So What Am I, Chopped Liver? Hawkins Reminds Water Board He's Retiring, Too

April 16, 2019


Water company plant manager Frank Hawkins (pictured here sitting next to office manager Elizabeth Zeller) appeared before this morning's meeting of the governing board for the Dade County Water Authority to say a polite but pointed ahem.


He'd read in the papers about the water board giving retiring water company manager Doug Anderton a $40,000-a-year pension for 10 years to help make up for not having paid in Social Security for the first 26 years Anderton worked there. That's great, said Hawkins; Anderton had devoted his life to the water company. "But when I retire, he'll only have three more years of service than me," said Hawkins.


Hawkins said he'd started work at the water company in 1976--"Travis, you weren't even born," he told Travis McDaniel, the newest, and youngest, board member--and thus the same odd situation vis-a-vis Social Security that had affected Doug Anderton also affected him. Social Security, from what Anderton told the board last month, had actually rejected the water company's attempts to pay in during the early years, saying it was an exempt nonprofit. By the time the situation was finally sorted out, and the water company started withholding on its employees' earnings and paying into the Social Security system in 1997, Anderton was decades behind in building up his contributions toward a comfortable SSI pension at retirement. Well, so was Hawkins, he pointed out.


Anderton had explained to the water board at a special called meeting on the subject that the same board, as it was composed in 2004, had purchased a $400,000 life insurance policy on him that, when mature, would be enough to pay him $40,000 a year for 10 years as well as to reimburse the board for the policy's cost. He said the board had done this because Anderton was the only employee who had worked there "my whole life." Why had they not made the same provision for Hawkins? “Maybe they considered 33 years to be a whole life and they didn’t consider 28 years a whole life,” speculated Hawkins.


One way or the other, the bottom line was that Hawkins planned to retire in two years and wondered: “If Doug’s retirement is going to be $400,000, what’s mine going to be?”


Board Chairman Ted Rumley and the other board members seemed to agree Hawkins had a pretty good case and agreed to look into it, though they had no immediate answer to give him this morning.


Otherwise, giving the monthly financial report, assistant manager Sherri Walker told the board the water company's asset-to-debt ratio was "still slightly below what we're required to have" to satisfy the company's loan agreements with its creditors, but that the situation was shortly due to improve. "Right now it looks bad but it's going to get better," she said. She said the company had a net loss of $9500 for March. "We do have cash in reserve we could tap if it's needed," she said


Board members grilled her on the information-exchanging situation between the water company and the county's volunteer fire departments. She said she was still awaiting input from the FDs. Manager Doug Anderton put in that the water company was on top of fire hydrant repair/replacement and was looking into contracting the work with an outside vendor that could get it done more quickly.


Ms. Walker said that with backlogs in repair and installation orders, the water company maintenance crew had about a four-week lead time. 


The water board generally meets at 8 a.m. on the third Friday of the month. It met on Tuesday this month in deference to Good Friday observations.

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