September 2009 » Columns

SWPPP omissions
I don—€™t want to come off as a supposed expert with a contrary opinion, but I do take exception to one of [the] items of SWPPP omissions as listed in the article, —€œTop Five SWPPP Omissions,—€ in the July 2009 edition of CE News (page 28). Item No. 3 indicates that copies of agency consultation letters should be included in the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). The item goes on to explain that many Construction General Permits require analysis of threatened or endangered species and their habitat or historic properties. What could any agency (Fish & Game, etc.) in a consultation letter specifically dealing with endangered species tell a SWPPP developer that would affect the implementation of best management practices (BMPs) for water quality? This information may be important to the overall project development, but for BMP implementation, I—€™m not so sure.

Developers of SWPPPs need to stick to potential water pollution problems and BMP implementation. To require more information for the sake of adding more information makes the regulated less inclined to comply. Water quality on a construction site is a tough sell to the average developer/contractor. I know because I—€™ve been trying to sell it to contractors for 15 years. I guess the bottom line in developing a SWPPP can be characterized by the old phrase, —€œKeep it simple, stupid.—€
Dave Sluga
Cypress, Calif.

Transportation sustainability
I am employed by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYDOT). My area of specialty is stormwater management and erosion and sediment control. Samuel I. Schwartz, P.E., noted, —€œNothing like [LEED] quite exists for transportation projects—€ (—€œSustainability in practice today,—€ CE News, June 2009, page 50). I would like to refer you to a program developed by NYDOT called GreenLITES, recognizing outstanding leadership in Transportation and Environmental Sustainability. For more information on this program, please go to www.nysdot.gov/programs/greenlites
Pauline Burnes, L.A.
Hornell, N.Y.

Public-sector benefits
In the August edition of CE News I was amazed to see a letter from W.T. Foster, P.L.S., concerning public-sector benefits (page 8). He [wrote], —€œHere in California, the public employee wage for engineers and surveyors is [equal to] or greater than the private sector. ... Public employees have: jobs for life, platinum parachute retirement plans, great health coverage, 15 paid holidays (about seven [in the] private [sector]), three-plus professional days, over two weeks vacation accrued the first year, etc. —€¦ Public employee wages and benefits are on track to bankrupt every public agency in California.—€

I don—€™t know where he gets his misinformation, but I—€™d like to correct it. To check my statements, see the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Unit 9 employees (Professional Engineers) and the California Department of Personnel Administration at www.pecg.org

Wages —€” Until one year ago, state engineers were paid as much as 35 percent less than the private sector. It took several years for us to gain parity.

Jobs for life —€” Tell that to the engineers that have been demoted or laid off to subsidize California government. I was an associate highway engineer, demoted to assistant highway engineer, then down to highway engineering technician. If six more engineers had been laid off, I would have been out of work. Hundreds were.

Platinum retirement plans —€” Engineers hired in recent years have a poorer retirement plan than I do. California now has a two-tier system, which discourages new engineers. Of course, we are blessed with the Public Employees Retirement System, which safeguards our retirement funds. Does Foster think our retirement funds should be at risk like in the private sector?

Great health coverage —€” Yeah!

Fifteen paid holidays —€” No way! The MOU (2003-2008) provided for 11 paid holidays. This year, bargaining changed it to 10 holidays.

Three-plus —€œprofessional days—€ —€” What is he referring to? It—€™s not in the MOU! Of course, Foster may mean training to keep us sharp and up to the current standard. Private industry does have training, I know.

Two weeks vacation accrued the first year —€” No way! The MOU says no vacation is accrued for the first six months. It accumulates at seven hours per month for the next three years. That means our new employees accrue 42 hours of vacation the first year, a couple hours more than one week.

Public employees are going to bankrupt us —€” the governor—€™s own figures show that contracting out to a private-sector engineer costs about $233,000, as compared with $107,000 [for] a state employee. But the governor is still contracting out engineering jobs.

Public employee wages and benefits have been held down for years, below the private sector, to subsidize the budget. And the Public Employee Retirement System has gone very easy on the state for years and years, thanks to sound investment.

Foster says if elected officials who get campaign donations from public employee unions vote on public employee issues it—€™s graft. I disagree. I have as much right to ask a legislator for support as an employer does.
Martin R. Bragen, P.E.
Union City, Calif.

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