private sector.
Tedd Ward has been fulfilling both of the responsibilities of the authority’s executive director and program manager since former director Kevin Hendrick was forced into retirement by the board last summer.
During his director’s report, Acting Director Ward listed numerous tasks and reports that are behind schedule and not being addressed because he has too much on his plate.
Wilson suggested that Authority Board members could help lighten Ward’s load.
County resident Elizabeth Henry, who used to serve on the solid waste board for Mendocino County when she was a county supervisor there, said that Wilson’s suggestion was “out of line” since it didn’t address the need for more staff.
“You need another staff member, and I don’t know how many times this board can sweep that under the rug,” Henry said. “It does not make sense, and it’s starting to get beyond the ridiculous.”
Henry said the lack of staff is preventing the authority from pursuing new programs, like a mattress stewardship program that would allow the community to discard old mattresses at a discount to deter illegal dumping — much like the authority’s program for carpet.
“This may be one of the ‘bells and whistles,’ Mr. Gitlin, that you’re thinking that we don’t have time for, but I can’t think of anything better for this county than getting rid of mattresses,” Henry said, adding that mattresses are one of the most common illegally dumped items in the county.
Norma Williams, the union representative for some authority employees, said that the board could not “cut staff without eliminating specific responsibilities in the authority’s work plan” and that she was “concerned about three board members’ drive to consider this a utility rather than the (joint powers authority) that you are.”
Ralph Johansen said that the drive to merge and privatize the top administrative positions and change the authority’s goals was “not grounded in reality, not based on any considerations of cost-benefit, and therefore not responsive to ratepayers’ interests.”
Chairman Gitlin questioned if community members in attendance really reflect most residents’ stance, but said he does take their input into
“I appreciate the fact that many of you have come here meeting after meeting and given your opinion. You do not represent all of the community. You represent yourselves, and we do listen to you, and I do listen to you,” Gitlin said, adding that decisions take time. “I appreciate the fact that Mr. Ward is overworked and he is doing the job of two people, and we’re going to have a workshop. It cannot be rushed, and it cannot be willy-nilly pushed forward. It has to be properly vetted.”
The board decided to hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, to hold a goal-setting and strategic planning workshop that will be overseen by an impartial, professional facilitator.
Board members Ron Gastineau and Rick Holley both recommended moving forward with the recruitment of a permanent director.
“We need a strong director to take the authority on,” Gastineau said. “As a board we set policy and we shouldn’t be micro-managing how it’s run.”