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General Manager's evaluation

Thursday, September 14, 2000 by

happy ship”

Stovy Bowlin is still the general manager of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, but board members have made it clear in a 14-point performance improvement plan they’ll be expecting a lot from Bowlin over the next nine months. Improving communication and “team spirit” among staff and board members, and close consultation with the board on a range of other crucial issues are a few of the requirements Bowlin must live up to under the plan if he is to keep his job. He will undergo a follow up evaluation at the end of May 2001.

Other requirements of the plan: Bowlin must take a management course on improving employee relations; search for more Edwards Aquifer scientific research grants ; quickly hire a senior hydrogeologist with “respected credentials” who has “significant experience directly related” to the aquifer; implement revisions to the district’s grievance procedure; and administer district rules and programs fairly and equitably.

The district’s longest serving board member, Jack Goodman, explained that the basic purpose behind the performance improvement plan for Bowlin is to promote a “happy ship” atmosphere.

“I want people down there enjoying their work and protecting the resource, which is what should be their focus,” Goodman said. “As far as I was concerned, the place was falling apart. Our staff was resigning for a variety of reasons, but particularly because of Stovy’s management style. I was seeing factions and people huddled together and I don’t think that’s an efficient way to run the district. I hope the staff is happy with what we’ve outlined (in the plan).”

Bowlin’s job was believed to be on the line last month when the five board members of the BS/EACD met in a special called executive session to review the general manager’s performance. Instead of voting Bowlin out, the board reached a compromise by unanimously approving a detailed performance improvement plan, signed by both Bowlin and board president Craig Smith. The intensive evaluation of Bowlin followed a retreat held in late May during which staff members voiced dissatisfaction with the general manager. One of the most serious complaints was withholding from the public information contained in certain critical aquifer studies. That, and differences over the handling of research grants, led to the resignation of senior hydrogeologist Nico Hauwert, who had been with the district since 1993. The district’s accountant, Elsa Rodriguez, also resigned over management differences. A staff member who attended the retreat said, “There’s no question that there were some professional disagreements and Nico had some professional disagreements with Stovy. But the whole thing was blown out of proportion. It sounded like we were having a revolution over here and such was not the case.”

In Fact Daily has obtained a copy of the performance ratings Bowlin received at his Aug. 24 evaluation. It shows three board members –– Goodman, Smith and Jim Camp –– giving Bowlin an overall “needs improvement” evaluation. The general manager received a “satisfactory” rating from Don Turner and an “above average” rating from board member Bill Welch.

A 3-2 split among the board was evident in ratings in a number of individual performance areas. For example, Goodman, Smith and Camp rated Bowlin as needing improvement in management skills, team skills, problem solving, leadership and adherence to policy, while Welch and Turner both initialed the box for satisfactory performance. Goodman and Camp gave Bowlin an unsatisfactory rating in job knowledge and productivity. Camp also gave the general manager a thumbs down in management skills and interpersonal skills. Bowlin received above average ratings from Smith, Turner and Welch in the areas of job knowledge, quality of work and planning ability.

Turner, who has served on the board since 1990, told In Fact Daily that the performance improvement plan forced on Bowlin was unnecessary and that the evaluation process broke with established procedure. “Normally the way the general manager is rated is by our board president, not the whole board,” Turner said. “I think we went against our policy and I don’t think we needed to do that. But since three members of the board were getting pressure from SOS and the Save Barton Creek Association to get rid of Stovy . . . he’s going to have to do so and so. I think he would have had a better rating had there not been this 'enviro against conservative' sort of thing popping up.”

The district, Turner said, is “very lucky to have (Bowlin) and his knowledge for the salary we’re paying him."

The disagreement between the Kensington Park neighborhood and BFI officials took on a strangely chummy tone when both sides appeared before the Solid Waste Advisory Commission last night.

Kensington Park and BFI Waste Systems could be sworn enemies. BFI Waste Systems has bought a tract of land abutting the neighborhood for its new recycling facility and asked for variances that homeowners oppose. Earlier this week, BFI asked the Board of Adjustment to reconsider that group’s denial of the waste company’s request for variances. ( In Fact Daily, Tuesday, September 12, 2000).

But a strange thing happened on the way to the Solid Waste Advisory Commission. Representatives from the neighborhood have decided the real culprit in this case is the city, which pushed BFI Waste Systems toward an incompatible piece of land after the Austin City Council clearly directed the city manager to help BFI find a piece of land "out of proximity to neighborhoods."

