Oceano dumping television airings of board meetings
May 24, 2014
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Following the hiring of a $200,000 general manager for its six-employee community services district, the Oceano Community Services District Board has started the process to eliminate television coverage of its bimonthly meetings.
Last week, the Oceano board hired San Luis Obispo County Public Works Director Paavo Ogren as its new general manager at a base salary of $196,000. The district, which is currently running a $170,000 deficit, is now considering canceling its contract with digital production company AGP Video as a cost-cutting measure.
AGP records the district’s bimonthly board meetings and produces videos of them that are broadcast on cable television channel SLO-SPAN multiple times a week. The district board has eliminated AGP video production services from the district’s draft budget for the upcoming fiscal year at a savings of a little more than $13,000, according to the budget.
“The draft budget does not include AGP video services at this time,” Oceano Community Services District Board President Matt Guerrero said in an email to CalCoastNews.
When asked if he supports the plan to eliminate video recordings of board meetings, Guerrrero said that he is not prepared to make a statement.
But, board critic Jeff Edwards said Guerrero advocated for canceling the district contract with AGP during an Oceano finance committee meeting on Monday.
“He said that they know how to audio tape and they can upload audio to their website and they’ll no longer need AGP,” Edwards said.
The district already records audio of finance committee meetings, and CSD bylaws require staff to post the recordings on the district website for at least 30 days.
However, when CalCoastNews requested an audio copy of Monday’s hour and a half meeting, Account Clerk Celia Ruiz said the district stores but does not upload the meeting recordings. Account Clerk Mario De Leon later said the audio is available for pickup by way of a flash drive, but it is too large to upload.
The district is currently in the fourth year of a five-year contract with AGP. Oceano can terminate the contract, though, on just one week’s notice and without incurring any fees.
AGP charges the district a $585 base fee for filming and producing videos of each meetings. Additional charges are incurred for meetings that last longer than three hours and for instances in which the district requests extra electronic equipment.
When the upcoming fiscal year begins in July, the district will begin paying Ogren’s 196,000 salary. Ogren will also be eligible for 2.5 percent raises after each of his first two years on the job.
Three years ago, the district paid its general manager a base salary of $87,500.
District staff drafted the proposed budget prior to the board officially hiring Ogren, but considerable debt still loomed at the time. Last year, the district water fund borrowed $770,000 from the general fund at 3.25 percent interest.
Additionally, a $129,000 loan from the solid waste fund to the water fund is proposed in the draft budget. Board members have already said they plan to raise water rates to offset the rising expenses.
Despite the looming debt, critics say the approximately $13,000 previously budgeted for televising board meetings is money well spent.
“It’s about transparency,” Edwards said. “The people who do pay attention are watching the video tape.”