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IID study finds room for improvement at IID

August 30, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The Imperial Irrigation District could save as much as $21 million yearly by more fully implementing its new computer system, better managing its vehicle fleet and through timely completion of customers' power construction projects, among other actions, according to a draft study of the district.

The long sought-after study is in its third phase, in which the consultant — Florida-based S&W Consultants — is expected to list specific recommendations through which IID can improve its efficiency and cut costs.

Other areas where inefficiencies lie include customer services and billing and water order entry, which could end up with a separate computer system.

Helping with the study process are members of the Imperial County Farm Bureau, Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association, the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business of Imperial County and IID's power consumers advisory committee.

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All have long advocated for the study, as has IID's water conservation advisory board, which recommended an efficiency study of the water department at the very least.

Lauren Grizzle, executive director of the Farm Bureau and the IVVGA, said the potential savings identified in the phase two report validates the need for the study.

"There are tremendous opportunities for improvement at the IID," she said, adding the process review committee cannot influence the process or change the outcome. "It's hard to hide that there is room for improvement at the IID in every department."

Power consumers board chairman Shorty Hickingbottom said all of the cost-savings recommendations should be implemented and not left to the individual department heads to pick and chose which ones they like.

"I think the key to the study is implementing the whole study," he said. "If you start picking and choosing, it will no longer be efficient."

Hickingbottom said it is unknown who at the IID will carry out the study's implementation or who has the authority to implement the changes.

Power consumers advisory member Robert Trimm declined to comment on the phase two report.

Bob Ham, COLAB executive director, said the organization's members have long felt there was "some fat" in IID's operations.

"It indeed looks like there are some economics that could be had," he said, adding the IID Board of Directors will have a hard time ignoring the opportunities listed in the study.

Meanwhile, the report had mixed reactions from IID board members.

IID board President Andy Horne said the board has not seen the final report, but overall the phase two report does identify areas where the district can operate more efficiently.

Horne said he is still a little skeptical about some of the numbers in the report and said the data still needs further studying. He said the consultant's recommendations should be evaluated independently by the IID board to prioritize those actions that will do the district the most good.

He said he agrees with the need to re-evaluate the district's 9/80 work schedule, but disagrees that the district should close its division offices.

Division 3 Director Lloyd Allen said he is excited about the possibilities found in the study.

"If we can implement even 10 percent of the recommendations, it's a significant amount of savings," he said.

Allen said though the study says there are too many people working at IID, the number can be reduced through attrition.

"No one's going to get laid off from their job," he said.

Allen said IID should concentrate on providing service to the ratepayers and contract out more of the construction work.

Division 5 Director Rudy Maldonado said the phase two report is a "positive, productive tool" for the customers' future, and the board must implement many of the changes suggested. He declined to comment on specifics of the report, preferring to wait for the final report, due out next week.

Division 2 Director Bruce Kuhn said he's willing start looking at places where efficiencies can be improved and costs reduced, but only in those areas not potentially affected by the pending completion of the water department's cost-of-service study, due to be completed in about a month.

Division 4 Director Stella Mendoza could not be reached for comment.

The first phase of the study involved interviews with district staff and board members regarding those areas in which the study should focus: high cost areas. Phase two was to develop opportunities for improved efficiency based on the focus areas and processes identified in phase one.

Separately, the district has a salary survey, a water department cost-of-service survey and a power department cost-of-service study under way.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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