Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Environmental services may get new position


Santa Barbara city leaders held off on significant portions of a major restructuring of the city’s environmental services division, including a proposal to create a full-time management position.
Several members of the City Council expressed concern that they did not have enough information to make a decision yesterday that would create a full-time environmental services manager with a yearly salary and benefits package of approximately $137,300.

“I feel like I don’t have enough detail yet to make a decision,” Councilmember Dale Francisco said. “…I don’t want to get into micromanaging this project, I just want to understand it better.”
Following the retirement of the city’s water resource manager in August 2007, city staff took the opportunity to reexamine the proposed strategies and projects in the solid waste program. City finance director Bob Samario, who has been working double duty overseeing environmental services, said a dedicated fulltime manager is needed to handle the rapidly growing solid waste initiatives.
In addition to guiding staff on projects such as the food composting program or mixed-use recycling ventures, the manager would take on the coordination of regional projects, Samario said.
An example is the solid waste program’s top priority: developing conversion technology at Tajiguas Landfill that would convert waste to energy — a joint venture between the city and the County of Santa Barbara. The manager would be heavily involved in negotiations with the county, city administrator Jim Armstrong said, as well as with the two local trash haulers.
Several councilmembers expressed concern that they didn’t have a clear picture of how much authority or responsibility such a figure would have when working with the county.
“This is way over my head tonight,” Councilmember Roger Horton said. “…I need to understand how this fits into the county structure. The reason I want to be so careful is because it is so significant.”
Others said they clearly saw a need for a full-time leader.
“This program has grown so explosively, it seems that it has grown upside down,” Councilmember Iya Falcone said. “…It needs the dedication of one person.”
Ultimately the council directed staff to come back with more detail on the proposed full-time position, as well as revisions to the overall organizational structure of the department. They did, however, agree unanimously to consolidate six part-time jobs to four full-time staff positions and to reclassify a recycling technician as an environmental specialist to handle more project development responsibilities.
Samario also discussed revisions to the strategic plan of the solid waste program, delineating the top priorities for the department.
After conversion technology at Tajiguas Landfill, establishing a recycling program in the business sector is high on the list. Only 25 percent of waste is being diverted by local businesses, Samario said, leaving an annual total of 40,750 tons that is currently being disposed in landfills.
Of that total, recyclable material makes up 10,500 tons, and food and compostable paper constitutes 12,600 tons. In fact, at Tajiguas Landfill, 61 percent of the material dumped there is recyclable, according to a 2003 study.
Samario also stressed the need for a food scraps composting program and an increase in mixed-use recycling, which is currently at 21 percent.

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