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HELIX WATER DISTRICT – The board that oversees delivery of water to most homes in East County met Thursday and heard from a few of their customers who have been complaining about employee benefits offered by the district.
Russell Buckley, David Smyle and David Stanley – three La Mesa residents – each told the board in their own ways that it was time to start cutting back on benefits that they believe now clearly exceed standards.
Buckley, Smyle and Stanley all cited pension benefits that don’t require employee contribution and health benefits that cover employees and their families without employee contribution.
The board listened politely but because the board is currently in negotiations with the employee unions left it to Mark Weston, general manager of the district, to respond to the citizens concerns.
Weston acknowledged the challenging economic times and said the district has been responding by looking for every way possible to cut costs. He listed savings of $5.6 million last year and $4.5 million this year. He also pointed to the fact that Helix Water’s rates are the lowest in the metropolitan area “which suggests we’re doing some good things here,’’ he said. He praised the district employees as among the best in the business and said they are considered leaders in the region.
But Weston also acknowledged that the downturn in the economy in 2008 changed things. In 2008, he said, it had been routine among water districts to offer full-paid pension and health benefits to attract the best talent and keep the crucial water systems running at peak efficiency.
But the economic downturn and decreased water consumption had changed the district’s revenue picture.
Weston and board members could not discuss current on-going negotiations with their employees but presumably the issues Buckley and company brought up are on the table as they have been in cities and municipal board contract negotiations across the state.
“These are different times now,’’ was all Weston could say. “Your comments don’t fall on deaf ears.’’
The board did acknowledge the need to conserve in defeating a proposal to donate $1,000 to the East County Chamber of Commerce, saying it must limit spending to purely water-related matters these days.
The board then adjourned to executive session to discuss the negotiations aimed at developing a memorandum of understanding with its unions for when the current contract ends in July.
Here is the text of Buckley’s statement to the board: HWD%20Meeting%20Feb.%2016%2C%20by%20Russell%20Buckley.pdf.
Here is a link to Stanley’s account of the meeting: http://www.lamesatoday.com/profiles/blogs/pebbles-against-the-stone....