I was appointed to the Gloucester County Public Utilities Advisory Committee (PUAC) in August 2014, as an At-Large member. From the outside looking in, it appeared to me that
From the very first meeting I began to realize the PUAC did not serve any realistic purpose and had no true sense of direction. From my very first visits to Utilities’ office, equipment and storage yard, water treatment plants and sewer pumping stations, I could tell everything had been neglected for numerous years. I also noted numerous workplace safety violations which I immediately shared with the Board of Supervisors and appropriate members of County staff. After thinking about the situation for a while I decided I would offer some suggestions to make things better, instead of trying to place blame on those responsible for the excessive neglect of Gloucester taxpayer's and utility customer's infrastructure.
One of my first suggestions as a committee member was the development and implementation of a Utilities enhancement program. The following was my proposal:
As we all know Utilities is not financially self sufficient, numerous areas have degraded for one reason or another over the years and systems expansion is stagnant. Developing and implementing an enhancement plan utilizing an ownership approach will help considerably in turning Utilities into an efficient and self supporting department. In order to establish an ownership relationship with Utilities, each committee member would have to look at Utilities as if it were their own personal investment or business.
Each committee member would have to become familiar with Utilities’:
-intradepartmental roles in completing missions
Collectively the committee would have to identify the areas in which each member has experience or expertise so those talents can be applied accordingly throughout the enhancement process. For example; if one or two committee members have experience in office management they could focus on areas related to such.
All intradepartmental leaders would need to give a short briefing to the committee in which they define their areas of responsibility, statistics related to their areas, their manpower, etc. After such briefings, there would need to be an open discussion period for all of the leaders and the committee. The primary purpose for such briefings and discussion period would be to establish professional, face to face relationships among those responsible for the functionality and care of
utility assets. Gloucester
Each committee member would need to visit the varying sections of Utilities at least one time per month. Such visits would serve to educate committee members on what is entailed in performing day to day operations and will help instill the ownership concept. When employees see people taking interest in what they are doing they tend to perform better. Such visits would need to be completely observational and educational in nature and all observations and suggestions would need to be presented to the committee before shared with others. The only exception to this would be for safety concerns. Situations where a person or persons’ safety is at risk should always be brought to administration’s attention immediately, through whatever means available.
A high level of participation and dedication would be required from all Utilities employees and the advisory committee to insure success of an enhancement program. The frequency of committee meetings would have to change from bi-monthly to monthly and there would likely be frequent special meetings as well. Increasing the number of committee meetings would be necessary to heighten focus, enhance the committees’ knowledge base, expedite the enhancement process and establish and maintain forward momentum through all process phases.
Once the above steps are in motion, the committee would then be able to begin to establish concise goals and desired results of the enhancement plan. That is when the real work would begin.
No interest was shown in developing such an enhancement plan as it never even made it off the table. Changing the frequency of the meetings did not fly either, as it was unanimously voted down by my fellow committee members. I sensed my fellow committee members were unwilling to dedicate the necessary time to fulfill such a plan. From that time forward, the PUAC basically continued along the same path I can only assume it was traveling prior to my appointment; one of no direction or purpose. There will undoubtedly be those who will claim the PUAC has and continues to serve a worthwhile purpose and that everything is fine within
’s Utility Department. If that were the factual case,
none of the articles that will be contained in this series would be necessary. In
upcoming articles I will share some of my concerns about safety,
accountability, water and sewer rates and a few other topics. If you pay taxes
or pay for water or sewer in Gloucester you shouldn’t miss any of the articles. Gloucester County,
Kenneth E. Hogge, Sr.