Contract Public Works Director gets an Earful about Broken Sprinklers and Brown Grass

Introduction

After 4 recruitment tries, and four failures to find a “suitable” person for the the Permanent Position of Public Works Director for the City of Livingston, the City Contracted  with Mountain View Environmental Services. Terms of the Contract were for 6 months to 1 year: 4 days a week.

The Contract was approved on April 21, 2015. Approximately 15 “contracted work days later”, Randy Johnson gave his first Public Report during a City Council Meeting Open Session.

After which, he received a bleeding earful of complaints and claims of Employee Neglect made by Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza and Mayor Pro-Temp Gurpal Samra.  This page contains the following

  • A brief, bullet point summary of the Topics Covered in Mr. Johnson’s Report,

  • a Transcription of the Conversation That Followed,

  • A Summary of the Complaints and Responses to those Complaints, and

  • My Take on what this incident says about Livingston’s ability to Recruit and retain qualified personnel

Copies of the Video upon which the transcription is based can be obtained by making a Public Document Request at City Hall..message me on Facebook if you feel there are significant errors/omissions.

THE REPORT by Randy Johnson began about 29:12 minutes into the meeting and covered the following:

  • Well #13 Arsenic Removal Project

  • Well #9 Sand Filtration project

    • Air Flow problem causing a reduction from 1,300 to 900 GPM

  • Well #11 Dual Filter Addition

  • A couple of leaks on Olds due to improper installation

  • Well #14: brand new submersible pump and 40 additional feet of casing

  • Gallo Park Frog Abatement

  • Stolen Grill Replacement

  • WasteWater Plant

    • Dissolved Oxygen & Suspended Solids Sensors

    • Building up some new Operations Spread Sheets

THE COMPLAINTS about Employee Job Performance began at appx 34:42 minutes in. Beginning with Mayor

Espinoza:  On the 1,000 block of Olds, I had mentioned it to Odie (The Acting City Manager) There was a Citizen’s Concern…there was too much sand around his house. I didn’t know if you guys sweeped it up.

Johnson:  I’ll talk to Tony about that.

Espinoza:  I know you mentioned the one on Fruitbasket. I brought it up to the Assistant City Manager regarding on that area that they worked on a couple of years ago. It hasn’t been fixed – so hopefully we’ll get that fixed in the future as well.

Espinoza:  I know, regarding the parks, they look pretty bad. I addressed it to you and the rest of the staff.

I think that we need a, just make sure that the employees are doing their job and checking all the sprinklers. They’re not rotating and right now, of course, it’s hot and especially Gallo park was bad and the Sports Complex, all that edge next to Dwight hasn’t been watered for a while.

Samra:  Uh, Mr. Mayor. If we could load up the slide…We’ll show you what it is. I was going to do that under Council Comments, but since you already brought it up, we’ll just go ahead and do it right now. (Slide show and comments about slides begins)

Samra:  OK. if you look at that grass. That’s the Sports Complex. Keep going. I mean, if you click through you see how bad things are around there. I understand we’re in a drought, but there’s no reason this sort of stuff should be happening.

Because the folks are saying, the people are telling me: look, we pay our Park Fees. We pay landscaping, lighting fees and all that. Why is this in this condition. I understand there’s a drought. But there’s no reason for it to be this bad.

(37:13) It happens every year until we bring it to someone’s attention. But what I don’t understand is how can anybody be driving by that street, Public Works or anybody, and not see that, and be handled, without having us bring it up. I can understand one bush being dead, but…it’s not right.

Espinoza:  It’s obviously employee neglect. You know, they’re not doing their job. If they’re not performing, they should be evaluated.

I’m pretty sure they have a schedule throughout the day to check all this landscaping. There’s areas that haven’t been watered, it seems like, for a week or two.

Samra:  Yeh. If you continue to, and I’ll show you how it should be. You know, there’s no way, you could say somebody didn’t pay attention. But can you continue to some more slides please.

Johnson: That’s one thing I’ve noticed. I’ve noticed they’re…not noticing some things. So I will be working with them on that.

Samra:  But I want you to go ahead and slide (on to the next slides)…That whole thing just died..You know how expensive it’s going to be to replace that landscaping?

That died the year before. It seems like every year it gets – before you know, we’re not going to have any landscaping there.

Johnson:  Is this also on Dwight?

Samra: That’s also on Dwight.

Johnson: OK.

Samra:  That was the year before. Now it seems like no one pays attention. Keep going.

(38:58)And now, this is right in front of City Hall. This is…

Espinoza:  It used to be pretty…

Samra:  Livingston represents…City Hall represents the City. How can any Public Employee or any employee be walking into City Hall and not see that?

I mean, every year I bring this to someone’s attention. It seems like…

Espinoza:  Actually, they were out there yesterday and then I didn’t see them water so…

Samra:  I mean, people are walking in. This is Public Employees – City Employees are walking in to City Hall everyday and no one notices that? And this is, this is City Hall. And every single park has got this problem now. Every single park.

