Air Pollution Control District splits from county

The county Air Pollution Control District is now its own separate agency.

On Wednesday, the district’s board of directors completed a yearlong process of separating from the county, although the district will continue to contract with the county for most of its administrative services.

As of Dec. 26, all of the district’s 23 full-time employees will work for the district rather than the county. The agency’s services and staffing will remain the same.

The move was not without some last-minute controversy.

Board members Ed Waage of Pismo Beach and county Supervisor Frank Mecham said Wednesday they were concerned that the employment rules gave Air Pollution Control Officer Larry Allen too much authority over hiring and promotions.

The rules could possibly allow pension spiking, a discredited practice of promoting employees right before their retirement in order to boost their pensions. Other directors said that budget oversight by the board would prevent that from happening.

Waage voted against adopting the new district’s employment guidelines.

In a symbolic gesture, he and Mecham voted “OK” rather than “yes” on the final motion to separate the district.

The move to split the district was undertaken at the recommendation of county administrators to avoid budgeting problems. The air district’s funding comes mostly from fees.

The air district has a separate board of directors consisting of all five county supervisors and one councilmember from each of the county’s seven cities.