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Incompetent HDWD General Manager Seeks to Sabotage Sewer Project

By   /   May 20, 2014  /   Comments Off

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Yucca Valley, Ca.,- The Hi-Desert Water District will meet Wednesday May 21, 2014 at 6 pm at their District office to discuss, once again, constructing the multimillion dollar sewer project in-house. This earlier proposal was rejected unanimously by the HDWD directors in a meeting held in early April…so WHY is it back on the agenda? NO Director requested to revisit this item in subsequent meetings so how did this absurd proposal reappear?

There is NO staff report provided for this item #8 that has been placed back on the agenda by this over-paid General Manager, Ed Muzik, for reasons apparently known only to him. Agenda>LINK

This re-visit appears to be an attempt to sabotage the project with further delays creating instability and doubts of the HDWD Director’s ability to stay the course. While Muzik causes this project to be delayed, and compromises any chance to pass an assessment vote, he collects a cool $289,000 salary package while holding only a degree in accounting and no water or utility experience.

After sitting on the sewer assessment figures for 3 months and paying an estimator $15,000 to “massage” the figures, this incompetent manager tried to promote the idea of doing the construction in-house citing unverifiable savings at the meeting of April 2, 2014. Story>LINK

Prior to that meeting, Yucca Valley Deputy Town Manager, Shane Stueckle, arranged for engineers to review the HDWD Staff report within a window of only 5 days and analyze the supposedly “cost savings” which were greatly flawed.

An email was sent to each board member with a copy to Muzik on the morning of April 2nd challenging the HDWD Staff report. Stueckle has stated the Yucca Valley Town Council would not support this project if it were to be constructed in-house by the HDWD.

Stueckle wrote:

“Good Morning Ed:  As you know, the construction of the wastewater collection system is going to have a tremendous impact to this community during the construction phases.  The multi-year impact to the business community and to residential neighborhoods will be something this community has never experienced.  Because of those issues, Town input into the District’s approach to the overall project is necessary and appropriate.

I asked Noel and Alex to review the costs and other information contained in the report to the Board on the Agenda this evening regarding collection system construction.  As full/completed detailed construction cost estimates are not available for either the in-house or contract  construction method, the review of these numbers is subject to discussion and revision.  In the construction tasks of Traffic Control, A.C. Milling, Replacing of Existing Roads, and Manholes, a savings of $16.9 million is identified in the Board report.  Our review of those construction tasks results in a savings of only $3.4 million.  Again, a thorough analysis of the cost differences is not possible without complete construction cost estimates for both in-house and contract construction methods.

There is no analysis or discussion in the Board report regarding costs to the community for the additional time period required for construction by in-house crews.    This issue should be fully analyzed, detailed and openly discussed as part of the public input and Board decision making process.  In that issue, there is no discussion or analysis of staff retention, employee injuries and lost productivity, or recruitment to replace employees who resign or have been terminated.  I also do not see any information regarding impacts to the administrative side of the organization, i.e.:  impacts on human resources, payroll, the potential for unionization or represented employees, etc., as the addition of approximately 20 employees to a small public agency will result in impacts to those segments of the organization.  Finally, if we correctly analyzed numbers for linear feet of pipe that can be installed daily, our calculations indicate approximately six (6) years for construction by in-house crews, and this does not include vacations, holidays, sick leave, etc.

At this point, the information available to the Town and the community for evaluating the costs and timelines for in-house vs. contract construction is insufficient and incomplete.  Policy discussions by the Board are premature as there is no feasible means for the Town or for any member of the public to evaluate the information and to provide meaningful public input into those policy decisions.

The final engineered collection system construction plans have not been completed, the associated construction costs are not available, and the Engineer’s Assessment Report is not available.  The Town and the community have had five (5) days since the release of the Board report on in-house vs. contract construction, and there is insufficient information contained in the report to adequately evaluate the options as presented and to have meaningful public dialogue.

As I have indicated in our recent discussions, I would not recommend to the Town Council that the Town construct this project in-house if it were a Town project.  Along those lines, we have spoken to eight (8) wastewater agencies  in our region over the past several days, and these agencies include both special districts as well as cities.  None of the agencies construct their own wastewater collection facilities, and a majority of those agencies have moved away or are in the process of moving away from constructing water lines in-house.  While there may be some agencies that do construct some collection systems, I do not believe that expanding a government operation to undertake a $90 million project will result in either significant cost savings or successful project completion, especially when there are private sector companies that specialize in the delivery of these systems to public agencies and communities.

Again, the construction of the wastewater collection system is going to have a tremendous impact to this community during the construction phases.  The multi-year impact to the business community and to residential neighborhoods will be something this community has never experienced.  Because of those issues, Town input into the District’s approach to the overall project is necessary and appropriate.

I look forward to full information being made available and discussing these issues with you.” SRS

This GM, Ed Muzik, has caused several delays in moving the sewer project forward as he collects an over-generous salary while spending most of his time at the golf course and flaunting his “Conflict of Interest” as a sitting member of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, the same regulatory agency that issued the septic prohibition. Story>LINK

It is time for this General Manager to be relieved of his employment at the HDWD as he continues to bungle this agency and sewer project.

The internal IOU to the water fund from the wastewater fund has just reached $3 million dollars. While touting receiving $7 million in grants, those funds were spent on the design (and re-design) of the sewer project.

Meanwhile, the final cost of the sewer project continues to rise….

 

 

 

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About the author

Margo Sturges

Yucca Valley Editor

Note: Margo Sturges has written many articles for Cactus Thorns and is the founder of Citizens4Change.info. Email contact: MargoSturgesYV(at)aol.com "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."- George Orwell

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