There’s always been a customer-service component to it. All of us had it in our plans, to provide customer service. Now it’s more along the lines of economic development.
I wrote a lot of EPA grants. When you hire compliance staff, the rate of compliance goes up. There was a baseline of 17 percent compliance then went up to 90 percent over a four-year grant period because the development community figured out quickly we were going to be looking. When you have people looking for compliance issues, everyone will tend to behave. For the development community, compliance is a cost of doing business. If a neighbor doesn’t have to do it, you’re at a disadvantage if you do.
That wastewater spill in Burlington? The infrastructure is just worn out. Nobody’s getting paid to look anymore. The DENR staff is now reviewing all the regulations because of the Regulatory Reform Act. The people who are hired to protect us are not able to do their jobs.
What the supervisors got in closed session was quite a bit harsher. That was Tom Reeder you saw in the video. We had Colonel Reeder behind closed doors. It was the same thing, but the terminology and emphasis behind it was different. This was more like, This is new game plan. This is the new path that we’ve charted. You have the option to get on board or get your resume ready. At the end where he makes the don’t whine and don’t complain comment, that was expounded a great deal in that session. That discussion was about his job to remold the division. He spent quite a bit of time telling us how much we were disliked. The General Assembly cut our budget, and we didn’t get the message. They did it again, and we still didn’t get the message. They had an opportunity to turn the public perception around. I love that agency, but there were some problems in it. I thought, OK, if we really have an opportunity here to make real substantive changes to make this division better, I’m here. I’m with you. What I very quickly learned in a couple weeks time was he didn’t mean let supervisors sit down and talk about problems and work, what he meant was, Skvarla has a new plan. This is what it is. You’re going to follow it. There were some very real issues that still need to be addressed. There’s a lot of overlap, like moving the stormwater program. There was a mirrored permit with land quality and water quality. The industry was getting frustrated because they had inspections from two divisions coming out two or three days apart and getting double hit for the same violation. There were changes that needed to be made but nobody was listening to what the real problems were.