PRWID Reviews Water District's Proposed Budget
The Price River Water Improvement District met Nov. 15 and reviewed the preliminary budget for 2006.
Assistant district manager Jeff Richens presented the board with a draft of the preliminary budget proposal and discussed specific details with the members of the advisory panel.
The water improvement district's operating budget is expected to exceed $4 million for the coming year.
Richens explained that PRWID managers have been told to be as conservative as possible in presenting department budgets and several cuts have already been made in the preliminary proposals.
The assistant manager said further areas of budget trimming are being sought, but some items that effect employee health and safety absolutely must be purchased in the coming year.
Richens reminded the council that budgets for the past two years have been austere. He explained that some items needed to be deleted from previous budgets and the need is becoming acute.
Some of the items listed as critical for the upcoming year are new roofing for sewer treatment plant buildings, a ventilation system for the maintenance shop, and the purchase of a service truck.
Other critical needs were listed as a new copy machine for the office, a skid steer loader, a mini-excavator and additional money for the upkeep and maintenance of buildings, including the PRWID offices.
Richens explained that a new chlorine treatment booster station is also a critical need due to expanding service areas of the district.
Another area of need, according to Richens, is a revamping of the employee pay scale.
The PRWID board has reviewed the pay scale at previous meetings and given tentative approval for a 4 percent cost of living wage increase.
However, Richens indicated that the whole structure of the wage package needs to be updated.
The assistant manager explained that PRWID managers need direction from the board in establishing a wage policy. He told the board that, currently, there was no policy to follow and it was causing hardship for managers and making it difficult to project budgets.
Richens told the board that they need to make firm decisions on two critical items. First, to set a minimum wage for new employees, and second, to set a wage ceiling for various jobs and how long PRWID should allow an employee to reach the top level in the pay scale. He said that with that information, he and manager Phil Palmer could work out a new pay scale.
After some discussion, the board agreed to set a minimum-starting wage of $9.50 per hour. Richens said that PRWID management will use that number as a baseline to create a new wage policy that will be presented for board review at the next meeting.
The 2006 budget is still being worked out by managers and board members and will not be finalized for some weeks. The board agreed to explore the option of funding some of the critical needs from a possible carry-over from the 2005 budget. Listed as top priorities are the shop ventilation system and roofing for the chemical building at the sewer treatment plant. PRWID managers will also explore the possibility of renting some equipment rather than making capital purchases.
Richens then presented to the board a need to increase the employee spouse/child death benefit. He explained that PRWID employees are not covered by social security, and that the spouse/child death benefit is currently only at $2000. He asked the board to increase the benefit to $5000.
A resolution was unanimously passed increasing the benefit.
In other business, the board reviewed a draft of the Helper settlement proposal as presented by attorney Nick Sampinos. The proposal is for Helper City to temporarily sign over 200 water shares to the district as part of a bill resolution plan. The council had already approved the plan in concept at another meeting. The draft will now be sent to Helper city for final approval and then the agreement will be finalized.
Next, the board reviewed a draft of a Subdivision Approval letter. Carbon County has asked PRWID to create a letter of approval for all future subdivisions in the county. PRWID manager Phil Palmer presented the board with a draft of the letter with an attached checklist. He explained that the checklist would be given to prospective developers as a guide to follow in gaining PRWID approval for their projects. Board members will review the letter and bring comments to the next meeting.
Richens then gave the board an update on the winter water project, a livestock watering program in conjunction with the carbon canal company. Richens told the board that portions of the system are finished and other areas are reaching completion. He said the target for finalizing the whole system was December, but unexpected delays have moved the final completion into early 2006.
The board then reviewed a second draft of the new Wellington service agreement. The service agreement is simply an update of the long-standing agreement between Wellington and PRWID for water and sewer services. PRWID will be doing new service agreement updates with other customers in the near future. Board Chairman Keith Cox said that a meeting would be scheduled with Wellington City in the near future to finalize the agreement.
Cox then asked Richens to give a report on the status of Wellington City's bill. Richens told the board that he had met with Wellington City recorder Ken Powell. Richens said that Wellington was apparently still on track to pay the overdue bill and that the city had made two payments since the last PRWID meeting, reducing the debt by another $35,000.
Board member Tom Matthews then spoke about recent newspaper coverage of hard feelings between PRWID and Wellington City in the resolution of the bill. He explained that PRWID is not trying to impose a hardship on Wellington, and that the Wellington and Helper issues of debt are different. "Wellington has a contract," he said. "Helper is a part-time user."
Karl Houskeeper, who represents Wellington on the board, said that he disagreed. "There are inequities," he said. He told board members that he didn't think the board should make exceptions. Everyone should be under the same standard.
There followed a lengthy discussion of the situation with both sides clearly stating their positions.
Board Chair Keith Cox said that he understood both sides of the issue and all parties should understand that each situation is different. "We try to work with everyone," He said. "We have worked with Wellington for years and we are working with Helper. Each situation is different. I doubt that things can ever be perfectly equitable."
He said that the board had made a decision regarding the Helper bill and they needed to live by it.
Matthews said that he felt that it was not fair to other PRWID customers that the board had allowed Wellington to get behind on their bill. "Anyone else gets cut off for non-payment," he said.
Houskeeper said that Matthew's remarks were indications of his prejudices, and that the board had no evidence that Wellington was not living up to their agreements in good faith. He said that Wellington had agreed to pay the bill by 2006 and they were on track to do so.
PRWID secretary Kathy Dahl reminded everyone that payments for delinquent bills are often negotiated before anyone is cut off from service.
The discussion ended with Cox explaining that he understood both sides, and Helper's position too. But, the board had made a decision and they had an agreement with Helper now.
The meeting ended with a manager's report presented by Palmer. He discussed recent problems with repairing streets in Carbonville, and a couple of water line breaks that had occurred in the past couple of weeks.
The next meeting is scheduled for November 29.