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Something Amazing Happened at the Padre Dam Board Meeting

Two employee groups give up a 3.5 percent retirement payment to help make up the budget deficit at the water district.

Something amazing happened Tuesday at the —something that left board members almost speechless.

There wasn’t much of anything on the agenda for the meeting, and no one was expecting anything particularly newsworthy.

Until, that is, the heads of the two employee groups at the district stepped up to the microphone for brief comments.

You know, , that the district is looking at a in the budget by the end of 2012, and that severe cuts are planned—in fact, have already started, because the directors swore they would to make up that shortfall.

Both employee groups have, as part of their contracts, a payment to their retirements equal to 3.5 percent of their salary, to be paid by the district.

Eric Lucie of the blue collar workers and Brian Thornberg of the mid-management employees stepped up to the mic ...

... and gave it back.

That’s right—you’re not seeing things.

They gave it back.

Two employee groups with contractually obligated money coming said “Keep it, we’ll pay the 3.5 percent out of our own pockets.”

The directors had been told something good would happen, but not what.

The employee groups came up with this on their own.

Lucie explained, “It just goes to show our belief in the workforce partnership, and the employees’ desire to work and help the district through this rough spot. This is a good place to work, and we want to help keep it that way." The sentiments were echoed by Thornberg.

The two employee groups also gave back two guaranteed “floating holidays,” which the district would also have had to pay for.

Director , who has been the one pushing the workforce partnership, could only thank the employee groups and comment that it’s hard to imagine a better relationship between than exists at Padre Dam.

General Manager Allen Carlisle told me after the meeting, “You know, this is my third public sector job, dealing with public sector employees, and I’ve never seen anything remotely like this happen before.”

This is NOT chump change we’re talking about here.

These givebacks will shave at least half a million dollars off that projected shortfall, at NO cost whatever to ratepayers.

If you still think there’s mismanagement and waste at , let me give you a frame of reference to consider.

The Otay Water District has just voted to give its management people, and their spouses, LIFETIME health care, at district expense, and jack up their paychecks the exact amount of the insurance costs.

To make it worse, Otay is also planning to offer the same benefits, with the same raises, to all its unionized employees.

Where does Otay get the money to pay for all this largesse?

Why, the same place Padre Dam gets its money—from you, .

When you hear about Otay ratepayers charging the Otay district offices with torches and pitchforks, à la Frankenstein, think about the difference between the two districts.

And —.

