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San Joaquin County grand jury praises Woodbridge Sanitary District for improvements

Jury: The sanitary district has made major progress in addressing several complaints

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Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 7:16 am, Thu Sep 27, 2012.

The San Joaquin County grand jury has commended Woodbridge Sanitary District officials for the significant progress they've made in correcting issues brought to the grand jury more than a year ago.

"The 2011-12 grand jury is satisfied with the action the district has made in adopting the recommendations made by the 2010-11 grand jury," according to a recent report from jurors. "The grand jury commends the accelerated progress the district has taken."

The 2010-11 grand jury investigated the sanitary district due to complaints that included payroll fraud and fiscal mismanagement, falsifying State Water Resources Control Board records, harassment of employees, nepotism and favoritism, lack of training for employees and procedures, and lack of board policies and procedures to the detriment of the district.

The following year's grand jury followed up to see if the sanitary district followed through on the complaints. The jury determined that the district is making significant progress.

"It was very good because the initial investigation was initiated by an unhappy person," said attorney Mia Brown, who represents the district. "The grand jury didn't find a smoking gun. It certainly was not what the initial complaint made it out to be."

Among the 2011-12 grand jury's findings:

  • Inventory is now being taken by a designated board member twice per year.
  • Incidents of missing tools have dropped to a minimum. District employees and board members had been accused of taking district-owned tools home for their personal use.
  • Records of reported sewage spills are satisfactory. The Woodbridge board adopted a system to report any spills to the State Water Resources Control Board. Any spills will be reported by General Manager Luis Ching at the next monthly district board meeting, and an annual review will be made by a designated board member.
  • Pay scales are now in place. The grand jury accused the district of previously hiring employees' relatives at a higher salary than other employees.
  • The district training manual has been completed, including weekly meetings conducted by the general manager.
  • An official complaint form is available at the agency office, though most complaints are received via email.
  • Needed capital improvements have been identified with the help of the district engineer. Improvements will be presented to the board of directors for review as part of the annual district budget.

Items identified by the California Occupational Health and Safety Administration will be addressed first. Brown said the items addressed included "small-ticket items" such as upgrading hand railings around sewer tanks to ensure greater employee safety, and a new blower installed in one of the lift stations.

The Woodbridge Sanitary District is charged with maintaining the sewage and wastewater system located on Benedict Drive in Woodbridge. The district has annual revenues of approximately $376,000 and a staff of five to 10 part-time employees.

The district was formed on May 11, 1949. It covers 531 acres, including 292 acres for housing, 43 acres of public land, 7 acres of commercial property and 189 acres of permanent open space (golf course, cemetery).

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodi news.com.

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