Wednesday, November 16, 2011

CFPUA Could Follow Citys Lead and Jump on Pay Raise Bandwagon

With the City of Wilmington handing out bonuses, The CFPUA sets up a scenario to do the same

At Tuesday night’s Wilmington City Council meeting council members voted unanimously to pay out $1.2 million dollar in bonuses. City council sited a hiring freeze and other cost savings as the source of the bonuses. It’s very likely the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority will take a page out of the city’s playbook and make the same argument for their employees in the not too distant future.

According to CFPUA Chief Communications Officer Cary Ricks Authority employees have not seen pay increases since the Authority was created 3 years ago. There is one exception, CFPUA CEO Matt Jordan. Jordan took a controversial pay raise while his employees salaries remained stagnant. His raise made him one of the top paid officials in New Hanover County.

Rather than bonuses, the CFPUA would more likey lean towards permanent pay raises. The raises could be paid for with new rate increases Authority officials have already told customers are not too far down the road.

While pay adjustments may indeed be past due in some cases, pay raises, if passed, would be financed on the back of citizens who themselves are facing some of the worst economic conditions in decades. Many are working two or more jobs while others are taking pay cuts to keep the jobs they have. Some are losing their jobs or even their homes.

The CFPUA could also use a looming Compensation Study and Benefits Survey to justify the pay increases. The Authority has strategically used consultants in the past as a tool to justify the leadership’s agenda.

Wilmington City Councilman Ron Sparks, who also sits on the CFPUA board, voted in favor of spending the money on city employee bonuses. According to Sparks, city employees have worked hard and deserve bonuses. As a CFPUA board member, he could easily make the same argument for Authority employees.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Serves as a Career Ender for Local Incumbents

Elected officials serving on the CFPUA board have been voted out of office in the past 3 elections

Serving on the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is hazardous to your political health. Whether Republican or Democrat, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority seems to serve as the one common thread ending the political aspirations of incumbents seeking re-election.

The past 3 years have proven costly to elected officials appointed to the CFPUA Board. Former City Councilman Jim Quinn, former New Hanover County Commissioner Bill Caster, and now former City Councilman Ron Sparks all lost their bids for re-election. While they all have different backgrounds and political philosophies, they all sat on the CFPUA board and were subsequently removed from office.

Jim Quinn was the CFPUA’s first victim placing a distant 7th place in his reelection bid in 2009 Municipal election. Quinn was an outspoken proponent of the CFPUA and played an integral part in its creation in 2008. When the 2009 election rolled around voters had apparently had their fill of huge bills and rates that seemed to be spiraling out of control.

By the time the 2010 election occurred, voters had been subject to two years of CFPUA rate increases with no end in sight. To the dismay of many, the price some families were being charged for water had nearly tripled. CFPUA Board Member and County Commissioner Bill Caster lost a hotly contested re-election race where the CFPUA’s spending and rate increases were a central issue.

The CFPUA’s most recent casualty was City Councilman and CFPUA Board member Ron Sparks, who came in 4th place behind newcomer Neil Anderson in a race for 3 open seats. Sparks was an outspoken advocate for the Authority’s controversial tiered rate structure which targets larger families with higher water prices even while they are conserving water.

Fellow democrat and incumbent Laura Padgett was up for reelection as well, but skated back into office. While had both Padgett and Sparks had seen their share of controversy in office, Padgett distanced herself from the CFPUA.

More recent appointees to the CFPUA board, City Councilman Charlie Rivenbark and New Hanover County Commissioner Rick Catlin, likely have less to be worried about. Both ran on platforms calling for additional oversight and accountability for the Authority and have pushed to change the status quo.

With the CPFUA forecasting that spending and rates will continue to increase, we can be sure the controversial organization will continue to be a point of contention with voters for the foreseeable future.

Monday, November 7, 2011

CFPUA Board Members Return Political Favors

Sparks gets political endorsements from fellow CFPUA board members Quinn and Kusek

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Board members are handing out political endorsements to help one of their own. The CFPUA’s Chairman and its Secretary stepped into the political arena to help Ron Sparks, Wilmington city councilman and a fellow CFPUA board member, get re-elected. As a city councilman, Sparks played an integral part in both of their appointments to the CFPUA board.

Sparks began running television commercials as a part of his re-election bid for Wilmington City Council. The commercial features three personal endorsements. While most of the general public wouldn’t realize it, and it’s not disclosed in the commercial, two of the three endorsements are from fellow CFPUA Board Members Chairman Jim Quinn and Secretary Pat Kusek, both of whom Sparks helped get appointed to the CFPUA.

According to the CPFUA website Quinn was appointed by the city and Kusek was a joint appointee of the city and county.

The three were instrumental this past year in keeping in place the controversial tiered rate billing structure implemented by the CFPUA. The rate structure is designed to punish families with higher prices, even while conserving water.

According to standards established by national organizations such as American Water Works Association, the CFPUAs’ tired rate structure is inherently punitive and unfair. The CFPUA does not target commercial customers with tiered rates.

Questions have been raised before as to whether political appointees should be endorsing those that put them in the positions they hold. While it’s not a violation of election law, it certainly muddies the water….not something the struggling organization needs at this time.

References Links:
Sparks Political Commercial
CFPUA Board Member Page