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Solid Waste Board to look at staff cuts

Thursday workshop to address possible Solid Waste changes 

The seemingly ever-embattled Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority will hold a “strategic planning” workshop on Thursday, which is expected to focus on possibly making permanent staff cuts and privatizing some positions — including employees covered by union contracts.

The workshop will be facilitated by independent consultant Terry Supahan in an informal setting to encourage discussion at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Crescent Fire Protection District building, 255 W. Washington Blvd.

The board of the agency responsible for all trash and recycling issues in Del Norte County has been considering cuts to administrative staff since it forced the agency’s director into early retirement last summer. The director position has since been vacant, with program manager Tedd Ward fulfilling both that role and serving as acting director.  

Ward has said that many tasks are not getting done due to the staffing shortage, and Authority Board commissioners Ron Gastineau and Rick Holley have voiced support for a speedy re-staffing of the director position.  

Commissioners  Roger Gitlin, Mike Sullivan and Mary Wilson support merging the program manager and director positions and making the combined role a contract position for the private sector.

The commissioners supporting staff cuts have based their efforts on a May report created by R3 Consulting Group, which was hired by the board for around $33,000. 

The R3 report includes four options for future staffing of the authority: 

• Option 1: Keep staffing the same (with separate program manager and director).

• Option 2: Combine executive director  and program manager positions, eliminating some responsibilities and delegating other required tasks to other administrative staff, the county, and/or Recology and Hambro (the private companies with franchise contracts to handle trash collection and transfer station operations). It would also combine administrative assistant and account clerk staff positions into a single management analyst position.

• ption 3: Same as Option 2, but combined program manager / executive director position would be a contract employee for private sector.

• Option 4: Contract the operation of the transfer station scale house to the private sector. These jobs are currently covered by a union contract under Local SEIU 1021.

Although analyzing appropriate staffing levels was not part of R3’s original scope of work for the report, commissioners Gitlin, Sullivan and Wilson are consistently returning to the R3 report as the framework for restructuring the agency, and last week the three voted to have the authority’s legal counsel analyze how each option could be pursued.

Commissioner Holley cast the only vote against having legal counsel analyze the options, saying that the board was “getting ahead of ourselves” and the money could be better spent.  

During the same meeting the board was told by the county auditor that the agency is in the red for the amount of money spent on discretionary professional services, like R3’s report and legal analysis.

“Let’s find out what options we’re leaning towards, and then spend the money on the attorney’s evaluation,” Holley said. “We’re not bound by the four options that are in the R3 report — we may want to do something different or a combination of two or something like that.”

When R3 first issued the report this spring, the authority’s treasurer, Rich Taylor, warned that options 2 and 3 would violate the accounting standards for public agencies:

“In my opinion the creation of a single management analyst position to replace the ‘2.5-full-time-equivalent administrative staff positions’ would reduce the number of cash controls currently in place and would increase the potential for errors and /or theft in accounting for authority revenues and tracking budgets and expenses.”

Option 4 raises more of a legal challenge as a recent court decision blocked the city of Costa Mesa from out-sourcing non-special services to the private sector, “which will severely restrict the ability of cities (and the authority) to contract out basic services,” according to an April memo from authority legal counsel Martha Rice.

During last week’s meeting, Norma Williams, chapter president representing the Del Norte County Employees Association for SEIU Local 1021, who also informally represents authority employees covered by a sister-union contract, warned the board of violating the employees’ contract, which lasts through April 2016.

Any action the authority does that breaks or violates that contract “will definitely have repercussions from the Local,” Williams told the board at last week’s meeting.

“That’s why we have attorneys,” Gitlin immediately responded.

“And so do we. We have a whole law firm, and it’s renowned for labor law,” Williams later told the Triplicate by phone, saying Gitlin’s response “was a challenge, but hey, bring it. That is a line that their counsel should strongly advise them not to cross.”

Although the administrative positions are not covered by union contract, Williams expressed concern about the worker rights of all authority employees.

“They shouldn’t have anyone trying to eliminate their jobs — that’s not the American way,” she said. “I think it’s unfortunate that you have three members of the board that are hellbent on destroying the authority.”

Ward’s staff report for Thursday’s workshop also raises concerns about the use of the R3 report for staff cuts:

“Despite clearly indicating that appropriate staffing levels cannot be definitively determined based on their analysis, the R3 report suggests that administrative staffing positions could potentially be combined if such actions were supported by a strategic plan.  These two statements are in conflict and implicitly anticipate the results of a strategic planning process the authority has not yet 
completed.”

Although Thursday’s workshop is scheduled to be a “strategic planning” workshop, Supahan, the man facilitating the meeting, said strategic planning is usually a months-long process that cannot be completed in an 
afternoon.

Reach Adam Spencer at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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