The board also rejects a hiring freeze in the same meeting

Idyllwild Water District General Manager Michael Creighton (left) and directors David Hunt (center) and Steve Kunkle (right). Not shown, directors Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly and Les Gin. Photo by JP Crumrine

The staff’s work hours, a hiring freeze, and the additional costs of the recent pipeline replacement project dominated the Sept. 18 Idyllwild Water District (IWD) board of directors meeting.
For the third month in a row, the board discussed the issue of staff working four days a week at 10 hours per day. Directors David Hunt and Steve Kunkle are concerned that this schedule has a negative impact on customer service and possibly field projects.
However, the board eventually approved the extension of the “4/10” work week through Oct. 31. Beginning Friday, Nov. 1, IWD staff will return to the more traditional five days a week, eight hours per day work schedule.
The board reluctantly agreed not to implement a hiring freeze during this period. However, even that decision required two separate votes.
Beginning the discussion of whether to terminate the 4/10 schedule at the end of September or extend it, Kunkle said, “When we approved the office 4/10 schedule, we said we’d review it in six months. The field’s 4/10 would end on Sept. 30. In my opinion, there is no benefit.”
General Manager Michael Creighton quickly disagreed with Kunkle and said many projects are getting done in one day rather than needing two.
“We only started [the 4/10 for the field] in July. I’d like to continue it and see its effects in all seasons,” Creighton stated.
Field manager Jerry Johnson, in response to a question about its impact on field projects, said staff works the same number of hours per week, but the longer day allows for a smoother flow of work and less carry over to the next day.
Hunt concurred with Kunkle and argued it seemed to cause more problems than it alleviated. “It reduces customer service benefits especially in the office,” he believes. “We need the office open 9 a.m.-5 p.m.”
The office staff indicated to the board that they have not heard or received complaints about the office hours. Creighton said earlier in the meeting he was working to install a window for the public to use when only one person was in the office.
As the discussion ended, Director Peter Szabadi noted that no one had identified any “big problems with the 4/10 schedule” and no emergencies had occurred. He was willing to extend the 4/10 work schedule.
Eventually, Kunkle made a motion to end the 4/10 work schedule for all staff on Sept. 30. Hunt seconded the motion. Board President Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly asked if Hunt would accept ending the 4/10 schedule on Oct. 31. He and Hunt agreed, but they would not accept a change to specify a date for resuming it without an evaluation of its effects from Creighton.
Szabadi and Director Les Gin opposed the motion, Schelly abstained. The motion failed in a 2-2 vote.
A second motion, which Szabadi offered, also extended the 4/10 schedule to Oct. 31, but would resume it on March 1. This motion passed 4-1.
Hiring freeze
Next, the board had to return to the issue of whether or not to implement a hiring freeze and how long, if passed, it would be imposed.
Creighton wanted to have any hiring limitation eliminated. He had earlier explained his wish to hire some temporary staff to complete several projects this fall. Also, he was close to hiring a field supervisor and did not wish to delay that decision.
After some debate, Schelly proposed a motion to “not implement a hiring freeze.” This failed in a 2-3 vote. Szabadi, Hunt and Kunkle opposed the motion.
After more discussion, clarifying that the freeze would still be in effect. Szabadi made a motion to reconsider the issue. On the second vote, it passed 4-1 with only Hunt supporting the continuation of the freeze.
Pipeline replacement
Before addressing the staff work schedules, the board heard about the status of the pipeline replacement project along South Circle Drive and Village Center Drive. This is essentially complete, but required more time than anticipated because so many large rocks were embedded in the ground under the road.
The contractor, El–Co Contractors Inc., submitted an invoice for an additional $124,233. After talking to a field foreman for El-Co Contractors Inc., the board agreed to pay the additional costs. Szabadi was the only director to oppose this action. The newspaper asked Chief Financial Officer Hosny Shouman for the invoice, which he immediately emailed over.
The invoice, broken into two parts, is published with this story. The invoice notes extra time encountered. The “original contract costs were set at $561,526. Three billings were scheduled to pay the project costs. The first payment was [made] June 19 at $253,893, the second payment was [made] July 15 at $125,946 and the third payment was $123,685, totaling $503,524 leaving a balance of $58,000,” according to the memo from General Manager Michael Creighton included with the Sept. 18 board packet.
The memo continues, “On Aug. 21, I met with John Wiles (El-Co) to discuss the additional cost of the pipeline project. [The district] received two bills, $18,104 and $116,528, based on the additional labor and equipment costs for working with the excess boulders and rock on Village Center Drive, which slowed down the work production. The estimated total is $134,633.”
The total was $124,233 instead of the estimated $134,633. With the $58,000 balance, the project ran $66,233 over budget.
Sewer annexation
Adopting a resolution to impose a moratorium on annexation to the sewer district required no discussion or debate and was unanimously approved.
Water business
IWD produced 8.9 million gallons of water in August. Repairing several major leaks resulted in the production of nearly 5 million less gallons than in July. The August production was also 17% less than the 10.8 million produced in August 2018.
For the year-to-date, IWD’s water production is 67.8 million gallons, which is 6.4%, or 4 million gallons greater than the water production for the first eight months of 2018.

The invoice submitted to IWD from El-Co Contractors Inc. Document courtesy of Idyllwild Water District
The first page of the breakdown of the invoice from El-Co Contractors Inc. Document courtesy of Idyllwild Water District
The second page of the breakdown of the invoice from El-Co Contractors Inc. Document courtesy of Idyllwild Water District