Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

By Donna Westfall – April 6, 2012

If the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) were a public corporation, the shareholders would receive dividends when the plant made a profit. Our WWTP is not a public corporation. But, there are going to be profit centers.

Once such profit center is the Septage/HoneyMonster scheme. The plan is to receive product from companies like RotoRooter. The return on investment is calculated at about 2 years. After that, “they” (Public Works Director Jim Barnts), estimates that the WWTP should be making money translation: Profit Center.

Since the CASH COWS (CC) of Del Norte County otherwise known as the ratepayers are on the hook for the next 29 years to pay off the now $41.8 million loan for upgrading and expanding the facility due to increased sewer rates, it made clear sense to many in the community that IF any profit centers are created; then a portion of the profit should be returned to the community in the form of reduced rates for sewer. After all, who’s paying for this behemoth?

Hard to forget during the 2007 workshops “Why we need to double sewer rates” sales pitch by the same Public Works Director, Jim Barnts that our $2 ½ million lab was going to pay for itself in 2 ½ years. OOPS! Hasn’t happened. Will it ever happen? No one knows.

Oh, and by the way, $2 ½ million for a 2400 square foot facility is expensive to the extreme. Seems the old Council members who approved the one and only bid to Wahlund Construction were not curious enough to even question why. It was during those meetings that people of the public questioned Mr Barnts real estate endeavors creating a conflict of interest for him. Apparently Mr. Barnts was found not in conflict of interest according to the FPPC without any explanation. Now, years later, Mr. Barnts has his hand in low income apartments behind Wal Mart and soon behind Ace Hardware. And no conflict of interest? My constituents find that amazing; and unbelievable. Actually, people of the public choke on the concept that it’s just part and parcel of the good old boy system of Del Norte County. Along with the ridiculous concept that Mr. Barnts expanded the WWTP for his and his cronies real estate endeavors. How ridiculous is that?

Getting back to Agenda Item # 5 on April 2, 2012’s City Council meeting; it presented one more opportunity to remind my fellow council members that Stover Engineering (SE)) was the same group that got paid for labor compliance on the WWTP when there was no labor compliance program in place. The past council, instead of withholding payment, decided to pay (SE) anyways even though the City lost out on $165,000 in penalties related to that incident. How? Because had a labor compliance program been in place, theoretically, Colburn Electric wouldn’t have been caught by the Electrical Union for falsifying payroll and not paying overtime to their workers from day one of the project because Stover Engineering would have caught it early on and corrected it.

If you listen to Council member Kelly Schellong, it was no big deal. Colburn merely had their workers work 4/10’s instead of 5/8’s. (Translation 4 days a week, 10 hours a day instead of 5 days a week, 8 hours a day.) Apparently Schellong forgot that the State Labor Enforcement Bureau didn’t agree with her assessment, and they had Colburn Electric cough up the money to their workers. Getting caught cost Colburn Electric money for their workers, and additionally it cost the City $165,000 in lost penalties.

Voting against SE getting another contract came down to two points:

Point one: I asked, one more time, to create a formula to reduce sewer rates to ratepayers whenever a program becomes a profit center at the WWTP. Nope. Nada. Zip. I got the distinct impression no one else on this city council is interested in that. This is the second or third time I’ve made this same point to create formula’s to reduce sewer rates due to profit centers. Prediction: It will get swept under the rug and forgotten.

Point two: Find out how much SE got paid to do labor compliance on the WWTP. Get a refund for the difference. If SE didn’t do his job last time, but got paid for not doing the job; why pay him for a new contract? Even if SE was $5,000 cheaper, sorry, Charlie; it doesn’t fly by me. I figure SE owes the city money. That’s why I voted against it.

One thought on “Why I Voted ..”
  1. I thought you might like to see the frustrations of another, who also lives in a small town with cronyism.
    As a matter of fact the town is near us. It is
    Rio Dell.
    Another co-inky-dink, some of their “bad guys” have
    names very simular to our movers and shakers!
    I have not read all the links in this article.
    I did want to get it to the citizens who have questions about the ability of our leaders to keep things on the up-and-up when money is involved.

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