Motivated Santee Citizen July 31, 2011 at 11:18 PM
Sluggo has a clue about the "real world". I like his sense of reality. It is refreshing to know that at least a few people in the world get the real picture.
Frank August 01, 2011 at 03:17 PM
Past employee raises did not get Padre Dam into this; two years of 30% less water sales due to the Drought did along with the current economy. Convincing customers to by less of your product for two years but yet you need to stay in business; reverse marketing is tricky.
Motivated Santee Citizen August 01, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Frank, I did state "among other issues that caused it" above. It all contributed to the problems that Padre Dam and ultimately Padre's customers are dealing with now. I doubt it will be long until we are told that our rates are going up yet another time here soon. They will say that they have tried everything and there is just no other way to get around it. I for one am sick of it as it is more like extortion than sound business practices.
Frank August 02, 2011 at 12:56 AM
Rates will continue to go up no matter what due to infrastrcture issues that have been ingnored up North of us for the last 25 years due to environmental Issues that have become a religion and the state of California. You can't build anything here without a 5-year fight and extortion fees from special interest groups with political power. Padre could cut service rates, lay off half the staff and close every Friday and rates will still creep up due to pass throughs from MWD and CWA on billions that has been spent on better late than never infrastucture. My Cox cable bill is still more than my actual water bill every month. I can live without cable and internet; not reliable and safe drinking water.
Motivated Santee Citizen August 02, 2011 at 01:35 AM
Our water bills "creeping up" is one thing, but they have been rising at an alarming rate, not creeping. Also, your analogy about your Cox cable bill illustrates exactly why I said it seems like extortion by Padre Dam in my previous post. They have you where they want you. They know you have to have the water and will pay as we do here in Santee through the nose for it.
Doug Curlee August 02, 2011 at 04:21 AM
thanks, frank..that's what i've been trying to tell people for months now.. padre dam is under the gun because it has to pay more for water.. and they have to buy every drop we drink..no way around it.. i'd agree with the 5-year fight..there have been several very well though-out proposals to build dams and reservoirs around here..but god forbid we disturb a least tern.. or a vernal pool somewhere.. doug
Mike August 04, 2011 at 04:56 PM
The employees of Padre Dam voluntarily give up part of their pay in this economy to help you out and you still complain? I don't like the price of anything these days either but you won't hear me complain about Padre Dam and their employees for trying to help me on the cost of my water bill.
Motivated Santee Citizen August 04, 2011 at 08:18 PM
They were told that 100 or more of them would be let go over the next year and a half to two years and most would be in the blue collar workers. One white collar worker was let go right away already so they are not immune either, but the majority of the cuts will be in the blue collar section. You can not convince me that they did this out of the goodness of their hearts just to help you and I. They did it in an attempt to stop the job cuts for as long as they can. If they were such kindhearted people and thinking about us so much, then why did it take the notice of the impending job cuts to get them to suddenly start doing something that they say they are doing to help us the customers out with our high water bills? It is a public relations stunt to get the exact reaction out of Padre's customers as they got from you. Well, at least Sluggo and I have a clue about reality. Padre Dam needs to lower our bills back to what they were years ago before we did such a great job conserving water which is the excuse they are using that they had to raise our rates. I understand, sell less product make less money. Try to see it from a consumer's point though. We are in a drought period, we are asked to conserve water, we do an exceptional job conserving said water and then all we get for doing such a great job is water bill increases? Why the continual stream of water bill increases over the last 7-10 years before the conservation effort by the consumers?
Doug Curlee August 04, 2011 at 10:26 PM
well..motivated.. all i can suggest for you is one of two choices..do some serious homework, study, and find out EXACTLY how much the water we drink actually COSTS to buy and bring here.. or.. dig a deep well. doug
Mike August 04, 2011 at 11:23 PM
Motivated, I have never written any comments before but come on Motivated. You want the water district to cut prices back to what they were 7 to 10 years ago. What business anywhere would do that? You say you have a clue about reality? Really? The next time you buy gas try paying a $1.50 a gallon and see where that gets you.
Frank August 05, 2011 at 02:13 AM
Motivated: Who told you 100 out of 138 employees would be layed off? Would be a little tough to provide water and sewer service? There was going to be a reduction of 26 employees over two years with attrition, retirements and 'some' layoffs. This was going to happen even without any give backs from the employees and they knew that all along with the revenue shortfalls from the drought. The give back was on their own and did not stop any staff reductions. Lordy the mis-information out there sometimes.
