Trailer proves fleeting refuge from smells at sanitation district office

September 19, 2016
Gerhardt Hubner

Gerhardt Hubner

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District’s new administrator has caused a bit of a stink over an office trailer that he rented to get away from odors, mold, pests, stained carpets and having administrators and other employees sharing space.

Gerhardt Hubner was hired in April at $150,000 a year in a new position to replace a district administrator position that was a 10-hour a week job. Shortly after starting the job as full-time administrator, Hubner began complaining about the district office. Over the past several months, Hubner has cited numerous issues with the district offices including bubbling and peeling paint, deterioration of the break room, leaks in the indoor plumbing as well as noise.

A worker with the risk management consulting firm Bickmore inspected the existing office. The company then produced a hazard assessment report, which identified several issues and recommended repairs. But, the Bickmore report did not suggest relocating employees out of the existing office.

After receiving the report, the district spent $18,591 on repairing heating and air-conditioning and another $10,200 on fixing a collapsed pipe in a urinal and retrofitting the men’s restroom for ADA compliance. The work is now nearing completion.unnamed

Hubner ordered the trailer to serve as a new office for administrative staff. On Aug. 11, the trailer arrived at the sewage plant site. Since then, the trailer has been equipped with power and new furniture. Phone service has been ordered but is not yet ready. No one is currently working in the trailer.

The district is currently renting the trailer for one year at a price of $5,400, according to district receipts. The agency also paid $2,200 for delivery and installation, $3,956 for furniture and about $2,500 for electricity.

Excluding phone service and staff time, the new office has thus far cost a total of about $14,000 to order and assemble.

Hubner said at the last board meeting that the trailer has not cost more than $12,000.

Hubner’s ordering of the trailer without board approval and without any permitting from regulatory agencies prompted complaints to San Luis Obispo County code enforcement and the California Coastal Commission, both of which launched investigations into the unpermitted structure. It appears, though, the district will evade punishment.

Even so, Hubner was criticized for circumventing its decision-making authority.

Mayor Jim Hill

Mayor Jim Hill

“I don’t object to the arguments and reasons in support of having adequate office space, but I think that significant expenditures need to come to the board,” said Arroyo Grande mayor and district board member, Jim Hill. “I think that’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we do exercise our fiduciary duty.”

Hubner took over as district administrator as the agency was resolving a several-year run-in with regulators over a 2010 sewage spill. The district announced last month that it agreed to settle litigation and pay a $1.19 million fine.

During the hearing, Grover Beach mayor and board member, John Shoals, said Hill raised valid concerns about permitting and the board’s fiduciary responsibility. But, Shoals also said Hubner is doing a good job as administrator.

Mary Lucey, the third board member and the representative of the Oceano CSD, said Hubner has faced unfair criticism over the “cheesy little construction trailer.” Lucey suggested that Hubner add a portable toilet outside the trailer to remedy the lack of a bathroom in the structure.

Hubner did not respond to questions about the new office. He stated in a staff report for the upcoming board meeting that district staffers would complete a coastal development permit in the near future and submit it to the Coastal Commission.

Coastal Commission planner Daniel Robinson said the sanitation district will submit the application early next week. The Coastal Commission will then likely approve an after-the-fact permit at its November meeting, Robinson said.

The after-the-fact permit would negate the need for enforcement, Robinson said. The commission approves after-the-fact permits from time to time.

If the Coastal Commission were to penalize the sanitation district for developing without a permit, the South County agency would face a potential fine of between $500 and $30,000 or daily fines of between $1,000 and $15,000, according to the Coastal Commission website.

Following the departure of the agency’s previous administrator, the sanitation district’s chief plant operator, John Clemons, took on the executive role for an additional $800 a month in pay. The district administrator is responsible for responding to board direction, setting agendas and overseeing payroll.


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Casinogal

This person needs to ‘go down into the pit’ if he hasn’t already done so.

Then he would find out what real smells the employees put up with.


aft50s

Casinogirl, please correct me if I am wrong;


1. Aren’t the employees there at their own free will?

2. Didn’t the employees know it was a sewer plant when they took the job?

3. Would a few extra minutes with a hose during the morning rounds help with the detritus causing the “smells”?


Snoid

Try Hydrogen Sulfide,Methane and dookie from your headworks. Also known amoungst operators as the plants “bungholio”. No hosing will correct those smells.


L.A.RamsFan

The moto for SLO County and City Elected Officials should read…..


“It’s Always Better To Ask For Forgiveness Than Permission”!


r0y

Why? Have they ever asked for either forgiveness OR permission?


pensatore

If you work or have worked at the Regional Water Quality Control Board, you don’t believe you need to ask beforehand or ask afterward for forgiveness. Those employees believe they are above the law.


L.A.RamsFan

I stand corrected on both counts…


ODX

Hubner’s ignorance and arrogance is a much bigger problem than what this article lets on. A good part of the Oceano area where the plant is located is in the Coastal Act zone. The fact he did not get a permit first through the county shows what a danger he is to the rate payers of the district. Someone in his position needs to know when you need a permit from the county and when you should or MuST go through the Calif Coastal Commission. Getting a permit after the fact from the CCC is going to cost a whole lot more than if he had just gone to the county as he should have done. The over lay of jurisdictions of the Coastal Act as it affects the trailer and other work done in this whole area is too complicated to go into here but the bottom line this guy should have known. What other problems has he created by not doing his job. Are we now looking at millions in fines for all the other stuff done by district staff where he did not get required permits.


pensatore

Someone should talk about Hubner’s attitude while at the Regional Water Quality Control Board. He and the former RWQCB Executive Officer were extremely arrogant.


Casinogal

This is an administrator? Who didn’t know the proper procedure?

This reminds me of developers who cut down hundreds of trees (any kind) on their property and then say ‘gosh, we didn’t know we needed a permit to do that’!

The employees who complained about the illnesses caused by working at this plant never got any where.

This is a bad start for this administrator. I’ll bet he will also ignore any complaints from the employees at the plant…….


pensatore

He worked for the RWQCB so he does not need permission or have to follow the law. Worker comp claim next?


shelworth

Since he’s paying for it out of his own pocket, who cares. Wait, what? You’re joking, right?


sloslo

Eh, considering how many local government employees we have doing things like stealing mowers, dumping paint, destroying their ex’s homes, crony contracts, etc,it seems much less of a big deal with this guy getting a trailer for work without approval.


analyticone

Ms. Lucey’s “cheesy little trailer” is 720 square feet – larger than many people’s homes; certainly larger than many executive offices.


Snoid

Your a candy ass Hubner. It seems your taking good lessons from Pavo when it comes to taking advantage of things.


diamond

The reported cost for (Rump Tower) did not include the cost of the risk management consulting firm. Aparently just sending over a maintenance worker to find and fix said problems is ludicrous. Silly taxpayers, prepare to see an rate increase to follow.


laftch

If they just sent over a maintenance worker to find and fix the problem that would eliminate the high paying jobs of numerous college edumacated white collar workers.