Project engineer takes uncooperative stand with Peabody City Council


News editor

Peabody Mayor Ed Slocombe, council members, and city administrator Jeff Benbrook were frustrated Monday evening in their attempt to wind up sewer project business with project engineer Al Reiss.

Reiss has steadfastly refused during the past two years to provide "as built" plans of the sewer plant and delivery system when requested by the city. A list of five project deficiencies has been reviewed in correspondence with Reiss as far back as 2006, but the list has never been addressed by Reiss.

However, Reiss continues to hold the city liable for $3,500 in engineering fees to which he claims he is entitled.

Benbrook presented the total amount of the project with payments deducted over the life of the project, and a balance owed to Reiss in the amount of $1,259.73. With no paperwork to back him up, Reiss continued to press for a payment of $3,500 which he said, "is what my books show you owe."

Reiss offered no explanation as to why there are no "as built" plans other to than to say he would not send them until he is in receipt of his final payment of $3,500.

After Reiss left, councilman Leslie LaFoy made a motion to turn the issue over to the city attorney to resolve. Council members voted 5-0 in favor of the motion.

Council members looked at another improvement project with a presentation from APAC-Kansas, Inc. about resurfacing city streets. Jim Ralston and Tom Stivers had spent several days in Peabody recently measuring the streets, inspecting the storm drainage system, traffic patterns, curbs and guttering, and materials used in the past on various streets in town.

After lengthy discussion Ralston and Stivers agreed to return with firm estimates of repairs for Locust Street and Olive streets. Both men agreed that work would probably not begin until after the first of September, but that there would be plenty of time to get the project done before cold weather set in.

A final "big ticket" discussion came late in the meeting when council members were told that the overhead door track at the city shop was no longer fastened to the ceiling and could not be repaired, leaving city employees little recourse but to move to the new building on Ninth Street even though the structure is not finished.

"They will be moving equipment and supplies right away," said Benbrook. "Office equipment will remain at the downtown building for the time being. There is a walk-in door to the office so they can use that part a little longer."

Completion of the building was halted last fall after city funds ran low and priority spending moved to other departments such as sewer repair and the cost of the mercury remediation.

Essential services have been run to the building, but not all have been hooked up. The city has completed some interior work as funds have become available, but there is a substantial amount of additional work to be done.

"We will just have to do the best we can," said Benbrook. "It is not an impossible situation, but it's not working out the way we thought."

In other business, the council:

— heard a presentation by Community in Schools director Linda Ogden about the program and how it serves the county. Ogden's request for financial support was tabled until August after the council reviews budget issues.

— agreed to extend the time to purchase and shoot fireworks until midnight July 5. Since the Fourth is on a Friday this year, council members felt the public would welcome an additional day during the weekend to enjoy fireworks.

— discussed the creation of a planning commission to review the comprehensive plan. Benbrook recently sent out 25 letters of application to invite citizens to join such a committee. He noted he had six returned; two affirming a desire to serve on a planning board and four indicating they would not. With a July 1 deadline, the council took no action, preferring to wait until the June 27 meeting to make appointments.

— denied a request by Tonny Delvecchio to rock the alley between Vine and Olive and Sixth and Seventh streets. Delvecchio asked for the rock to complete sewer replacement earlier in the spring. Council members determined it had not been rocked before and the city was not responsible for adding rock at this time.

— established a deadline of June 27 for city employees to complete a list of repairs at city park as requested several weeks ago by Alice Stucky. The initial deadline of Memorial Day has passed and the projects have not been completed.

— heard that Northern Flyer Alliance representative Leslie LaFoy soon will submit the city's initial proposal for consideration as the location for a passenger train stop by Amtrak.

— agreed to participate in a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in city hall to begin work on the 2009 budget. The meeting will cover a projection of expenses for the rest of 2008, a historical review of how the city's money is spent, and preliminary discussion of where the council can reduce expenses. The public is invited to attend.

— heard the Peabody Main Street report from Shane Marler. Initial information for the Operation Celebration event Memorial Day weekend indicate 76 new volunteers were involved, more than 1,000 volunteer hours were logged to put on the event, the web site tracked 1,800 hits, visitors from 16 states were present, and downtown retail businesses noticed a significant increase in traffic and sales. KAKE television covered preparations for the event as did the Hoch Publishing papers, Newton Kansan, and Wichita Eagle.

— also received a thank you from Main Street for help by the mayor and council members cleaning the sidewalks, streets, and gutters and painting the curbs in preparation for the event.

— heard the landscaping at Santa Fe Park has been completed. Marler will meet with park volunteer Susie Schmidt to work out a long term plan for maintenance of the plants and shrubs. The landscaping was a gift to the city from Ruth (Mathias) Orpin of Denton, Texas, in memory of her parents, Ross and Margaret Mathias.

— approved a donation of $100 to Marion County Relay for Life, heard the audit report will be presented at the June 30 meeting, heard that Benbrook included a copy of each employee's job description with the most recent payroll, and approved an extension of the time to advertise for additional police officers for the city.