Seminole County struggling to fill wastewater operation positions

Video: Department that oversees Seminole County water operations, short staffed

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Seminole County is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a consulting group identify gaps in staffing, and maintenance issues, at the county’s water and wastewater treatment plants.

WFTV investigative reporter Karla Ray found out that effort was launched right after the former environmental services director resigned in the fall of 2018.

Consulting firm CH2M is being paid nearly $270,000 to complete two separate analyses; one on maintenance and another on staffing.  WFTV found at least 16 open positions, despite warnings from the same consulting group during a different paid analysis in the spring of 2018.

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That report from May 2018 pointed out ‘maintenance staff has had significant turnover’ with ‘poor to no response when positions are posted for hire.’  Months later, when nothing had changed, Environmental Services Director Rafael Terrero resigned.

“There are always opportunities for improvement and those are the things we want to focus on moving forward,” Interim Deputy County Manager Joe Abel said.

Abel revealed that in addition to the maintenance and gap analysis underway in the ESD, another study is evaluating salaries county-wide.

9 Investigates asked why the county is not just using the money for those studies to address pay across the board and fill the open positions in these plants more quickly.

“The only time we use consultants is when we're looking for an expertise level above what we may have in house, and we bring that level of knowledge,” Abel said.

To put the vacancies in perspective, 16 represents about 15 percent of the water and wastewater division.

This is a problem other cities and counties are also facing.

Seminole County has budgeted $80,000 for the salary analysis.