sluggo August 05, 2011 at 04:09 AM
I'm still waiting to see the story that compares what we as ratepayers pay (which based on my bill seems out-of-whack-high) normalized to remove the fuzziness that Padre's multi-tiered rate scale brings to the discussion. The other bit I'd like to see is a comparison to similarly sized districts. Number of employees, average salaries, total non-water costs, etc. per capita. Maybe those who smell a rat are wrong. I could be convinced either way, but there's no data, and I'm not a journalist. I'm just suspicious. And every time I look at the beautiful but expensive-looking building PDMWD built there on the lakes, and think of our city hall doing business in what is at best a mediocre office park, I start to wonder.
sluggo August 05, 2011 at 04:11 AM
Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.
Frank August 05, 2011 at 03:13 PM
Sluggo: That building was built with the proceeds from the sale of the old Woodside Ave property, so there was no rate-payer money used. The District already owned the property by the Lakes so that saved money also on the project. As for the "city" comment if you really understand how most cities operate you should be glad that Padre does not operate like most of them; there would be times your water service would be 'furloughed" and it would take days for someone to show up when you have a service call.
Motivated Santee Citizen August 05, 2011 at 08:05 PM
Mike, I never said in my previos post that I expected the rates to go back to what they were 7-10 yearas ago, although that would be great if they did. I did say that I would like them to go back to what they were years ago before we did such a great job conserving. I made a typo and did not include the words; (a few) before years ago in my statement above. Speaking of 7-10 years ago though, My bill has more than doubled in just the last 5-7 years and I use less than half the water that I used to. Frank, I was told the info about the 100 plus workers being let go by a Padre Dam employee. Also, I am wondering how much of the cost to fight to try and force that watee ski cable park fiasco down our throats when most people in Santee did not want it cost us the consumer? Is that one of the reasons our water bills increased? Frank, Where do you get your info from? Maybe you are misinformed?
Doug Curlee August 05, 2011 at 09:30 PM
no, he's not.. you are. doug
Frank August 06, 2011 at 12:07 AM
Motivated: As per the Ski Park; the Park paid for the study and they are self sufficient. It was not forced on any Santee resident anymore than the Campground expansion was years ago. If you don't want to come to the Park you don't have to. The Park does not take any rate payer money. In fact thay are giving some back this year to the District ($100,000) to help with the shortfall. As far as where I get my info, I work at Padre Dam.
sluggo August 06, 2011 at 12:49 AM
The building was built with 'proceeds from the sale of the Woodside property, so no rate-payer money was used' ? Wow. That's some math worthy of Washington DC.
Hillbilly Bob August 06, 2011 at 01:45 AM
Here are my thoughts, I recently moved to Lakeside and am Padre Dam ratepayer. My previous house was on a private well which was great. Great until the well went dry. $22,000 and 800 feet later, I had barely 2 gpm of water. My first Padre Dam bill was about $100 dollars and the actual water portion was about $30. I think that is very reasonable considering the amount of infrastructure that must be maintained to supply my house clean and reliable water. I sold my previous and am still paying on the well. It's really annoying hearing people complain about their water bills. Enjoy the fact that you don't worry if the water is going to come out of the faucet when you turn it on and it's not gong to kill you when you drink it.
Mike August 06, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Motivated, I understand the typo. The point I am trying to make is that everything just costs more now. Bashing the only utility that I pay and probably you too where the employees seem to care is crazy. One thing I did notice while paying my monthly bills is that my Padre bill is every other month while everything else is monthly. Is your bill the same? Last year my highest SDG&E bill ($152) for one month worked out to be higher than my highest Padre bill ($243) for 2 months of water service. My Cox Cable bill ($170) is always higher than SDG&E for me, keep in mind you would have to double SDG&E and COX to fairly compare the three utilities. I agree with Hillbilly Bob below because my last water district in Chula Vista had yellow cloudy water every couple of months and when I would call and report it they just said to turn on my sprinklers and flush it out for them (at my cost). Since I moved to East county and Padre I have not had any issues with the water. It sounds to me you might not be talking to the right person at Padre judging by what Frank and Doug Curly are saying.
Frank August 06, 2011 at 09:52 PM
Sluggo: What that means is no rate increase was used to pay for the new building. I guess Padre should never build any new facilities to have a staging area to do business in service to the customers, right? outgrew the last site after 30 years. If you would like to see the sorry shape the Operations Yard behind the Customer Building is in I would be glad to give you a tour. Been trying for 10 years now to improve it.
