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Sajonia raises stink over Joseph bathrooms

Administrator hiring move ahead

By Steve Tool

Wallowa County Chieftain

Published on August 14, 2018 3:46PM

The city’s public bathrooms were the subject to discussion again at the Joseph City Council meeting Aug. 9.

Council member Teresa Sajonia said that the bathrooms remained in filthy condition after the council ordered the public works employees to make cleaning a priority. The restrooms are located at the corner of East Wallowa Avenue and North Lake Street.

She noted that the city’s utility clerk Crystal Bronson had created a signoff sheet for the public works crew to complete, and the sheet was signed daily.

“I made a point of stopping by on the way here, and they’re not getting cleaned. There is no way in two-and-a-half hours that happened,” Sajonia said.

After she listed a number of messes, Sajonia suggested she and council member Tanya Collier give lessons on how to clean restrooms.

At that point, Collier said she had even offered to clean the restrooms herself twice and was turned down.

Council member Marty Hamilton noted that former council member Kathy Bingham had submitted a letter to the council that suggested the city hire a temporary employee to clean the bathrooms during the summer season for an approximate cost of $2,700.

“I’m all for it,” he said. “Why should the city workers be focused on bathrooms when they can focus on something else? Obviously, they can’t do the job.”

Sajonia said she believed the public works employees could do the job and that it was one of the reasons the city hired a new public works employee.

“I think we need to be more aware during the hiring process,” she said.

Mayor Dennis Sands, who is the go-between for the council and public works department, said that he would have another serious talk with the crew about the bathrooms, although he noted he hadn’t heard complaints for a week, and Bronson said the city had recently received several compliments on the restroom.

Sajonia, who is also a member of the Main St. Maintenance Committee, noted that on the payroll sheets, the public works crew billed the Main Street Fund for approximately two hours a day per week.

“Are they spending two hours a day emptying garbage or cleaning bathrooms –– no way,” she said.

Much of the Main Street Fund comes from the city’s share of the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax.

Audience member Scott Lanier had another observation.

“Are these the same employees that raises were given to two or three meetings ago?” he wondered.

At the July council meeting, the two senior public works employees were given raises of $2 an hour and $3 dollars an hour.

“Yes,” Sands answered.

Lanier suggested that the city hire the extra employee that Bingham suggested. He said that the public works employees were possibly spread too thin.

“In terms of quality of work, we all know how to do bathrooms,” he said. “It’s a nasty, disgusting job, but at least have a person accountable ...”

The council also discussed the 12-15 applications received for the city recorder position after a round of advertising. The city has seen the resignation of three top employees in the past year.

Sajonia suggested a local working business professional sit in and assist the council during the interviews.

“We haven’t been very successful in hiring,” she said. “It’s not anyone’s fault, but we need to realize our flaws.”

Hamilton asked if guidelines for the position were available, and Sajonia said that the job description includes job expectations and a terms of employment book. Sands added the city also used a hiring handbook from the League of Oregon Cities.

Council member Mike Lockhart agreed with Sajonia’s proposal but said in his mind the duties for the position were not clearly outlined. He also said more thorough background checks might aid in future hiring.

No decision was made on the matter.

The board decided to interview all of the candidates Aug.16-17.


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