"The Woodman Report has encapsulated operational defects at both Public Utilities and on Council itself"

incompetence
from:  Ted Noftall to
Council, and Candidates,
The Woodman Report and its back-up comments in several short pages of technical and political insight has encapsulated operational defects at both Public Utilities and on Council itself.  We are indeed fortunate to have such  insight  in our community
At the Council meeting on  April 1st  the Manager indicated that his  office would not be in a position to comment on Utility department deficiencies  noted in  Woodman Report until yet another report from  consultants he retained  is received in another  30 to 60 days.   Further delay in either refuting  Woodman’s  conclusions or acknowledging same  and moving to correct them  is a credibility destroyer.
Either the un-safe work conditions and the sophomoric work practices of Public Utilities noted by Woodman occurred or they did not.
 The citizens of Port Orange are justified in demanding demonstrable  and ongoing evidence that the City has competent leadership in all departments including  Finance, Public Works and Public Utilities.  Sadly  the Auditor’s recent comments regarding Finance staff deficiencies,  the near daily debacles in Public Works,  and now the Woodman Report  exposing Public Utility deficiencies  suggest competent leadership does not exist in either of those departments.
Credibility in all three departments is all the more important in light of the Manager’s  un-documented assertion  that Council has failed to invest adequate  R&R  dollars in the City’s water utility system over the past ½ dozen years,   AND THAT  a near  $ 60 million expenditure along with new borrowing and rate increases in the 30% to 50% range are required ……. BASED ON  nothing more than the analysis of his and his department heads  whose combined tenure with the City  does not span but 3 or 4 years.
IF our water utility infrastructure  system has been short changed,  it will not be for lack of dollars being spent,  but rather from a misallocation of those dollars  being applied to the Mayor’s   obsession  with the   pipe,  pumps,  and ponds that comprise  the City’s un-workable reclaimed system  that currently features give away water to some residents,   and daily pumping into the river – ending  which was the pipe dream on the Mayor’s tail that he began chasing in the first place,  AND WHILE that pipe dream was a noble one ……at what cost,  was never defined, nor has it been  subsequently disclosed.
Port Orange government must start holding itself  to the realization that taxpayers’ pockets are not bottomless,  and that funds available for expenditure are finite,   and that decisions regarding allocation of those finite expenditures must be made in an open and  transparent  process that does not currently exist in  Port Orange.       
In that regard I would again call upon you to instruct the Manager  provide the relevant accounting for those reclaimed water expenditures  to date which the former Manager told me in conversation several years ago were well north of $ 20 million.
I would also call upon you to instruct the Manager to refer his  recommended  $60 million dollar expenditure along with supporting documentation  to the A&B Advisory Board for their review as the Ordinance you passed establishing that Board tasks  its members  with    “review of the City’s  major financial risk exposures”   and  I would certainly expect that a  $ 60 million expenditure be considered major.
Thank you for your consideration of these most important matters.
Ted Noftall


April 4, 2014 at 11:02 am

From Hank: It is quite telling that the city manager refuses to comment on the Woodman Report until other audit reports are obtained. Would that indicate “Say nothing, until you know if more criticism is coming, so that you can handle them all as very complicated issues”?
There is indication to me that the city manager and perhaps some on the city council are not fully utilizing the services of the Citizen Budget and finance Committee. Perhaps that citizen committee should vote on disbanding and let the council have a record of not supporting the citizen budget committee. If that were to happen, I think we can expect Mayor Green and Councilman Kennedy to form a new committee stacked with their team players. Mayor Green when first hearing the proposal of a citizen committee asked if his wife who has financial capabilities might be able to be on the committee. And too, Mayor Green’s son who is active in city functions might be considered as a candidate for a more agreeable citizen finance and budget advisory committee.
As I understand it, there is about a 1 million dollar loss due to mishandling of water rates to Daytona Beach shores. I guess the citizens of Port Orange pay for that loss?
== Hank springer


Hank; Ted :

 As you may recall, when the Council first formed the Audit & Budget Committee it was composed of 5 members.  Each Councilman sponsored one committee member.  Soon thereafter the Mayor had a panic attack as he realized the independence and expertise makeup of that new committee.
 
As his fear set-in of having a independent citizen committee reviewing city audit and budget items and proposals he buffaloed some of the other councilmen to add 3 additional members to the committee.    The sole purpose of that scheme was to dilute the effectiveness of a independent committee.
 
It appears now that his scheme has worked.

