The McCloud Community Services District is set to buy a $137,000 vacuum trailer that’s used to maintain the sewer system and clean sewage spills.

MCSD directors voted to make the purchase during a special meeting Tuesday night, Feb. 15, 2011. They said it will not result in a rate hike.

The district will buy the equipment using $84,000 from the sewer budget and more than $53,000 in sewer reserves. Reserves will be replenished next year, said finance officer Emily Coulter.

The trailer is needed to inspect and clean the district’s sewer system, which the state requires every three years, said interim general manager Wayne Grigsby.

Directors approved purchasing the trailer from Municipal Maintenance Equipment by a 3-1 vote. Brian Stewart opposed the purchase, saying the trailer was “over and beyond” what the district needs to be compliant. Director Ken Anderson did not attend the meeting.  

Grigsby cited costs the district does and might incur because it does not now have the equipment for maintenance and cleaning up a spill.

He said hiring contractors for sewer system maintenance may cost the district $114,000 every three years. When relying on contractors and firefighters from Mount Shasta, the response time can be as long as two hours, during which 6,000 gallons of spillage could occur. That could result in a maximum fine of $60,000, assuming no fish were affected, Grigsby said.

Union contract

After months of labor negotiations, the board also approved a two-year contract that holds employees’ salary schedule steady. The contract with Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 will be effective until June 30, 2012.

The union represents four district employees, Grigsby said.

Under the new contract, employees can receive pay increases per the board’s approval, but the rate of their “step increase” remains the same.

The union’s business representative, Art Frolli, said he initially asked for modest salary increases.

He did negotiate a “last hired, first fired” policy, in which employees with the least seniority are the first to be laid off.

At least one ratepayer wasn’t happy with the new condition.

“We’re such a small district with so few employees, we need to have flexibility,” said Barbara Korb, who has lived in McCloud for 25 years. “I think it should be at the manager’s discretion to keep the most efficient employees. That’s what the public deserves.”

The contract also increased the limit on dental benefits from $1,000 to $1,500 per year.

For the first time, the new contract put a cap on what the district will pay in medical premiums per employee. The limit is $17,122 per year.

Under the new contract, employees can also accumulate an unlimited number of sick days, which can be used toward “time in service” upon retirement.

The board approved the contract 3-1, with Stewart voting against it.

In other news

· The board disclosed that it had $1.3 million in debt, which does not include employee pension liability.

“This is not the kind of debt to lose sleep over,” said board president Al Schoenstein, who spoke with the California Special Districts Association about the district's finances.

· The board voted to pay off a USDA Rural Development loan set to mature in 2037, which had a balance of $4,900. By paying off the loan this year, the district says it will save $3,400 in interest.

· The board voted unanimously to increase Finance Officer Emily Coulter’s pay from $47, 338 to $49,705. She was upgraded from Step 2 to Step 3 on the salary schedule.

“I’d have to say I’m very pleased with the performance of our CFO,” director Simons said.