The Palm Beach Post

After layoffs, South Florida Water Management District hiring again


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

December 5, 2011


On Aug. 29, a week after the South Florida Water Management District laid off 135 workers, the district hired an electrician. Three weeks later, despite having laid off six engineers, the district hired a senior environmental engineer.

Today, six months after 257 workers left with a severance package in June and three months after the August layoffs, the district has 15 job openings posted on its website, including two more engineering jobs.

"The positions that are being filled now are essential to fulfilling the district's core mission," the district wrote in response to questions from The Palm Beach Post. "In refocusing the agency on its core mission, the district conducted a thorough workforce analysis and through strategic decisions determined the number and types of positions necessary to effectively operate the agency."

The staff cuts and benefit reductions for remaining employees were made to comply with a new law backed by Gov. Rick Scott that required the district to slash its property tax collections by 30 percent - about $128 million.

The positions now posted range from a vegetation management technician, with a starting salary of $33,405, to a principal scientist and engineer, with top salaries of $118,955. An additional four positions are open only to current employees.

One of the two available engineering positions is specifically for Everglades restoration and was posted on the district's website about a month after Scott traveled to Washington to unveil his own restoration plan, which focuses on the long-overlooked central Everglades.

"It's interesting that the district and governor are on board to restore the central Everglades but they fired the people with the expertise," said Chris McVoy, a former senior environmental scientist in the Everglades division, who was laid off in August. McVoy said he recently learned about the job openings at the district but has not applied.

"A lot of us wondered at the time, what was the process they used to come up with the list of people to lay off?"

More than half the positions are for specialized operations and maintenance positions. Some are existing positions left vacant when employees took a buyout rather than risk being laid off in August. Other positions have been created to operate restoration projects that are nearly finished. Others have been vacant since before the layoffs.

Besides the electrician and senior environmental engineer positions, the district rehired a 20-year employee whose prior position in purchasing paid $48,464. His new position as a storekeeper pays $35,900.