Fairfield-Suisun sewer board addresses pay, conferences

By From page A1 | November 27, 2012

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District board members on Monday addressed such issues as their per-meeting pay and conference attendance for 2013.

Board members decided to end the automatic, 5 percent annual increase to the pay they receive for attending meetings. That means the board will have to vote each January if the pay, presently $149.53 per meeting, will rise.

Sitting on the sewer district board are the Suisun City and Fairfield city councils. The vote was 6-3, with Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, Fairfield City Council members Rick Vaccaro, Catherine Moy, Pam Bertani and Suisun City Council members Mike Segala and Sam Derting voting yes and Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez and Suisun City Council members Jane Day and Mike Hudson voting no.

Fairfield City Councilman John Mraz was absent.

Moy thanked her colleagues for supporting her idea. It doesn’t mean that the board will never get a pay raise, but that it should have to vote each year if it thinks a raise is appropriate, she said.

The dissenters did not state their reasons during the meeting.

When the board enacted automatic annual increases in 2008, the per-meeting pay was $112.50. A 5 percent annual increase is the cap under state law.

The board also reversed a policy it adopted in August that required it to approve in November which members would attend the four California Association of Sanitation Agencies conferences in 2013. Any board member not approved, who attends, would have do so at his or her own expense, not the district’s.

Conferences in 2013 are at Indian Wells, Washington, D.C., Newport Beach and San Diego. Mraz has called the conferences  junkets and collected receipts showing the conferences have cost local taxpayers more than $250,000 since 2003. District officials have said the conferences are valuable for education, networking and the chance to influence state and federal policies.

The board started the discussion with the new pre-approval policy in place. Sanchez and Day said they never attend all four conferences in a year, but would put their names down for all four to keep their options open. Other board members expressed concern that some members would vote down others who wanted to attend certain conferences.

At that point, the board decided to revert to the old policy of letting members simply notify district officials they planned to attend a conference prior to the event. Voting yes were Day, Segala, Sanchez, Derting, Vaccaro, Price and Hudson. Voting no were Moy and Bertani.

Bertani and Moy wanted a limit of one board member per conference, with Bertani saying she didn’t see the financial justification for more to go. One member could go and educate the other board members on the topics upon returning, Bertani said.

Finally, the board voted Monday that retired sewer district employees cannot get health care benefits from the district unless they have worked for the district for at least five years. This applies only to employees who will be hired from this point on. Moy, Segala, Bertani, Derting, Vaccaro and Price voted yes and Day, Sanchez and Hudson voted no.

Sanchez expressed concern that the change might make the district less competitive when it comes to hiring employees, and he said he wanted more information.

The district has eight retired employees getting health benefits. The district pays about $52,520 annually in premiums, or 77 percent of the total, with the retired employees contributing the remainder, according to a district report.

Price attended the meeting by phone from Tennessee. His nameplate was in front of the speakerphone, though technical difficulties made it necessary for him to listen in and speak through Hudson’s cellphone.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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