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August 17, 2016 Featured - Tensions run high
Article Pages -- as published on the The Kalona News website.

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ARTICLE DESCRIPTION:

Tensions run high at Riverside City Council

meeting over water and wastewater, Ella Street

At the last meeting, Hembry had said, “I am willing to work with you through this...I will fully admit, there is no love lost to People’s staff. If they want to know where the facilities are, I’m comfortable with that.”

It was a tense affair Monday night during the Aug. 15 meeting of the Riverside City Council. Discussions over the engineering of the Ella Street project and the staff of the water and wastewater plant were notably heated.

Tensions over the water and wastewater system came in stages. Kevin Engel’s last day as the water and wastewater superintendent was Aug. 3. However, there are still some final matters to take care of. With the permission of Mayor Allen Schneider, who was absent due to a back injury over the weekend, Engel was able to keep his city cell phone number after turning in his city phone by a 4-1 vote.

Also up for discussion was whether or not Engel was entitled to a sick leave payout. Much to Engel’s disappointment, the city council members tabled the issue, due to conflicting opinions from City Attorney Bill Sueppel and Paul Greufe, hired to look into the benefits paid out to city employees and run the audits for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 fiscal years.

Engel did get partial payout for vacation time. Engel will receive $2,026.64 for vacation time earned this year, while the fight over the rest of vacation pay over the previous 36 months will be settled another day.

Tensions escalated further over the issue of water and wastewater employee Ron Hembry. Hembry had agreed to stay on while the management transition to People Service Inc. occurred. However, last week Hembry was late to a meeting with People Service Inc. representatives at city hall said.

Hembry and Engel stated that they were at the base of the city water tower and could not receive calls when city hall tried to reach Hembry and that no time for the meeting had been set. Mayor Schneider was out of town so Councilmember Schnoebelen was called in to try to assist.

There was also a disagreement over what exactly Hembry was retained to do. Hembry claimed he promised to keep the plant running, not to train employees. At the last meeting, Hembry had said, “I am willing to work with you through this...I will fully admit, there is no love lost to People’s staff. If they want to know where the facilities are, I’m comfortable with that.”

Even Councilmembers Robert Schneider Jr. and Robert Weber, who still supported Hembry, expressed disappointment. Weber said, “You kind of flipped me the bird when you didn’t do what we looked each other in the eye” and agreed to, because of his difficult behavior. Schneider called it “a slap in the face” to the mayor, who has defended Hembry throughout the process.

Councilmember Jeanine Redlinger made a motion to terminate Hembry, effective Friday Aug. 19. Schnoebelen and Councilmember Tom Sexton sided with Redlinger as the motion passed 3-2. Schneider Jr. felt uncomfortable moving on this, when Mayor Schneider, Hembry’s supervisor, was not present and felt that the mayor’s role of supervisor was being usurped.

During the clerk comments, after Hembry’s supporters left the meeting, Utility Clerk Becky LaRoche said that Hembry had been told the day before about the time of the meeting and Clerk Lory Young defended her decision to involve Schnoebelen.

To run the plant until People Service can take over full-time, which may be possible as soon as Sept. 1, Josh Dean, who runs Wellman’s water and wastewater plant for People Service, will come over in the morning to check on things and Steve Flake from Lone Tree will take samples in the evening and deliver them to the lab in the morning.

Washington also offered its assistance if necessary,

The other moment of tension in the meeting occurred when Larry Simon grilled City Engineer Glen Meisner over the specificity of the spec books he supplies to contractors. Simon viewed the mere citation of SUDAS as not specific enough.

Simon then proceeded to question various aspects of the projects engineering, which Meisner fought back against vigorously.

The councilmembers, after a lengthy discussion, decided that in future projects they would give greater consideration to possible secondary effects.

In other project updates, the Cherry Lane contractors face possible late fees as they continue to have issues in cleaning up and finishing the project. They are almost a full month behind. The councilmembers also approved a topographical water main survey for the upcoming Pioneer Street project and finishing the Veterans Park sidewalk to finish replacing the sidewalk at eight feet.

The council approved selling a strip of land to Doug Havel from Bud’s Meats to build solar panels for his business. The city will retain a 50-foot right away from the fence on Highway 22. Since the panels will be facing away from the highway, Havel agreed to plant a couple of trees to block the view of the back side of the solar panels. Havel also agreed to maintain the land by mowing the area.

The council is withholding a portion of Al Dehogues insurance money from the Dec. 15 fire at 51 South Boise Street. Dehogues is planning to sell the property, but still has not cleaned up the property to the liking of Young.

The councilmembers moved to table multiple issues including water well maintenance and a proposed work session from Jeff Schott with the Institute of Private Affairs.

In committee reports, Phil Richman was approved as the new president of the Visioning Committee and Marge Schnoebelen was named secretary.

The councilmembers also approved the seeking of a second demo derby on Oct. 8.

The councilmembers will look through the employee evaluation forms for discussion at the next meeting, which will take place on Tuesday, Sep. 6, due to the Labor Day holiday.

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