A shortage of qualified administrators has hit home for the county Department of Water Supply, which on Tuesday was given permission to add a superintendent position to its operations division to help shoulder the load.
The department is working with the county Human Resources Department to create the new position of operations superintendent, Manager-Chief Engineer Keith Okamoto told the Water Board. The board unanimously approved the position.
The position is needed, Okamoto said, because the department has been unable to find candidates to replace its chief of operations, who is resigning to move to Kauai. The position requires a bachelor’s degree, among other requirements, and none of the current staff can be promoted to that position, he said.
“We don’t intend to balloon our department,” Okamoto said. “We have a need, but sometimes the resources out there are just not available.”
A division superintendent is a civil service position, such as the solid waste superintendent in the county’s Solid Waste Division. That individual makes between $56,532 and $87,156 annually, according to state civil service charts.
“If we don’t have success finding a chief of operations, at least we’ll have oversight for the Operations Department for the most part,” Okamoto said.
The position, which will allow employees working their way up through the ranks have another advancement opportunity, will provide oversight from a boots on the ground perspective, compared to an operations chief, who is more of a “big picture” administrator, Okamoto said.
Board member David De Luz endorsed the concept.
“People of that caliber are in extreme demand,” he said.
Skilled trades workers and engineers are among the top most sought-after employees in the nation, according to the latest ManpowerGroup survey of talent shortages.
“As we all know, recruitment is continuing to be a challenge, by my understanding it’s not only in government but in the private sector too,” Okamoto said.
In other business, the Water Board approved an increase in the power cost charge from $1.71 to $1.85 per thousand gallons. A family of five, which consumes on average about 12,000 gallons of water per month, would see their bimonthly bill increase by $3.36.
The power cost charge change does not affect the department’s revenue as the money collected goes to Hawaiian Electric to cover the electrical cost of transporting water to county customers. The charge may be adjusted every two months as the price of oil, and therefore the price of moving water to customers, changes.
The water bill includes an energy charge, a water consumption charge, a set standby charge and a power cost charge. The water department, a semi-autonomous agency, doesn’t get tax dollars but is funded by charges for its water service.
This article has been revised to correct the amount of the monthly increase in the power charge.