Cambrian: Opinion

CCSD not tone deaf; Gruber raise likely cheaper than finding replacement

I agree with many that public sector pay has gotten out of hand; that said, the reality is that the Cambria Community Services District, like all other public agencies, remains in a competitive market for key employees like our general manager. To retain high-quality personnel, we must be competitive. That’s why I support retaining Jerry Gruber as our general manager and the pay package needed to keep him in Cambria.

Unlike many other public agencies, Mr. Gruber’s has stair-stepped all employees to pay their full 8 percent retirement contribution (formally CCSD paid the full portion).

Even with state employee and firefighter union contracts mandating pay increases of 3 to 5 percent on average, combined salaries for CCSD employees remain at essentially the same level as in 2010. Despite the very significant increase in CCSD employee retirement contributions to CALPERS, salaries and benefits have increased less than 3.5 percent over the past five years.

Despite what some in the community want you to believe, the population of the Cambria community has little to do with the complexities of the general manager’s job. Whether the population is 6,500 or exponentially greater, a somewhat obsolete sewer treatment plant presents significant challenges. So does providing safe drinking water from multiple sources.

The intent of the contract proposal was to keep Jerry Gruber for a long enough term to allow the CCSD to complete an overhaul of the sewer treatment plant and bring the sustainable water facility on line as a supplemental water source whenever needed. Doing this requires the skills for which Mr. Gruber is fully licensed and experienced, and it avoids having to retain costly consultants to do the job.

Unlike his predecessor, who lacked Mr. Gruber’s specific experience or skill set, Mr. Gruber is a competent manager with the skills and licenses required to resolve the many difficult issues facing the CCSD. If the CCSD recruited a person to fill Mr. Gruber’s shoes, the cost would likely be more than the contract proposed for him. I was quoted a cost of $25,000 per month for an interim manager while the CCSD conducts a search for a replacement, a process that could take several months.

Admittedly, we live in contentious times; however, cherry picking comments from the Internet that are either false or misleading is not helpful. For example, the expenditures to date for the sustainable water facility are less than $12 million ($4 million of which was paid for with a grant), not $20 million as opined in a letter to the editor. The contract for the CCSD’s representative in Sacramento is not $160,000 annually. That figure represents the anticipated cost for all professional services for the fiscal year.

A comment circulated through social media advises recipients to “Google Jerry Gruber Atherton and see the real truth.” I did. The truth is that, with the exception of a couple of editorial comments, Mr. Gruber did an excellent job stabilizing the deteriorated finances of the city of Atherton and left the city in a better financial condition when he left to take the job as our general manager.

In my experience working with Jerry Gruber, he is truly a “24/7” general manager. If a water main ruptures in the middle of the night, he is the first to get the call. When he leaves the office or is on vacation, he is always accessible by mobile phone. He travels extensively on CCSD business, making trips to Sacramento and attending meetings of regulatory agencies that take him from his family for days at a time.

The CCSD board is not tone deaf. We hear the legitimate concerns of the community about the contract proposed for Jerry Gruber. As we continue to consider his future compensation, let’s be mindful of the facts. That’s all I ask.