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October 18, 2013
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New Nevada County Consolidated Chief wrestles with big job


Nevada County Consolidated Fire Chief Adolf Zubia has been at the helm of the fire district for two months — long enough to know that turning around the heretofore floundering fire district will require some hard work.

“(The job) is probably more than I had gauged in the initial assessment,” Zubia said. “But it’s all good. I think the best thing that I have is my staff. Things are moving forward; my only complaint is: not fast enough.”

Chairman Warren Knox said the district has “a long ways to go before we can feel comfortable about how the district is operated the way it should be.

“I think we have identified a significant number of issues,” Knox said, likening the assessment process to the peeling of a layered onion. “We find other things we have to solve and work on.”

During the Thursday night meeting of the board of directors, Zubia announced the district will likely have to expend more than was budgeted for in terms of health insurance due to escalating costs and a tax added by the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Zubia is operating without a Human Resources director, as Lisa LaBarbera stepped down in January, and the position has remained unfilled since.

“I know enough about it to be thankful I have insurance,” Zubia joked.

“It’s an ongoing issue,” he said.

“The Affordable Act brings a lot of issues into the equation, but the fact we are below 50 employees, I wouldn’t say it helps, but we are ahead of the game.”

The board approved a resolution earlier this year to have Consolidated staff work with the city of Grass Valley to allow the fire district to outsource HR duties to the municipality.

With the unexpected resignation of Grass Valley’s City Administrator Dan Holler in late August, that plan was postponed.

“We were looking at outsourcing, but that has hit a snag based on what is happening,” Zubia said. “We’re deferring that for right now.”

Roberta Raper executed Grass Valley’s HR duties until she took a job in Napa County. Her last day was in mid-September.

Interim Grass Valley City Manager Jeff Foltz said the vacant position will not be filled until a city manager is hired, which he said likely won’t occur until early 2014.

Zubia said the fire district will also seek to outsource payroll.

“If Grass Valley hadn’t had the change, we might be further along,” he said.

The board unanimously approved continuing to use the current health insurance carriers.

Consolidated Fire will have the opportunity next year to go out and shop for a better deal, Zubia said.

The way the district managed Health Savings Accounts came under scrutiny earlier this year after administrative employees who resigned in January were allowed to cash out a full year’s account at the beginning of the year.

Director Keith Grueneberg said the payments into the accounts should be made either monthly or quarterly to avoid such fiscal mistakes.

The fire district is currently negotiating with the Local 3800 Union in an attempt to come to a new memorandum of understanding.

The board said an MOU was the appropriate place to address HSA stipulations.

“The negotiations are going well,” said Director Dave Hanson. “Both sides are working closely, and we are working to get it done.”

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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The Union Updated Oct 21, 2013 03:55PM Published Oct 20, 2013 04:35PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.