Westwood CSD general manager named

After reluctantly accepting the resignation at the end of this year of Randy Buchanan, general manager of the Westwood Community Services District, the board of directors appointed Joe Johnstun to the position effective Jan. 1, 2020. Johnstun is currently the district’s assistant manager.

Mary Hasselwander, president of the board, said they had determined at a special meeting on Oct. 28 to promote from within. According to district policy, positions can either be filled by promoting employees currently on staff or by advertising the job and recruiting from outside. In addition to promoting Johnstun, the board voted to promote Robert Baehler, a water/sewer technician with the district, to assistant manager. The district will advertise to fill the vacant position of water/sewer technician. Once a list of applicants is established, they will be interviewed for the position by a committee consisting of Johnstun, directors David Escobar Jr., Rob Compton and fire chief Forest Duerksen.

The starting rate for each of the three positions was also determined during the November meeting. The new general manager will start at a salary of $77,460; the assistant manager’s starting salary is $51,100; and the job for water/sewer technician will pay $41,000 to start.

The Westwood Community Services District will retain Robert W. Johnson, an accountancy corporation headquartered in Citrus Heights, California, for its auditing services the next three years. The renewal of the contract was approved at a cost of $7,150 for fiscal year 2020; $7,300 for 2021; and $7,450 for 2022. Susan Coffi, the district secretary, said Robert W. Johnson had been the district’s auditor for 20 years. Buchanan said the firm was a tough auditor and very thorough.

The audit for fiscal year ending June 30, 2019 was approved by the board. When questioned by board members on the recommendations made by the auditor, Coffi and Buchanan said district staff tries to implement all recommendations made but some take longer than others. For example, the auditor recommended the district investigate qualified investments for its cash balance in order to get a higher interest rate. Coffi said that community service districts cannot do anything that would put its money at risk; therefore, research into investment opportunities would take time. Currently the district is earning less than 1 percent.

The auditor also recommended the district create written policy to support its use of credit cards to pay expenses and to pay for gas. In addition, it was recommended the district appoint a monitor to record ethics training of board members and remind them of scheduled training.

In the summary of operating results, the auditor wrote the following observations:

  • Operating expenses increased due to increase in engineering and supplies expenses.
  • Non-operating expenses decreased due to no interest expense (loan paid off prior year).
  • Breakdown of 2018-2019 fiscal year operating income showed the water department losing $15,822, sewer gaining $52,000 for a total gain for both departments at $36,178.

The auditor wrote this evaluation and recommendation: “For the past few years, water has operated at breakeven/loss; sewer has operated at a profit. Consider analyzing rates and cost allocations to ensure both services are operating efficiently.”

Duerksen was given permission to purchase a fully enclosed carport in which to park utility trucks and the rescue vehicle during the winter months. He said trucks used to respond to emergencies could not be parked outdoors where they would need to be cleared of snow and even dug out before they could be used. Currently, with Cal Fire housing a crew with one truck at the Westwood Station during the construction of the new Cal Fire station in Westwood, space within the bays is limited. Duerksen said Cal Fire may contribute to the cost of the carport. The board approved spending up to $22,000 on the purchase.

During the manager’s report Buchanan said he would be working with Johnstun over the next two months for a smooth transition when he leaves his position. He added that Johnstun and Baehler had fixed an eight-inch concrete water main pipe that cracked at Seventh and Elm streets due to pressure from a tree, and both were doing a great job.

Also he reported a fourth sewer pump had been installed at the Pinetown lift station so all four had been replaced within the year.

During public comment a resident asked if staff had uncovered any information about Westwood Beach and its boundary lines. Coffi said a survey would cost about $3,000, and the park budget was too small to cover such an expense. Buchanan added that currently there were no problems with the property lines.

The next meeting of the board of directors for the Westwood Community Services District is at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2 at the Lassen County Visitor Center-Westwood Station.