"We are not against BFI operating. We certainly agree with what they do. We have a very green neighborhood," neighborhood representative Jack Howison told the commission. "What really needs to happen is to find a solution that doesn't destroy our neighborhood."

What Kensington Park wants the city to do is help BFI Waste Systems find another piece of land. The problem is, it has to be a piece of land that abuts a railroad spur and is close to major roadways in the city. BFI official Rick Carpenter said the company would certainly consider another site.

As Howison pointed out – and BFI agreed – there still is time to move the facility. The company has submitted site plans to the city but has yet to turn a spade of dirt on the site at 4711 Winnebago.

So the Solid Waste Advisory Commission, at the direction of Chair Jim Walker, immediately drafted a resolution asking the Austin City Council to meet the commitment of its own1996 resolution to keep the site away from neighborhoods. If all else fails, Walker even offered the services of a good realtor to help BFI find alternative locations.

Carpenter warned the commission that BFI Waste Systems is on a deadline to relocate. Turning back that clock, said Carpenter, is something that will have to be explained to the Gardens neighborhood, where BFI's current recycling facility is located at 4712 Bolm Rd.

The rise in the cost of natural gas has given Austin Energy the ability to lower the cost of GreenChoice, the utility’s program to provide customers with electricity generated by wind, landfill recovered gases and solar energy. Ed Clark, spokesman for Austin Energy, said originally the charge for green power was about $4 per month higher than the standard fuel charge for customers using 1,000 kWh per month. While the price of natural gas has increased, the price of green power has remained the same, so that now the difference between the two is only $1.37 per 1000 kWh. GreenChoice customers are not yet paying anything additional, but Austin Energy expects green power to begin flowing into the grid by mid-2001. If natural gas prices continue to increase, the price of renewables may actually be lower than gas.

Clark said natural gas prices are continuing to climb. “This makes GreenChoice an increasingly appealing option—not only to help preserve Austin’s quality of life but also as a hedge against rising fossil fuel prices.”

As of Wednesday, 2,300 residential customers and 21 commercial customers have subscribed for about 37% of Austin Energy’s initial 40 megawatts, Clark said. These include the Hyatt, Four Seasons, La Quinta Inns, Habitat Suites, Heart Hospital of Austin, State Farm Insurance, and radio stations KGSR, KLBJ, KROX and Lone Star 93. Other customers include the Governor’s mansion, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, AMD, IBM, Samsung, Apple, and Solectron. Fisher-Rosemont Systems has committed to purchase 100% of its energy from the GreenChoice program. ( In Fact Daily March 21, 2000).

In the meantime the Lower Colorado River Authority has announced an agreement to purchase 50 megawatts of wind energy from the Indian Mesa Wind Farm in Pecos County. The 50 megawatts, estimated to cost substantially less than the cost of natural gas, is enough to power about 15,000 homes, according to LCRA spokesman Bill McCann. Joe Beal, General Manager of the LCRA said that last year when the agency held public meetings, many people said they wanted the LCRA to provide more renewable energy. The LCRA has agreements to purchase 35 megawatts of wind power from the Texas Wind Power Project in Culberson County. The agency currently sells 10 megawatts of power from that project to the city of Austin..

©2000 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Fiesta…The City of Austin, the Fiesta de Independencia Foundation and the Consul General of Mexico will host the annual Diez y Seis Celebration at Plaza Saltillo, 412 Comal St. from 7-10PM on Friday. This year marks the 190th celebration of Mexico’s independence from Spain. Featured performers include the Tejano group, Masizzo, Roy Lozano’s Ballet Folklorico, Mariachi Estrella, and Banda de Guerra from Mexico… Dr. Laura loses some sponsors…TV counselor Dr. Laura, who appears on KEYE 42, has lost the sponsorship of Taco Bell, Dreyfus Antiques and Zanzibar Home & Gift, according to the Austin Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus. The ALGPC said that Fitness Connection would cancel its advertising as of Friday. The group has targeted Dr. Laura’s sponsors because of her homophobic views… Republican fundraiser… Judge Julie Kocurek will host a fundraiser today from 5-7PM at Saengerrunde Hall, next to Scholz’s Beer Garden, 1607 San Jacinto.

© 2000 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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