Odie (Acting City Manager) Yeh. You’re right. This seems to be an annual situation. I’ve been addressing those areas for the past two months and I’ve met with the team at least three times.

We used to meet monthly, but the Supervisors – Public Works leads and I do have some emails – basically outlining the concerns.

But there’s a pattern there that we face this situation each and every year since I’ve been here. So we need to, basically, keep an eye on the performance levels.

Johnson:  (40:17)I do have a meeting with all the lead men tomorrow. So I will really hit them hard with this….

Samra:  But, I guess, we still got some more slides, I mean. That’s Gallo…

Espinoza: But we got, we got sprinklers here that were not working, not rotating. You got week by week, the employee goes over there, mows the lawn but he doesn’t check the sprinklers.

He wasn’t checking the sprinklers rotating. There’s trees there that just got planted a couple months ago that just died because of neglect.

You know, I don’t know what they are doing. They’re not doing their job.

Johnson:  Well, we have a new guy overseeing Gallo now and he’s already fixed a few of the sprinkler heads and I’ll make sure we can double check with him…

Espinoza: No! We have! Look! Last year, the City Manager said the pump went out and the guys didn’t know it was out? for a couple of weeks?

So it got replaced last year. And now the pump is out again?

Johnson:  Well, it’s not the pump with that. It’s the wiring. They did some direct (?) wire and between the squirrels and tearing the wire on that. So that’s why.

Luckily it’s not the expensive pump. It’s just the wiring to it. We’re getting that replaced. We’re going to put it in conduit all the way this time so squirrels can’t get to it.

Espinoza:  (41:20) This, this is the most used Park and there’s a lot of people day and night who walk out there and they’re complaining.

Johnson: Agreed.

Samra: So can we – Let’s go ahead and finish up the slides. That’s (?) Gallo. There isn’t a – that’s the park over there behind. Which one is it? I think that’s Fred Warren Park.

And the only reason, I didn’t put Arkelian Park on there, and its also just as dry, is because I don’t want people to say that “that’s In front of your house – your just trying to get special favors”.

I didn’t want to put that in. But, I cannot find a single park that does not have this problem with browning lawns or spots in it.

A lot of it is sprinklers do come on – they just don’t turn. I’m not sure why. You know, you see one spot big ole – all the water goes to one spot.

But sprinklers aren’t even turning because no one is paying attention.

Espinoza: (43:31) And it’s not the drought.

Johnson: I talked with James about that yesterday. Cuz after we met out there, there at Max Foster, we turned one on and I walked out and I showed him a couple that were spinning half way and one that was bent over so its going one sided straight to the ground, the other side straight up in the air.

We have discussed that with him and I’ll be on him more, a little bit closer now over the next week or two. Cuz we want to that ready for…

Espinoza:  There’s two or three guys that work at Max Foster Park all day, every day. And what are they doing? You can’t see that its dry?

You know, obviously you know, the City, I think, needs to review the employee evaluations because, if they’re not performing then…

Johnson: I know which ones you’re talking about and I’ve already discussed with those two and I already got some plans for them and…

Samra: I just want you to know, I have to bring this because. Every year, I bring this up and it seems it repeats itself. And this is the first time in all my years on the Council I’ve brought it up like this, like this up publically like this.

But that’s because I’ve tried it, talking to whoever I need to talk to, but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. So I figured if it becomes public and then, well then, everybody knows that we talked about it you know.

So that’s the reason I did it. Its not, I know your new, but I don’t want to talk about it next year.

Johnson (43:50) I understand and I make a promise we won’t.

Espinoza: OK – Thank you.

SUMMARY – IF YOU SIFT THROUGH all the above and throw out all the repetition, the “Complaints” By the Mayor and Pro-Temp can be succinctly distilled into the following:

  • A) All the Parks (and City Hall) look bad because sprinklers don’t work.

  • B) Sprinklers aren’t fixed because employees don’t notice.

  • C) A & B happens every Summer

  • D) It’s all because of Employee Neglect.

The Response by the Contracted Public Works Director (Who has only been on the job 16 days, more or less) is:

  • A) You’re right. I noticed that too and we’re already getting sprinklers fixed.

  • B) I’ve discussed it with my people, made a few changes, and will continue to work on that over the next week or so.

  • C) It won’t this time

  • D) I already have some plant. We’ll work the plans and I will monitor the results.

However, Mr. Johnson’s contract was canceled on the 17th of July: only a few “work days” later according to the Contract.

MY TAKE ON THIS

I don’t know about you, but with the drought and all, the amount of time between the “Council Rant” and the Cancelation of the contract, doesn’t seem to give enough time to make sure that, not only are all the sprinklers getting fixed, the grass is getting greener, and Public Works Employees are getting everything else “done” that is on their “to do list”.

There just has to be something else at play here. After all, the last Public Works Director Livingston also just “disappeared”: after months of telling Council that repairs and upgrades to the City’s Water Delivery System would not come cheep.

So now what? On to Recruitment #5?

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