Council Shuffles Deck at Public Works

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

November 4, 2022

The Morro Bay City Council voted to again shuffle the deck in its Public Works Department, further reworking the Utilities Division’s chain of command begun some 4-years ago.

“In 2018,” reads a staff report by Public Works Director Greg Kwolek, “the Utility Division of the Public Works Department underwent structural changes to move away from compartmentalized operations units to a more nimble, blended operational model.” In essence they’ve created a new job title, “Utility Division Supervisor” setting up the qualifications, requirements, duties and salary for the job.

Utilities used to be comprised of three subset units — water, wastewater and collections — and each had its own supervisor and small crew of operators that only held certificates to be able to work in that field. 

For example, to work at a wastewater treatment plant takes a certain certificate (training), same for the drinking water system; so therefore, “a wastewater treatment plant operator would only hold wastewater certificates and would only work at the wastewater treatment plant,” Kwolek said.

“The new model,” he continued, “eliminated these operational units by creating a multi-certificate utility operator classification, where a utility operator was required to hold certifications in all areas and would be called upon to perform duties in those areas. Further, supervisory positions for these units were gradually eliminated through attrition with the exception of the Wastewater Systems Supervisor classification.”

That person was needed to oversee the continued operations of the Atascadero Road treatment plant. With the imminent completion of the City’s Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) Project perhaps 2-3 months away, it’s time for the final changes.

“Now that the old wastewater treatment plant is being decommissioned,” Kwolek said, “the Wastewater Systems Supervisor classification will be eliminated and the employee holding that position, along with other current employees meeting the minimum qualifications, will have the opportunity to compete for this new position.”

Kwolek told EBN that he intends to look within for the new hire. 

“We’ll then do an internal recruitment as we have a few qualified candidates for the position,” he said. The Utilities 

The new plant requires a new classification of workers. “The new ‘Water Resources Center’ [WRC],” Kwolek said, “which houses both advanced treatment of wastewater and water treatment components, requires a supervisory classification that covers areas of work including wastewater and water treatment. 

“The proposed ‘Utility Division Supervisor’ classification achieves this by including oversight and supervision of all day-to-day water, wastewater, and collections operations. This position may also serve as chief plant operator of the new WRC.”

The pay is pretty good. “The Utility Division Supervisor classification annual pay scale,” Kwolek said, “would be $84,175 to $102,315. The position would be included in the Miscellaneous Employees Unit and represented by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 620.”

The job, which for the layman would be considered, “middle management” carries a lot of responsibility. 

“The position will report to the Utilities Division Manager and will oversee all the Operational Technology Specialist, all Lead Utility Operators, all Multi-Certification Operators, and the Single-Certification Operator positions.”

Last April, Kwolek promoted Damaris Hanson, who has been with the City for over 14 years and was the Environmental Programs Manager, to be the Utilities Division Manager. It was part of a reset for the management team in Public Works that started in 2021 with Kwolek’s hiring to replace Rob Livick, who was retiring.

Last March, Kwolek hired Eric Riddiough as the new City Engineer, and in June he brought in Travis “Dale” Simpson as the new maintenance superintendent.

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