San Diego Names New Director for Troubled Public Utilities Department

The city of San Diego Thursday announced the hiring of a new director for the Public Utilities Department, which has been without a permanent director since last summer. Shauna Lorance will assume the position from interim PUD Director Matt Vespi, who took over for former Director Vic Baines after he announced his retirement last August. Lorance is the interim general manager at the Monterey County Water Resources Agency and will remain in that position through the end of June, according to the city.

Aging Water Workforce Spurs Industry Recruiting Efforts

A flood of water industry professionals nearing retirement has prompted local agencies to form a task force charged with assessing ways to develop the water workforce of the future. Education leaders are stepping up outreach to fill their career training programs, and water agencies are looking for new ways to attract employees. “For many years now, we’ve been talking about the ‘Silver Tsunami’ of aging baby boomers who are going to be leaving the workforce, but it really is coming to fruition now,” said Don Jones, who helped spearhead Cuyamaca College’s new Center for Water Studies housing the college’s Water & Wastewater Technology program.

$250 PG&E Bill: Utility’s Customers Will Pay 50 Percent More If Wildfires Erupt Again, Report Warns

PG&E bills would rocket 50 percent higher if wildfire disasters caused by the embattled utility descend on northern or central California again, according to a report that’s being circulated in Sacramento ahead of a crucial announcement Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom. An array of catastrophes loom if state officials fail to find a fix for California’s utility-caused wildfire woes, according to the report from Steven Weissman, a lecturer with UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. “Rates would skyrocket, on average by 50 percent in the first year, to keep up with new fires,” Weissman wrote in his report to the governor’s office. “It’s simple math.”

San Diego Utilities Officials Finish Most, But Not All, Meter Reader Fixes

San Diego public utilities officials said Wednesday that they have implemented most recommendations made by the city auditor last year after thousands of customers were overbilled by faulty meter readers. Some key reforms still need to be implemented, the deputy chief operating officer told members of the city council’s audit committee, and others have yet to be validated by the city auditor. “Eighty percent of the recommendations we have completed, pending auditor review, which is a commitment we made back when the audit was released,” said Johnnie Perkins, the deputy COO tapped by Mayor Kevin Faulconer to oversee reforms at the public utilities department.

Smaller Utilities Most Exposed to California Wildfire Risk: S&P

Small water and sewer utilities in California will struggle to recover after wildfires, especially if they’re near wilderness areas or far from large cities, according to a new report from S&P Global Ratings. After major natural disasters in the state, utilities are typically required to front the costs of repairs and are only reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state government afterward. Utilities in towns that are small or poor, on the edge of flammable wilderness, or far from a major city will have particular trouble in paying for those costs upfront or reestablishing service quickly so they can resume collecting revenue, according to the report by credit analyst Tim Tung.

City Councilman Calls for Big Fixes at Public Utilities Department

City Councilman Scott Sherman wants significant changes at the San Diego Water Department. Sherman’s call for action came Oct. 16, during a city council discussion of an independent audit of the problem-plagued department. That audit, along with reporting by the NBC 7 Responds team, uncovered significant delays in the department’s effort to replace broken water meter boxes and lids. Auditors also discovered that some department employees were working less than four hours of their eight-hour workday.