IID efficiency study under fire

October 04, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The recently completed efficiency study conducted for the Imperial Irrigation District and the study's project manager were ambushed at an IID public workshop Wednesday.

The two-pronged attack was led by Division 1 Director Andy Horne, who went to considerable effort to find any and all inconsistencies in the report.

The study's project manager, Christopher Conpeggie, more than held his own by pointing out the common-sense findings in the study and successfully rebutting each question.

For example, Horne criticized the study because in one place it states IID needs to improve its internal communications while also stating the district holds too many meetings.


Conpeggie said the statements are not inconsistent because not all meetings produce results.

Horne then criticized a recommendation in the study that the district contract out more work. He said when power is lost in the middle of a Friday night he wants people in IID uniforms and IID trucks there immediately repairing the problem, and not have to wait until Monday for an IID contractor to respond.

His comment, spoken in front of an overflow audience filled with IID employees, drew immediate applause.

Conpeggie — forced at times to surrender the floor to Horne — said IID has to use common sense when deciding which services to contract out.

After Horne finished dismantling the study, which he voted against having implemented, he asked for comments from the study's process review team.

"We feel the study has identified real opportunities for improvements," said Lauren Grizzle, adding that no substantive objections have been successfully raised against the study. She said the process improvement team is not seeking immediate staff reductions, which can be made over time. She also described the study as "honest" and "independent."

Horne then opened the floor to public comments, but first recognized Betty Voroveanu, president of the IID Employees Association.

Voroveanu had 25 questions prepared to ask, not including numerous follow-ups to those. She began by grilling Conpeggie on his knowledge of California labor law and California government code.

While Conpeggie said he was unfamiliar with both, Voroveanu did not explain why a consultant who performed the study should know those laws instead of the IID Board of Directors, which will implement the study's recommendations.

And so it went.

Prior to the public commenting on the study, which calls for IID to shed 200 jobs, the board made comments.

Division 5 Director Rudy Maldonado said he thinks there is great need for improvement at the district and that the efficiency study should be used as a tool to better position the district.

Division 3 Director Lloyd Allen again said the employee reductions can be achieved through attrition and that the first recommendation to be implemented should be that governance at the district be improved.

"Am I doing my job right?" he said.

Allen said it is the job of IID General Manager Jesse Silva to implement the study and he will be held responsible if it is not.

"It's his job to do this," Allen said.

Division 4 Director Stella Mendoza said she would defer comment on the study until the power and water cost-of-service studies are completed.

Division 2 Director Bruce Kuhn said despite rumors, there have been no discussions about any wholesale layoff of district employees. Nevertheless, he said there will be changes at the district.

"I support the efficiency study," he said.

The study states the district can save $31.6 million yearly with a one-time investment of $9 million. Savings would come through a reduction in the number of employees, allocating zanjeros' spare time to water system maintenance, a reduction in overtime, a reduction of vehicles through attrition, further implementation of the district's business computer system, the closing of division offices and the outsourcing of billing, among other methods.

The $875,118 efficiency study was approved on a split vote, with directors Allen, Kuhn and Maldonado supporting it. Voting against the study were directors Horne and Mendoza.

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

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