Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) Board Meeting - December 21, 2017
Items to Watch for at Upcoming Meetings:
Observer - Diane Edmundson Meeting Length - 90 minutes
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) Board - December 14, 2017
The Board, without discussion except for one item, approved a number of items which result in a 2018 budget of $1.15 billion. The final numbers cannot be known until the 2% increase approved for all non-represented employees, which appears to be approximately $2.4 million, has been added to the totals.
It was this salary increase (Item 4, File # 17-1314) that involved the only discussion. Commissioner Walsh said that a memo from the Director of Human Resources had been provided to the Commissioners that morning which recommended that no increase be given. After the meeting, Commissioner Shore shared the memo with this observer. Among other factors the Director cited were the above-market starting and average salaries of MWRD employees and the salary increases over the past 10 years (20%) as compared to the Consumer Price Index (12.7%). It was noted that benefit packages should also be considered, but there was no comparison of the MWRD benefits to those benefits provided by others. The memo stated that for each percentage increase in salaries for non-represented employees, the additional cost would be $1.2 million.
However, the new collective bargaining agreements provide for a 2% salary increase in 2018, and this appeared to convince at least some of the Commissioners to approve the 2% increase for non-represented employees. The vote was 6 “yes” (with Commissioner Morita absent for this vote) and 1 “present” (Commissioner Walsh).
The only other item that was not procedural in nature was Item 2, File #17-1312, which contained a number of changes to the Tentative Budget. Among other things, this amendment increased the total appropriation by $10.5 million, which includes
Observer - Priscilla Mims Meeting Length - 35 minutes
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) Board Meeting - June 15, 2017
Significant Decisions Made:
Observer - Syvia Tillman Meeting Length: One hour fifteen minutes
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board Meeting - Dec. 15, 2016
Key Actions Taken:
Comm. Walsh Replaces Comm. Santos
Item of Note:
Next MWRD Board meeting: Jan. 5 at 10:30 am. Note that per the MWRD’s Rules, the Chairs and Vice-chairs of all the Standing Committees (except for the Chair of Finance) shall be appointed by the President, with the approval of the majority of the Commissioners.
Observer - Priscilla Mims
Public Hearing on 2017 MWRD Budget - December 1, 2016
The Civic Federation was the only speaker at this Public Hearing. However, Commissioner Avila at the end of the hearing raised concerns about the process being followed for selecting people for Deputy Director positions.
Laurence Msall, President of the Civic Federation, a non-partisan government research organization, expressed support for the proposed $1.13 billion proposed budget, stating that:
However, Mr. Msall also expressed the concern over the size of the unfunded liabilities under the pension fund, despite the strides that the MWRD has taken and is taking. The Civic Federation’s report on the budget can be found HERE.
While not pertinent to the budget, Commissioner Avila expressed concern that only one person (presumably the Executive Director) was making decisions about who would be hired for Deputy Director positions. Executive Director St. Pierre stated that Deputy Directors are only hired when an existing Director states an intention to retire. When that happens and the Board approves a deputy position, there is a 3-person team who interviews candidates and makes a recommendation as to whom should be hired. President Spyropoulos suggested that the process be circulated for review by the Commissioners. Commissioner Shore pointed out that if any employee feels the process has been unfair, there are procedures in place to deal with any complaints.
Observer - Priscilla Mims
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board Meeting
Afternoon study session focused on the MWRD’s Capital Improvements budget for 2017.
October 20, 2016
President Spyropoulos called the meeting to order at 10:30 am, and ended proceedings at noon. A PUBLIC HEARING on the MWRD’s proposed Capital Budget for 2017 was held following the Board meeting.
Highlights from the Board meeting:
PUBLIC HEARING ON THE MWRD’s POPOSED CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PLAN for 2017:
The MWRD released its draft 2017 Budget on October 11, 2016, and this study session was the first opportunity Commissioners had to question staff on the capital improvement plan described in the budget draft. Staff is proposing a $1.131 billion budget, which translates into roughly $117.27 per $100,000 of assessed value for real property tax payers in Cook County. The taxpayer burden is unchanged from 2016, but the full budget appropriation is $112 million (9%) less than in 2016, largely because of a decrease in the Capital Improvements Bond Fund.
To view a copy of the MWRD 2017 Budget click HERE
Dr. Catherine O’Connor, Director of Engineering, presented the MWRD’s $348 Capital Improvement Program, based on the MWRD’s strategic business plan, which strives to add value, achieve excellence, recover resources, and lead partnerships. She noted the $348 million in capital appropriations requested will support “2,500 good union jobs in our service area.”
Add value: Ms. O’Connor noted that the indoor sludge thickening plant at Stickney “smells like roses” (cost: $162.2 million) has added value by reducing neighborhood odors and concentrates bio solids. She detailed dozens of similar improvements, including a $35 million project to improve the pump station in Calumet, a $43 million project to rehab the Salt Creek Intercepting Sewer, and the $107 million investment in the McCook Reservoir Des Plaines inflow tunnel, slated to be completed in fall of 2019.
The MWRD only very recently gained legislative authority to participate in voluntary buyouts of repeatedly-flooded residential properties as a flood control measure. Director O’Connor detailed a plan to buy out 163 homes in flood prone areas between 2017 and 2019 at an estimated cost of $43 million. The MWRD’s portion of these buyouts is less than 100%, with federal and local dollars supplementing the Agency’s contributions. Ms. O’Connor said the buyouts are less expensive than engineered flood-control solutions. DesPlaines will see the largest number of buyouts – about 42 homes in two different phases. The MWRD will pay only 24% of the cost of the DesPlaines residential property acquisitions. Riverside Lawn, Stone Park, and Franklin Park will also see more than 30 flood prone homes purchased and torn down through agency partnerships.
Leveraging Partnerships: The MWRD seeks to leverage its stormwater dollars using strategic partnerships. The largest of these is a $25 million contribution to the City of Chicago’s $57 million tunnel project that will divert stormwater overflow from the North Branch of the Chicago River in the city’s Albany Park neighborhood to the North Shore Channel near Lincolnwood. This is a flood control project that does not address water quality improvement.
Resource recovery: The MWRD has recently focused more intently on profiting from resource recovery at its treatment plants.
Observer: Laurie Morse
Individual authors are credited at the end of each report.