The reconfigured Cambria Community Services District board will immediately tackle some significant decisions Thursday, Dec. 13, when recently elected directors are sworn in.
One that could dramatically affect the district’s administrative operations will be the likely addition of a short-term, part-time employee with the new title of “strategic and organizational advisor.”
The potential hire is Paavo Ogren, general manager of the Oceano Community Services District and former director of San Luis Obispo County Public Works. He would continue as Oceano’s GM with the right to take up to 20 hours a week of unpaid leave time, a move that could help that district balance its budget.
CCSD would pay Ogren $99 an hour, plus retirement and Social Security benefits, bringing the district’s cost up to about $115 an hour.
Adding Ogren to the mix would help fill the administrative gap left by the departure in September of former GM Jerry Gruber.
The part-time gig, estimated to last until CCSD hires a permanent general manager (estimated to take about six months), would include responsibilities to lighten the load of Monique Madrid, the district’s acting general manager/district clerk, who has been juggling more responsibilities during a critical time for the agency.
Among issues facing the district soon are: Getting a permanent permit to operate the district’s Sustainable Water Facility at will, rather than only during declared emergencies; upgrading/replacing the district’s wastewater treatment plant; repairing aging pipes, pumps and other infrastructure; balancing forest health and protecting the community from wildfire; and attracting/keeping enough employees to do everything that needs to be done, all while staying within budgetary constraints.
The new part-time job would include “strategic planning services, organizational analysis, capital-project management and support on the implementation of CCSD business and accounting software,” with the latter due for update in 2019, according to the Dec. 13 staff report.
The new advisor also would “review and provide coordination with other agencies on inter-agency projects, programs and/or services,” updating the CCSD board and attending board meetings as appropriate.
With Ogren’s background, the agenda report notes, “he is uniquely qualified to provide the proposed services.”
Already, he has prepared a cost-analysis report comparing six months of pay and benefits for Gruber (nearly $121,700) to Ogren’s proposed pay/retirement/payroll taxes ($71,217), plus the increases in salary and benefits for Madrid ($9,454) and other employees working out-of-class ($4,346) for the half-year period covered by the proposed contract.
The analysis shows an overall net savings of $23,651.
Who is Ogren?
Ogren, 56, came to Cambria Dec. 6 to stroll around on Hospitality Night for an interview with The Cambrian.
He is a 1984 Cal Poly grad who recently bought a home in Atascadero. Initially, he worked as a CPA in Los Angeles, financial officer for the county and in private industry as CFO for two SLO County engineering firms.
In 2001, Ogren went back to the county in the Public Works department, eventually becoming the director.
“I got to work on some great regional water-resource projects and some community-specific projects,” he said, such as the seismic retrofit of the Lopez Dam, Los Osos community sewer project and Nacimiento Water Project.
He also created the department’s environmental division.
“I love working on problems, issues and projects,” he said, citing his “three-legged stool” approach with equal focus on finance, the environment and technical issues, but always, always emphasizing the community.
But what about Oceano, where Ogren has worked since 2014?
On Nov. 28, the Oceano CSD board amended his contract to authorize up to 20 hours a week of unpaid leave with a proportional reduction in accrual of benefits. That contract runs to July 2020.
During that time, Ogren’s GM duties gradually would transition into succession-management training mode.
Reducing Ogren’s hours there could save the Oceano district up to $127,500 a year, according to the meeting’s staff report. His annual salary of $196,000 would be cut proportionally based on the “hours actually worked if/when” he takes unpaid leave from the full-time job based on a 40-hour work week.
The Oceano staff report also notes that Ogren “understands and agrees that he must be available at any time to perform the duties necessary to manage the district” as general manager, secretary to the board and district accountant.
Why juggle two communities that are 50 miles apart and districts with such diverse problems?
He said he loves tackling such issues as “budgets, staffing stability, grants for critical needs … every project, every challenge will be unique … And the real value comes with hands-on work.”
In Oceano, he feels he’s already helped “to put the plane back in the air,” so to speak.
Cambria’s a new challenge.
“There are a lot of decisions to make, a lot of work on the table for the board, the district and the community,” he said. “My question to the board is what do they want me to concentrate my time on.”
He also knows well the value of caring communication. Most important for an administrator, Ogren said, “are listening skills … whether it’s a board member or a representative of a governmental agency, a reporter or a member of the public.”
He added: “If they have an issue, I need to listen, answer their questions and help them resolve those issues.”
If you go
The Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors will meet at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, in the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St. For details, go to www.cambriacsd.org/boardmeetings.
Recently elected directors to be sworn in include Cindy Steidel and Don Howell, who were elected for four-year terms, and David Pierson for a two-year post to continue the term he was appointed to a year ago.