Public hearing on report today

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate April 02, 2014 04:34 pm

There will be a public hearing on a hired consultant’s draft assessment report about the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Agency at 3 p.m. today in the Flynn Center.

The report offers options for possible future staffing, including controversial administrative job cuts and out-sourcing of top-level and low-level jobs to the private sector.

After years of public debate over whether the Authority should be scaled back, entirely dissolved or left alone, the assessment report by R3 Consulting Group was intended to put the agency’s uncertain future to rest.

But professionals who have served the authority for years, like the treasurer/controller and the agency’s legal counsel, said that some of the staffing options outlined by R3 would be ill-advised, possibly violate accounting standards for public agencies, or in the case of outsourcing non-professional positions, likely to become illegal.

Authority legal counsel Martha Rice wrote in a memo to the Authority Board that the privatization of the Del Norte Transfer 
Station scale house employees, as suggested in an option presented by R3, could be affected by a recent court case in Costa Mesa.

A three-judge panel in the court of appeals blocked that city from outsourcing jobs for non-special services. Although the case is still pending, “a fair interpretation is that the opinion set the stage for a victory by the employees, which will severely restrict the ability of cities (and the authority) to contract out basic services,” Rice’s memo said.

Rice’s memo also says that since the transfer station was built with outstanding tax-exempt bonds issued exclusively to public agencies, the facility cannot be used to turn a profit for a private business.

A private business could run the transfer station scale house for a fixed fee, but it could not rake in profits from the facility.

The authority’s treasurer/controller for more than 20 years, Richard Taylor, wrote that R3’s suggested job cuts could 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.”

Taylor said that the last time the Authority relied on a single administrative assistant for accounting, invoicing and clerking functions was the same time the Authority had problems accounting for bounced checks and documenting changes to safe balances.

Taylor said that R3’s suggestion does not leave room for illness, vacations, or family emergencies, and would make fiscal functions difficult.

The draft report does seem to put some Authority-related disputes to rest however, like R3’s conclusion that the Authority is the most effective entity for managing solid waste in Del Norte, and moving the Authority’s functions into county or city government is not likely to save money but would cost plenty to get there.

R3’s report also recommends, however, that certain duties could be more cost-effectively completed by county staff, Hambro Group or Recology Del Norte.

R3’s draft report criticizes the Authority for a lack of long-term goals and objectives and advises the Authority Board “to set a clear direction for the Authority over the next 5 to 10 years, clearly establish short, medium and long range goals, and objectives and determine appropriate management and administrative staffing levels to support the long range goals and objectives that are established.”

In a staff report, the authority’s acting director Tedd Ward, said that the medium- and long-range goals are tricky since Authority Board members are appointed annually and a new Board could scrap the costly and time-intensive plan of a previous Board.

R3’s report says that the elimination of the Authority is not likely to save ratepayers money because the same costly responsibilities would fall on the shoulders of the city and county, and that the costs of the Authority’s dissolution would be expensive in itself.

To read the staff report, go to recycledelnorte.ca.gov and click on agendas.

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