By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
Three Calaveras County Water District employees who have been working for Utica Power Authority since April 2000 received layoff notices this week.
The 45-day notices, dated Jan. 27, came as a surprise, said Cort Martz, one of the three.
"We knew that there was going to be a transition from CCWD to UPA," he said, "But what seems to have happened is, CCWD has arbitrarily jerked their employees out of UPA before UPA has formed the transition to take us in."
The three hydropower plant operators and water system maintenance men Steve Lily, Dave Powell and Martz keep UPA's two powerhouses operating and continually check the water flows through UPA's flumes and canals, but their paychecks come from CCWD.
Monday night, their layoff notices were hand delivered to UPA by CCWD General Manager John Stewart.
The notices come amid UPA's efforts to establish a human resources program with workers' compensation coverage and employee benefit packages, so that the water authority can actually hire the operators on its own payroll.
About three years ago, when UPA stopped using a consulting firm to run its operations, it was in no position to hire the operators it needed. CCWD, one of the three members that make up UPA, volunteered to hire the needed operators.
The agreement was that CCWD would hire the workers and bill UPA for the cost plus a 5 percent administrative fee, and once UPA had its human resources program in place, it would move these three workers onto its payroll.
As UPA began work on its program, the Darby Fire erupted in September 2001, destroying UPA flumes, cutting off water to Murphys, Angels Camp and other Calaveras communities. All energy focused on that emergency.
Once the flumes were rebuilt and water flowed freely, directors returned their attention to the human resources.