DWP users asked to pay breast-feeding bill
By Beth Barrett, Staff Writer
Sidestepping any potential opposition from its commission, the Los Angeles
Department of Water and Power is shopping for a contractor to run pregnancy
and breast-feeding classes for its workers for up to $50,000 a year.
Because the contract for "lactation specialist services" is less than $150,000,
General Manager H. David Nahai can award it without seeking approval from
the DWP board once the proposals are opened March 7.
But board member Nick Patsaouras criticized Nahai on Thursday for not
bringing the controversial contract to commissioners for discussion.
"In general, I respect the general manager has the authority (to award
contracts) under $150,000, but in this case some board members in the past
expressed objections and so it should come before the board," he said.
Patsouras said it's inappropriate to continue the lactation program at a time
when the utility wants to raise electric rates by 9 percent over three years
and water rates by 6 percent over two years.
"It's absurd. At a time when we're asking ratepayers to increase the rates,
we're going for lactation," Patsaouras.
But Nahai said he intends to go forward with the program that's operated
since 1988, calling it a good deal for ratepayers.
"(They) are getting a tremendous return on their investments," Nahai
said. "This program has resulted in an overall 27 percent reduction in
absenteeism, and a 36 percent reduction in health-care claims
by new mothers who use the service.
"Apart from all that, we live in an enlightened age where an entity such as the
DWP has to have a humanitarian outlook."
Nahai said DWP is in step with many other government, private and academic
institutions that provide similar services.
Last year, the same contract cost DWP $37,000. In 2005, the lactation
specialist worked 16 hours per week, fielded nearly 1,000 telephone calls and
conducted 48 classes for expectant parents.
An independent study of the agency's finances nearly two years ago found
more than $16 million in non-core activities in fiscal 2006, including $1.1 million
for various family-care and breast-feeding programs.
At that time, Nahai, who was vice president of the commission, said the DWP's
spending habits as well as whether or not to raise rates, were a bigger issue
than a lactation program.
Patsaouras, then a commissioner, argued against it.
"We're in the business of producing water and electricity, not in the social-
service business," he said at the time