Woodman Report link

5 thoughts on “"The Woodman Report has encapsulated operational defects at both Public Utilities and on Council itself"

  • April 5, 2014 at 11:05 am
    Permalink

    Response to recent posts
    These comments are based on my 36 years of experience as a Port Orange Public Utilities employee, my knowledge of all of the utilities systems, budgeting, capital projects and department personnel.
    In some areas the department is lacking in long time experienced employees with a high degree of institutional knowledge of our systems. The former assistant department head warned council that brain drain was coming quickly. The main break during Bike Week is an example of what results from this.
    Let’s face it the Utilities department head is not very experienced, especially in a system of our size. There are two or three people in the administration division that that he relies on that have been there for years but never really excelled in their field rather they kept or advanced their careers by proper positioning of their noses. At this time in my opinion there is one person left in management that has credibility and he is in middle management as a division head. There is some real talent in water operations and the maintenance divisions with the experience and institutional knowledge. There are a few left in other divisions. We have an aging staff that are all close to retirement. Someone needs to do something soon or we will have a bunch of rookies operating and maintaining our utilities. We are halfway there!
    I don’t go to council meetings. I watch them on POG-TV. I was exasperated by the whole water rate and 57 million $ infrastructure proposal. Maybe they did pick the $ amount off of a pear tree. Having worked on the utilities capital improvement budget for over 30 years I think that a rate increase may be needed. My problems with the capital improvement budget has been the amount of available funds that are spent on legitimate projects and prioritization of projects.The desk jockeys make the final decisions in these areas leaving field personnel scratching their heads wondering why the most obvious and most needed work does not get done. They get stuck putting band aids on major problems to keep them functioning. For the most part I don’t blame council. They only know what management feeds them.
    I heard the term value engineering…really? really? I don’t know who they have left there that could comprise a value engineering team. I heard staff recommends. That means this is what the manager told us to say. We have some major problems in some of our sewer systems in the older sections of town that have needed work for years. We also have problems with the water distribution system in the older sections. The plants are in good shape due to a good R&R schedule in the CIP budget thanks to the division heads and personnel in operations and maintenance.
    I have a hard time with management throwing those numbers out there without any real detailed documentation or evidence to show what work needs to be done, explaining the cost. I would not even consider this request without complete information to base a decision on. They also need to follow up and make sure if authorized that the money goes exactly where it is designated to go. There was a place that those of us that worked on the budget always called the black hole where $$$ seemed to disappear.
    Maybe we should commission a study or audit or report on what I have written here to see if it makes sense or has any validity. It should take six months. See Ya.

    Reply
  • April 5, 2014 at 6:20 pm
    Permalink

    Does anyone else out there ever ask why, when problems, situations and questions come up we have to pay someone outside of the city to do a report or a study or an evaluation? What do we pay our people for? Is this just a form of obfuscation? Don’t we have people capable of analyzing and evaluating their work? Are they capable of using logic and critical thinking? Do they know enough about their work to apply these principals? Do we know when we farm out these reports etc. if we are going to get objective results or politically desirable results?
    Who controls the scope and instructs these firms as to what results are desired? Now we are paying some entity to determine the cause of a water main break. Will we find out that utilities had nothing whatsoever to do with it? This is where the question of leadership comes in. Leaders take responsibility and don’t pass the buck. They figure out what went wrong and fix it. If they can’t recognize problems in their supposed area of expertise then you have to wonder why they are there.
    Would Mayor Green an experienced contractor and master carpenter send a couple framing carpenters with 6 months experience to build a house in Cypress Head with his name on it? Would Bob Ford who I consider a brilliant man with many years in law enforcement send a rookie cop to conduct a murder investigation? I think not. These guys know what’s going on and I don’t think the rest of the council is that naïve. You need to evaluate your employees skill levels, If you are able and make sure that the job gets done properly. You must be diligent and always conscious of potential problems. Someone has egg on their face.

    Reply
  • April 5, 2014 at 10:24 pm
    Permalink

    Because we haven’t done anything for six years, we are going to have to play catch-up,” Kisela said.
    This is a quote from the Daytona Beach News Journal. I would like for the Audit and Budget Committee to verify the validity of that statement as well as looking into the upcoming 60 million in expenditures. Where did all the revenue go for the 6 years that we have “done nothing”? I reviewed the managers updates on this site and viewed Public Utilities on each one. There seems to be PLENTY of money being spent on projects in most of the weekly updates. I simply cannot believe there were NO projects in the 6 years prior or somebody robbed the bank. Every week the Finance guy stands before us and smiles and tells us great news that we are right on budget or even slightly under budget. So what the hell happened all of a sudden? Either we don’t know how to budget or someone got to the piggy bank. Please tell us this is not true and we did spend something on our utilities for 6 years. If you could report a number in the total spent for that 6 years beyond operating costs which I hope would at least include maintenance it would be nice for us taxpayers to compare that number to nothing.
    This is all very SHOCKING!
    Thank You Audit and Budget Committe. Your diligence is appreciated.

