Veolia Project Manager Gerald Smart presented the company’s first quarterly report at the July 15 regular CSD meeting at the request of the CSD Board. According to Smart, the response was positive. “I thought it (CSD meeting) went very well,” said Smart in a recent phone interview. “There seemed to be a lot of interaction with the audience and the board … I’m really pleased with how the first quarter has gone.”
Veolia took over for SouthWest Water, who rescinded its water and wastewater contract with the town in January.
Discovery Bay General Manager Virgil Koehne agreed that the transition has been a fairly smooth one and believes Veolia has stepped up to the water and wastewater operations plate with zeal. “I think things are going rather well,” said Koehne. “They (Veolia) seem to be working hard to keep things running smoothly and also seem to be working hard to keep the lines of communication open. So far, so good.”
Still, conceded Smart, some challenges remain, the greatest being the hiring of qualified staff: “I’ll be hiring one more person so we can bring our staff numbers up to six. In a perfect world we would do very well with a total of seven, but it’s difficult finding the right staff, and it’s difficult because it’s hard to find dual-certified folks that are local (an hour away or less).
“Also, a two-year contract is not palatable to a lot of people, and that makes it a challenge for me. You need good people, high-caliber folks, and Discovery Bay doesn’t have a community full of wastewater technicians. So it’s a little challenging, but we’ll get there.”
Other issues highlighted in the quarterly report included dealing with some of the maintenance of the aging facility and the continuation of corrective repairs such as rotors, pumps and aeration equipment.
The financial side of the house is also a consideration, said Smart. Since February, Veolia has spent a total of $88,000, the highest price tags going toward outside contractor services ($35,598), overtime ($24,000) and preventative and corrective maintenance repairs ($42,413).
“We would like to have not spent as much as we have,” said Smart. “There was a lot of overtime there because the job just requires it, but we want to make sure we are trimming costs where we can. One of the ways we can operate cheaper is by looking at power consumption. We’re shutting off lights and motion detectors; we’re doing what we can.”
Plans for the next quarter, said Smart, include a continued focus on preventive maintenance and staff placement: “Every job has its challenges and I like them all. I’ve learned that you don’t try to develop expectations. You know there will be challenges and you bring all your resources to bear.
“I measure my success by knowing that if we’ve built a good report and we are focused and our direction is clear, then I’m happy because that means we’re on the same team, and that’s a good thing. We need to do a good job; right now it’s all about doing good work.”