County rewards employee's 'IDEA'

October 15, 1997


Staff Writer

The Washington County Commissioners honored a Water and Sewer Department supervisor Tuesday for saving the county $46,455 with his creative approach to solving an environmental hazard.

Ronald E. Baer, a systems construction leader, won the quarterly Innovative Dedicated Employee Award (IDEA) and received a $500 check and an extra day off for coming up with a cheaper way to replace below ground diesel storage tanks at 18 county pumping stations.

The original estimation for the state-mandated upgrade was $66,800, but using Baer's idea - replacing the below-ground tanks with above-ground tanks inside cheap premade concrete septic tank enclosures - the cost dropped to $20,345.


"It's always been my belief to spend your money like I spend my own," Baer said. "This award is not just for me, it's for the people who stand behing me as well."

Baer said new state and federal regulations had mandated that the county upgrade its undergound tanks by 1998. The process was going to include pouring concrete containment basins around each of the new tanks to prevent contamination of the surrounding soil.

Instead, Baer, who used to install septic tanks, figured out that using manufactured concrete septic tank enclosures and fuel tanks would do the job just as well, and at a far lower cost.

The septic tank enclosures cost $300 each while the labor-intensive process of pouring the concrete basins would have cost at least $2,000 per tank, Baer said.

Baer also figured that placing new tanks above ground would prevent future soil contamination hazards and avoid the loads of paperwork required by regulations on underground tanks.

Baer also received certification for the job through the Petroleum Institute, saving the county from having to pay high hourly rates to contractors.

Public Works Director Gary Rohrer praised Baer as a "super employee" who leads by example and stresses quality workmanship in a timely and cost-effective manner.

"Should any leaks occure, they will be noticeable by visual inspection and much more easily repaired," Rohrer said.

The IDEA award recognizes county employees who go above and beyond their normal duties to work smarter, solve problems and save the county money.

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