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When the Chester Public Utility District board of directors met Tuesday, Sept. 11, it opened the public meeting and immediately entered into closed session.
Upon reconvening the public meeting, acting chairman Gregg Scott advised the audience that the closed session topic regarded work schedule changes requested by fire and ambulance personnel.
He said the second item that was listed to be addressed in closed session was about proposed ambulance fee increases.
“The first request, about changing the personnel work schedule, has been approved by the board. In the second part, there is a new ambulance fee schedule proposed along with the new hours. I feel this is an item for open session,’ Scott said.
Entering the discussion, director Dr. John Knopp said, “The fee schedule is now up-to-date. It hasn’t been re-evaluated in seven years. The new fee schedule makes its rates current with other ambulances in Northern California.”
“I would like to thank the employees for all the good input they have submitted to interim chief Ben Thompson. We appreciate it because you know how things work,” Scott added.
Board members Scott, Knopp and Ben Thompson voted to approve the new ambulance fee schedule. Directors Tonu Plakk and Dick Withrow were absent.
Scott next opened public comment and said, “We are looking for public comment as long as it is civil.”
“Where can I find the posting for the fire chief’s position or is it going to be a general manager’s position?” resident Garn Pringle asked.
“We are looking at a lot of options, such as a per diem chief or an administrative position where the person would report back to the board. We are trying to make the dollars work with the ambulance,” Thompson said.
Pringle said, “All is clear to me except for the time frame.”
“We, I believe, thought the original time frame was 30 days but I feel that was a little too optimistic. Medicare takes a long time to pay, yet expenses go on. What we are trying to do with the cash flow situation is not only be in the black on paper but in the bank as well,” Scott said.
He added the board was considering another option: split the two positions of fire administration and CPUD general manager.
He described the fire position as an administrative slot where the person hired would liaise with the board.
When asked who would run the fire department day-to-day, Scott said, “The captains. We think it’s financially better to have the knowledge and responsibility over the CPUD. The same with the fire department. Possibly we don’t need a chief.”
“Have you considered whether or not there is a conflict of interest with Ben (Thompson) being the interim chief and a member of the board.” Pringle asked. “I’m surprised that he has not stepped down to avoid the potential of a conflict.”
“Ben’s job is to work as a liaison, very much like the administrative position we described earlier,” Scott said.
“How did we get here?” Pringle asked. “How can we avoid getting here again, that we listen and that the board becomes involved?”
“Open communication,” Thompson said.
“We want the employees to be part of the solution, There is no problem that there isn’t enough guilt to go around for everyone.
“We are trying to open the means of communication and build on what we have,” Scott added.
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