    Reply
  • April 6, 2014 at 5:36 pm
    Permalink

    Ted,
    I have looked at your points closer and agree that the city has spent substantial money on R&R. Their has been the development of the reclaim system including the lake storage facilities, which have to this point failed to produce the promised results. I recall and have seen several ongoing projects including the “pigging” of lines in the Shores and relining in the Cambridge area recently.
    Disturbing to me upon reflection is the comment at the workshop that the original cost was $90,000,000.00 and now engineered down to 57 million and more possible savings/cost reductions to be found.
    It appears clear that like the repaving budget their is no sound basis of the quality of our roads or our utility infrastructure to set a reasonable expectation of the work needed and the cost.
    Council is due or past due to see an assessment of our street needs and have a comprenhensive plan presented. That was a motion carried 5-0, so I am sure it will be presented timely, and would expect it before we see a CIP.
    I believe citizens and council are due an actual assessment of the water and sewer pipes and facilities. Water pipes and sewer lines can and I am told are being inspected by video. This should be done and reported on before any rate change is even considered much less a plan that would put 60,000,000 dollars of debt on the cities ratepayers and citizens.
    It is shameful that yet another gap in diligence and responsibility to the taxpayer dollar has been brought to light. I feel that the immediate acceptance of the shocking shortfall amounts, and thought of poor maintenance is a product of the far too frequent revelations of failure. Dating back to the non functioning water meters that were not manually read, Shores and County billing issues, and lack of a replacement program for aged water meters.
    Our council MUST hold the manager to higher standards than we have seen in the first year, the excuse that their were crises and shortcomings has run its time, and the thrill of moving RiverWalk off dead center will be short lived in the light of a tax and utility increases.
    Newton White

    Reply
  • April 9, 2014 at 5:44 am
    Permalink

    The city has spent considerable dollar amounts on R&R and capital projects in the past few years. There have been improvement projects at the water and waste water plants, quite a few sewer lift stations replaced every year for quite some time. On the water side many improvements have made for regulatory compliance reasons concerning disinfection byproducts. Most of this work was accomplished through water operations and maintenance division personnel working together designing, specifying and installing the systems with a little help from vendors and contractors thus saving the city big bucks. The water plant has received some prestigious awards recently due to the work of these good employees. The sludge processing area was just rehabbed. High service pumps have been rehabbed or replaced. We have spent money on telemetry, control and security systems.
    We need work in some sewer gravity systems that has been deferred for years while things you can see above ground get done. If you defer 2 or 3 lift station replacements each year you can use that money for sewer rehab. I have tried to get the people that call the shots to do this for several years. Instead of replacing 5 to 8 lift stations per year you could do 4 and spend it elsewhere. The master lift station on Williamson needs to be replaced and upsized. The wet well is too small to handle the volume. It could be constructed at the Williamson reclaimed storage tank site.
    We have problems in some of our sewer force main systems on the west and southwest areas of town. The lines are plugging up due to low constant velocity in the lines causing solids to settle in the lines. We installed flushers with reclaimed water in a few locations to flush the solids out of the force mains. This saves money on line pigging. The city needs to schedule R&R of infrastructure in the CIP budget. The sewer collection crew should have video from inspections that can be used to get started. They need to assign a theoretical useful life to everything to establish an R&R schedule for the CIP budget, than revisit and do an assessment of scheduled work annually as you do your budget preparations so you can determine if things can be deferred or moved out to a later time. Set priorities based on what you know from your inspections and assessments, Be prepared to spend the money where it is needed. The city needs to provide the personnel and tools to run the programs needed to maintain it’s infrastructure. You can’t run from that it will catch up with you and bite you in the ass. This is utilities 101. We have been basically spending close to the minimum required by law and regulatory compliance on infrastructure.
    There are many publications concerning the basic programs that all utilities should have. We have employees that know what needs to be done but are afraid or unmotivated to get involved. Anyone that manages utilities should be familiar with these programs and should lead there people to establishing and running them.
    As far as reclaimed goes what happened to the assessment that the manager hired someone to do? What happened with the council reclaimed workshop? The lake filter project? If you want some good ideas on what to do with reclaimed water talk to the regular employees. You won’t get good answers from management. Management has no practical or working knowledge of our systems.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.