Employee benefits have recently been an important issue for Idyllwild Water District directors. A major reason, according to President Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly, is the desire to have employees reside within close proximity of the district and its customers.
At the March 20 board meeting, the directors took two actions to encourage this decision. Following last month’s discussion of a monthly residential stipend, the board unanimously approved a $350 stipend for employees residing within 6 miles of IWD.
This was approved unanimously with the request that it be limited to full-time employees (regardless of whether their week is less than 40 hours) and not part-time.
Secondly, and partially related to the road closures, the board has approved a new work schedule for office staff, which began Monday, March 25. They will work 10 hours (from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) for each of four days rather than five eight-hour days. The total work time remains 40 hours per week.
The office still will be open five days per week and a stand-by employee will be available. The part-time employee will work Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Also, General Manager Mike Creighton and Chief Financial Officer Hosny Shouman, who will both have the 4-10 work week schedule, will ensure that one of them is also in the office on Friday.
After a month, the new work schedule will be reviewed and may be extended to field staff, too. Creighton’s initial proposal to the board would have applied the schedule to all employees. Based on his discussions and experiences with other water districts, such as Cabazon and Eastern Municipal, he believes the new schedule will improve staff accountability, better enable him to monitor work and reduce overtime.
Director David Hunt was the lone vote against this policy. He urged the board to directly address the commuting problems, which the highway road closures have imposed on three employees.
“I’m requesting you support and trust me. As a recruiting issue, this is good,” Creighton argued. However, several directors preferred it be tested, perhaps during the summer with the longer days, but Creighton and Schelly see the work schedule and residential stipend as critical long-term recruitment policies for future hiring and keeping current staff.
Several other directors raised some questions or concerns but the proposal was approved 4-1.
In district water business, the board continues to pursue the pipeline replacement project along South Circle Drive and Village Center Drive for the fall. Creighton and the board are optimistic that Riverside County Transportation will delay its resurfacing of Village Center Drive in order to allow IWD to install the new pipeline first.
They also are seeking to coordinate their pipeline work with FVWD’s project, hoping that perhaps one contractor can find some economies of scale for less cost.
“I encourage you to work with the County Supervisor [Chuck Washington] and get this work done cooperatively,” Schelly instructed Creighton.
Secondly, Creighton reported that he is preparing a well assessment report. He will evaluate current wells, assess the value of rehabilitating some seldom-used IWD wells, such as the horizontal wells above Foster Lake, and the opportunities for drilling new wells.
“If we get the horizontal wells in operation, it will be free water,” he said. These wells flow naturally without the need for much, if any, pumping. However, they are now inaccessible due to the road damage from the Valentine’s Day rain. Creighton said one of the first steps would be restoring the road (dirt) beyond the lake to the well locations, of which there are 13.
In February, IWD produced 6.6 million gallons of water. That was 1 million less than January, but 1.1 million more than February 2018. The January production of 7.6 million gallons was nearly 1.7 million more than January 2018.
This was the greatest February production in more than 15 years. Only in 2013, when IWD produced 8.4 million gallons, has January water production been greater than 2019.
Creighton did not report any major leaks in the system or at customer residences due to the storm or low temperatures. Unaccounted-for water was about 9 percent.