Motivated Santee Citizen August 08, 2011 at 09:07 PM
Sluggo, I was thinking the same thing about that Padre Dam's math. Too funny. Frank, I to am getting my info from a Padre Dam employee, but I will admit that your info sounds more realistic than from whom I am getting mine. As for the cable ski park at lake #1 being forced down the throats of Santee Residents, you were obviously not present at the overflow city council meetings with the majority of city residents vehemently protesting the cable ski park project. I find it very interesting that our Mayor voted against the cable ski park project and then suddenly changed his mind and voted in favor of it, thus giving the needed vote to approve the project even though the majority of Santee residents were not in favor of the project. Tells you what he thinks about the residents of Santee and what they want in "their" city. Also, their were more expenses to try and push that project through, such as environmental reports that said essentially the opposite of what the California Dept of Fish and Game report said, etc, etc. I very rarely go to the lakes, but when I do I certainly don't want a circus/carnival area in what is essentially a beautiful nature preserve and peaceful park type area. Doug and Mike, I understand what you are saying and the fact is that the way in which Padre Dam obtains the water they sell to us means essentially that we are screwed.
Frank August 08, 2011 at 10:49 PM
Motivated: I hear your points on the Lakes as it being a peaceful place. I was aware of the push back from some of the Santee residents (mostly those who live right by the Lakes for obvious reasons; parking, noise, etc). The developer Sudweeks paid for the studies along with the Lakes. Just so you know though, the majority of the Santee residents were in favor of the ski park;. 70% for it and 30% against it in a mail survey. City politics can be interesting at times to say the least. The current economy pretty much put the lid on the Ski Park with the developer for now and into the foreseeable future.
Doug Curlee August 09, 2011 at 12:04 AM
whoa up there, buckos.. i seem to recall the reason the ski deal never happened was that the contractors bailed out and got a release from the contract because they couldn't perrform what they'd agreed to.. correct me if i'm wrong.. but i don't think i'm senile yet.. doug
Kathy August 09, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Do I like paying a $250 water bill every other month and still have brown grass and dirty cars? No, but I also hate paying $170 a month to watch T.V. (no pay channels) and Internet service. It is what it is and the rates will just keep going up, that is what Utility Companies do. Now as far as the employees willing to give up their 3.5% Pension contribution, I say Good For Them. Is this to allow no one to be laid off? Fantastic, I wish all employees would be willing to sacrifice something, so none of their fellow employees would be laid off. You need to understand that they are not only giving up 3.5%, which effects their retirement income but by preventing lay offs, that does not INCREASE our Unemployment Rate. Therefore, it also reduces your tax dollars, maybe not directly but certainly indirectly. Watch the NEWS, our country is going to hell. We can no longer count on our Government, we need to help ourselves. These employees are doing just that and I am very proud of them. Wake up those of you that only want to see the negative side of everything. In case you didn't notice, the American dollar is worth less. I really think we have MUCH more important things to be worried about then your water bill going up.
Frank August 09, 2011 at 05:56 PM
Correct Doug; they could not perform the way they had intended due to some stranded assets in other projects that they had been counting on.The money was not there anymore due to the economy so the bottom line was the same. They are lucky the project took as long as it did to get approval or we may have had a half finished/stranded project on Lake 1.
Motivated Santee Citizen August 09, 2011 at 09:21 PM
You are right Kathy, The United States credit rating was downgraded the other day by Standard and Poors from AAA to AA+. This is the first time in 70 years that the U.S. has been downgraded. The real problem is that Standard and Poors also gave the U.S, a negative rating for being able to resolve the issues that created the downgrade. All of this on Obama's watch I might add. Where is the "hope" he promised? I certainly see the "change" he promised, just not the change I would like to see.
Kathy August 09, 2011 at 10:55 PM
I guess the joke was on the ones who voted for him (I'm proud to say I sure didn't), he did promise Change, his Change was destroying the U.S. Economy. I say get rid of Welfare and that should reduce our debt significantly.
Mike August 10, 2011 at 04:05 AM
Way to go Kathy! At a bare minimum we should require EVERYONE to pay taxes and anyone recieving a welfare check should have to pay for and pass a drug test first. This comment section is starting to drift but it looks like we are all on the same page.
Kathy August 10, 2011 at 04:28 AM
Well Mike, if we can't get rid of Welfare then that is a good idea. Yes, EVERYONE should pay taxes, including the Millionaires that have accountants, that fix it, so they don't have to pay any taxes.

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