The Sewer Authority Mid-coastside has been audited three times, no policy governing hiring, outdated policies for other things, and a history of leadership turnover hanging over its head. SAM has been acting with an interim general manager since Beverli Marshall resigned in June, and the search for a new general manager has been postponed while member agencies deal with existing litigation and consider what comes next. Now it’s facing a seven-figure bill for a solution.

To address its many problems, the SAM board has approved more than $100,000 for consulting services out of the general manager’s salary fund. Wastewater Management Specialists LLC principal Dan Child has conducted an assessment of the situation and is currently providing financial management support as officials work to finish the audits. Child has proposed a $1.4 million payment for the next 28 months of work.

A variety of options include keeping the interim general manager in place longer, moving forward with hiring a permanent general manager or continuing to receive consulting services from Wastewater Management Specialists. 

“I compare what I do to an emergency room doctor versus a general practitioner,” Child said. “I help stabilize ... and the new general manager would be able to take over with a firm foundation to work from rather than reinvent the wheel.” 

Member agency officials had previously discussed how Child would help find a permanent general manager, and recruiting agencies were being considered and interviewed.

The Coastside’s only sewer agency is governed through a joint powers authority that includes the city of Half Moon Bay, Montara Water and Sanitary District, and the Granada Community Serivces District. Half Moon Bay Public Works Director John Doughty said there are many reasons the search for a permenant director has been paused, including litigation he can’t discuss. 

“Whoever comes in and is the manager there, they will be extremely happy about work that’s been done,” Doughty said. 

During that same meeting, Child provided a presentation to the board outlining three phases of work. “New manager recruitment” is proposed as part of Phase 3, which runs from July 1, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2021. Child said that could vary based on the board’s direction. 

With the next 150 hours of work that have been approved by the SAM board, Wastewater Management Specialists’ efforts will be focusing on the audits. Between Dec. 1 and June 30, 2020, Child proposed to finalize the overdue 2017-18 audit and initiate the 2018-19 audit.

“The first thing is to get finances in order,” Child said. “Not having the audits done is very, very difficult from a credibility standpoint.” 

Doughty said the city hopes to meet with the other two member agencies and SAM staff to discuss future steps. 

“We think it’s been important and critical for him to do the assessments and look at the bigger picture of this and help all of us get a handle on where we are,” Doughty said. “... Beyond that, we are definitely going to be talking with SAM and other member agency staff to talk about what we see the future being with regard to additional contracting and scope of work and deliverables down the road.”

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