Saturday, July 12, 2014
(Butte County) FRRPD directors reject request to lift salary freeze, comment on Grand Jury report
Increase granted for three positions
July 9, 2014
By Barbara Arrigoni
OROVILLE >> Although the Feather River Recreation and Park District board of directors on Tuesday chose not to lift an overall salary freeze, they did approve increases for three positions and voted to reconsider the freeze when the district's finances are more sound.
In addition, the directors responded individually to the recently released 2013-14 Grand Jury Report, with some of the directors voicing concerns that the Grand Jury didn't know all the facts and one director indicating she thinks someone is behind the grand jury inquiries to acquire the Activity Center cheaply.
Grand Jury responses
The Grand Jury report was not on the agenda. The five directors spoke about the report to at the beginning of the meeting.
Director Loren Gill said he wanted to apologize for making statements to the newspaper before being authorized to do so. He said after the meeting that he wasn't apologizing for the statements he made to this newspaper, but was apologizing to the general manager, who had reportedly advised the board not to comment.
Director Jan Hill said she was concerned about the report.
"We can't escape our history," Hill said, adding the district definitely did have a financial plan and had more than half a million dollars in legal fees.
Although she acknowledged the board has missed many opportunities to right its financial dips, Hill then accused someone of "continuing to bring us down and who wants to buy this property on the cheap."
"We're getting distracted...We just really need to remember the history," Hill said. "It didn't start with this facility, it started a long, long time ago."
Hill added she knows of several people interested in buying the Activity Center building.
"I'd really like to know who the people are behind this," she said. "They're trying to make things more detrimental than they are."
Board chair Victoria Coots said the Grand Jury report was positive in some areas, and that the board has made "monumental" improvements.
Director Marcia Carter, who owned the gymnasium and sold it to FRRPD in 2010, said the Grand Jury didn't have the facts.
She said it was not true that there was no review before the district bought the building to determine if it was financially sustainable.
Giving an overview, she said the board did get an appraisal, and she also gave a presentation to the board in 2009, along with a feasibility study done by a firm out of Sacramento.
Carter also read documents from 2005, 2006 and 2009 that she said showed incomes well over $900,000, and added that she gave FRRPD $150,000-worth of equipment.
"It really is upsetting when they say the board did not do a (good) job in determining if the facility was feasible," she concluded.
Director Don Noble voiced his appreciation for the Grand Jury's efforts, but said that when he read the report, he saw more good in it than bad.
"I can tell you categorically, this ship is being righted," Noble said. "We are so going in the right direction... We are taking care of business."
The majority of the directors indicated early on that while they think the employees do deserve a raise, the district's financial status is still not stable enough to lift the salary freeze that was set in place last year.
General Manager Ann Willmann had sought a 3 percent increase across the board, depending on satisfactory evaluations.
In a report dated Tuesday, she gave the directors a budget breakdown with increases of 3 percent, 2 percent and 1 percent, as directed by the board at the last meeting.
Employees haven't had a raise, other than the increase in minimum wage, in a year.
Gill said the district doesn't have the extra money. He said he does think a raise is deserved and staff is underpaid, but now isn't the time.
Hill said she is also in favor of a raise, and could see giving one when money is coming in, "but not now."
Noble disagreed, saying the district would be in danger of losing people if the board didn't act now. He also noted it would be "penny wise and pound foolish" to lose a bookkeeper and end up having to spend money by contracting for the service.
Carter and Coots also said it's not a good time to lift the freeze.
"It's a double edged sword," said Coots. "There are reasons not to and reasons to...I would feel more comfortable waiting till we get the refinancing done."
Noble moved to lift the freeze and approve a 2 percent increase, but it failed for lack of a second.
Willmann asked the board to consider raises for three positions, a bookkeeper, head coach and referee. After long discussion and two other failed motions, the directors voted on three separate motions, voting 4-1 to keep the freeze in place, and agreeing unanimously to raise the three salaries and revisit an overall increase when the district's refinancing efforts are successful.*
Contact reporter Barbara Arrigoni at 533-3136.