Re-Banding Story

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rick521

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Hoping that this isn't typical of how rebanding is being handled in other parts of the country

Nextel project on hold
Costs of labor blamed for delay
Jeff Horwitz, Staff Writer

Heidi Asherbranner was paid $20 an hour as a San Bernardino County secretary. Then she retired, and the county paid $90 an hour for her secretarial services. Her boss on the new job, also a former county employee, cost the county $208 an hour or $432,000 a year.

After sinking well over $1 million of payroll costs into a troubled emergency-communications project that hired former county employees through a contractor, county officials have put the project on hold and dismissed most of the staff.

The purpose of the project was to make sure that Nextel Communications work in the county did not interfere with the the emergency-communication system in place. The Federal Communications Commission decreed that Nextel pay to guarantee the noninterference.

Sponsored by Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Postmus, the project employed one of his former senior staffers, Bob Smith, as well as the brother of another staffer. It ran aground amid concern over Nextel's possible refusal to pay for the program's labor costs. The bill for the program included Asherbranner's $187,000 annualized salary and the $432,000 yearly for its project manager.

Since jettisoning the staff, the county has recovered half of a $1.1 million planning bill from Nextel. But after Nextel objected to the generous labor costs, the county agreed to eat more than $60,000 in payroll costs.

"When Dean (Arabatzis) and I saw the rate they were charging for a secretary, we pulled the plug," said County Administrative Officer Mark Uffer. "If there's not a very clear direction on this project, I'll pull the plug on it again."
 
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