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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Bonuses and "Temporary" Fees

Uploaded: Oct 16, 2011
The Dublin San Ramon Services District came under fire recently for voting to pay Senior Managers bonuses up to 9.25% of their pay. These managers already make at least $150-$250K. I protested these bonuses last year when I ran for the District's Board of Directors.

I argued with Director Rich Halket over the bonuses. Rich, who used to work for Peoplesoft before it was taken over by Oracle, is now a CPA. He defended the bonuses because the District pays managers only 60% of the range paid in similar districts. I told Rich that 60% isn't low. It is 10% above the median, but Rich was not convinced and believed that DSRSD managers deserve bonuses to make up for their middling pay. Directors Pat Howard and Georgean Vonheeder-Leopold voted with Halket for the bonuses. Directors Dawn Benson and Dan Scannell voted against them.

Howard was recently quoted in the Contra Costa Times when the temporary infrastructure charge was cut in half, "We said it was temporary, and we meant it." I still don't see it gone. It was $18 and now it is $9, and the plan for next year is to reduce it more but not end it entirely. So water users are paying twice for the infrastructure that they paid for when they bought their homes.

Why did the District need this "temporary infrastructure fee" in the first place? Because, as Georgean Vonheeder-Leopold boasted in our televised debate on TV30 last year, "We wanted to be the little District that could." This goes back to Dougherty Valley and the tangled web of water and sewer that enabled Contra Costa County to increase the size of the project.

It's not really Georgean's fault. I probably would have voted for it if I had been on the District Board 15 years ago when DSRSD agreed to provide water for 11,000 homes in Dougherty Valley after East Bay MUD voted not to. That made the developers very happy, because then they could build 3000 more houses and flatten more ridges than the City of San Ramon would allow, by going to Contra Costa County for their permits.

Water and sewer were two stumbling blocks for increasing the size of the development in Dougherty Valley. DSRSD should have been the sewer provider, because stuff (you know what I mean) flows downhill. But Pleasanton, which is where the DSRSD processing facility is located (Don't ask. That's a whole other can of worms.), didn't want the stuff going there. So now the stuff is pumped up to Martinez.

Instead of getting the sewer service, DSRSD negotiated a trade for water rights with Kern County so it could be the water provider for Dougherty Valley. In order to deliver the water, DSRSD had to build the infrastructure, piping and pumping, before the development started. This sunk a whole bunch of money in the ground, but it would all be paid for by the connection fees charged on the new homes. When the real estate market crashed the District created a "temporary," infrastructure fee to be able to pay on their note. This enabled DSRSD to refinance its debts at a better rate, but because fewer connection fees (now called capacity fees) are coming in, the temporary charge is still there.

So today I read in the Times that the Directors are considering reducing the maximum possible bonus from 15% to 7.5% next year. Of course the fact that the stuff hit the fan and blew back on them, and that Halket, Howard, and Scannell are running for reelection next year, wouldn't have anything to do with seeing the light. I hope someone from San Ramon runs for the District next year, but I can tell you it won't be me.

I ran for DSRSD to represent San Ramon, which has not had any representation on the DSRSD Board of Directors in ten years, and to make District information more accessible to the public. I also wanted reduced rates for low income users.

Last year the Directors passed a lower rate for residents who qualify for PG&E CARE rates but only for water users. The rates for sewer users have not been reduced yet. There are some legal limitations on the District's ability to change rates for one group of users over another; so I understand why this is taking more time.

Everyone on the Board took credit for reducing the water rates, but that was one of my campaign priorities back in 2004. Everyone jumped on the band wagon when I showed up again. If my running for DSRSD helped push them into doing this, then I did some good.

Even after losing the election I came to a meeting last November to protest the 1.5% COLA given to managers. I had just received a letter from Social Security saying recipients would not be getting a COLA that year. I have not received a no-COLA letter this year, but I'm expecting one soon. I'll keep my eye on DSRSD's Agendas to see if they have the nerve to vote for one this year. I won't run for Director again, but someone has to keep an eye on what they are doing with ratepayers' money.

Comments

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Oct 16, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

They heard me!

Last June I wrote a Commentary on DSRSD putting their complete meeting package online. "After I gave my impassioned plea, newly elected Director Dawn Benson smiled and said, 'We heard you.' Stephenson showed me additions to the plan, 'Examine feasibility and regularity of posting Board and Committee Agenda packets to the internet,' and 'Examine feasibility of video and or audio recordings of District Board meetings with keyword search functionality.' If these are feasible, the District will do them."

I just checked the online Agendas and the complete package, with all of the Staff Reports, has been posted since August 16th. So now residents who want to know what the District will discuss and vote on at the next meeting can find it all online. Thank you Dawn Benson and Sue Stephenson.

Roz


Posted by Larry, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 18, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Here you go again, Roz. Please give others (and I am not talking about board members) their due.

Let's ALL try to get some well-qualified San Ramon residents on the DSRSD board. I've been talking to neighbors about this for some time. We have so many knowledgeable people in our town who would bring invaluable experience to the board and have the courage to stand up to/question a GM.

I was on vacation when DSRSD had its last board meeting. I just wish you or someone with a similar platform had sounded the alarm a week or two BEFORE the bonus vote.




Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Oct 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Larry,

I don't know if I know you. I can't recall a "Larry," but that doesn't mean anything. I forget a lot these days.

I haven't been following DSRSD since June when I went down there to ask about putting the meeting package online. I'm surprised Sue Stephenson didn't call and let me know this was started last August. Now anyone can find out what will be voted on before the meeting. I hope more people look at the online Agendas and go to their meetings.

Mohinder Khanna Web Link ran for the District in 2006 and lost. In 2008 David Pulice ran and lost. I know Mr. Khanna. He is a resident of San Ramon with 36 years of experience in waste water treatment. I supported him and I hope he will run again. I don't know Mr. Pulice. I couldn't find any information about him.

Jim Brady ran for San Ramon City Council in 2009. According to his bio on Smart Voter, "He was twice elected and served six years on the Ventura County's Ojai Special District," which is similar to DSRSD. I suggested he run for DSRSD in 2010, but he didn't so I did. I hope he will run next year if he's reading this.

I don't believe in term limits. Voters should decide when their representative's term should be up. But when a representative stops looking out for the best interests of his or her constituents and starts getting too cozy with staff, then it's probably time for someone new.

Roz


Posted by John Madison, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 18, 2011 at 8:02 pm

How many more examples of public scandal and rip offs do we need in San Ramon before there will be another Grand Jury investigation in our community? Once again, the public servants we fund cannot enrich themselves at our expense with salary/benefit packages that are twice those offered in the private sector...NO MORE...Where are our elected official with fiduciary responsibility? NO MORE...we now find that our sewer and water managers make more than 99% of Americans? Where in the Sam Hill does this end?


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