Tuesday, April 4, 2017

North Miami Beach Water Utility Operations Question Public Comment 04/03/2017

The following concerns a public meeting of the North Miami Beach city commission concerning potential negotiations over private operation of their water utility.

I decided to type up notes on public comment in a different place than my general meeting write-up. I do not write a transcript here, only what I found worthy of follow-up for the topic of discussion.

Chuck Cook, a resident, notes that staffing levels of the utiliy dropped 30% in recent years. He suggests deliberate neglect by the administration. The water fund has millions of dollars for projects sitting unused. He believes in deliberate managerial neglect to make privatization of management a foregone conclusion. He ends with "shame on you".

US Water Services Corporation, VP, Carl Smith, suggests that rather than only negotiating with one company that the city negotiate with multiple companies. He suggests that from a fiduciary stewardship of the city perspective they should consider that option.

Dawn Grayson demonstrated a concern about finding out so recently of the issue. Specifically that her resident mother received no mail notice about the proposal.

Ed Navarro, a resident and architect, brings up the issue of oversight. "the city manager says that you guys are going to provide oversight. if you're going to provide oversight it means you know what they're doing better than they do so why don't you do it?" To which he gets applause.

Elizabeth Tetreault notes the water utility has good bank accounts, and lots of money laying around. She suggests they may just need a better manager. Mentions she had some issue accessing the Eisenhardt report. Given the excess funds she wondered why the city didn't attempt to address the issues internally. She mentions $3M in training funds they could use to "keep our resources in house."
She says she read a water quality report which did not suggest such a dire state of the city's water.

William B brought up CH2M's contract to oversee the Qatari World Cup project, objecting to the vast human rights violations of that country.

Michael K of Sunny Isles brings up various fines CH2M paid in the past for regulatory violations.

Janice Coakley, city employee, launches into a laundry list of points asking, "why give out 25-65 percent raise when you plan to outsource, why did you have CH2M to do the master plan for utilities and then allow them to bid, why did you have one of CH2M staff attend procurement training, I was at that training. Why did you have CH2M Hill senior managers give directions to city employees. Why did you have CH2M recommend discipline for employees. Why do you have two senior managers that does not have the proper license and certificate by the state and miami dade county healthy department, so if you want to check into that you have people overseeing who does not have the certificate and the license."
"They have never spoken with the union." To which the city manager later responded that the responsible for communication with staff about changes to the utility falls on the commission and not the potential future operator.
She also noted that after public presentations for the RFQ, members of city management or the commission physically greeted the representatives from CH2M but not the other presentors, which she seemed to suggest implied some manner of tomfoolery. She mentions the various awards the city water received.
"Keep the employees, hire someone that can manage the water plant," she concludes.

Omar Kazan says the commission hijacked the charter with ordinance 2012-35 passed on january 2, 2013. (I may not have heard the number correctly, and could not immediately discern the relevance of the ordinance to the current situation) Claims top staff stole money, brings up the case of Marty King, former city Director who stole $2.3M from the city. First person to bring up the FBI, and says, "they're going to get some information" and "there's a lot I'm going to be saying." Brings up Eisenhardt as a no-bid contractor. They have the city water 18 Fs and 6 Ds but he still drinks the water without issue. Then mentios the city hiring unqualified directors since Mayor Marin left, pinning blame directly on the current administration.
"Even until now...because you lowered the qualifications...so that individual could be hired" Suggesting nepotism.

Alexandria Smith, of Miami Gardens, a ratepayer, brings up some issues she read about in the media, noting specifically that the city only seems to respond to criticism by arguing for misleading or incomplete reporting, but fail to supplant the false notions with a fact based alternative view. She mentioned transparency, "especially something as important as water."

Jamie Miller, a current commissioner on the public utilities commission, notes "they are not going to beselling the public utility but they will be releasing the employees to a private contractor. outsourcing in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing...that being said the residents need to know one things. when this issue came up in front of your public utility commission board we were not given the written findings from Eisenhardt. Why was that? Why were we not given the opportunity to read the findings in that report, digest it, debate it, discuss it, argue it, and [inadubile] engineering that might offer us alternatives?"

Mr Rose, a retired city employee of 25 years of service, 12 years in flood control lab and 13 years at the water plant. Mentioned a local and statewide award for water taste and quality.
"Don't tell me about neglect at the water plant with only two mechanics for over two years...and expect the water plant to run..." He brings up the hiring of unqualified engineers. He mentions that CH2M, presumably in the master plan, recommends downsizing employees. He goes in to some detail about wasteful practices in the department due to managerial incompetence. He does not believe the current director of the utility has the abilities to run the plant. Mentions that known problems continue without address.

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