The resignation of Joseph’s lead public works employee, Matt Mead, left the city scrambling. Neither of the city’s other two employees had background in wastewater management or sewage treatment operations.
Complying with Department of Environmental Quality regulations along with the day-to-day readings became problematic. The city council, including mayor Dennis Sands, investigated several avenues to avoid fines and keep the plant running efficiently.
The council eventually hit on the idea of hiring a former employee to pick up the slack
Jake Thompson had spent more than seven years as one of the city’s public works employees before accepting a job with the Wallowa County Public Works Department.
Thompson runs the sewer and water works at Wallowa Lake, which is interconnected with the Joseph plant. After negotiations between the city and county for compensation, Thompson went to work for the city on a part-time basis starting in early July.
The city pays Thompson for his license and also reimburses the county for his hourly services. Sands said that the city was glad for Thompson’s help, and his presence at the treatment plant is down to about once a week.
At its Aug. 9 meeting, the council ratified the temporary operating agreement with the county.
The mayor called the document a memo of understanding prepared by the county. He also said that the cooperation between the city and county had been flawless, with no enmity between Thompson and the city’s public works employees.
Council member Teresa Sajonia approval and it was unanimously approved.
County commissioner Susan Roberts said that the county was glad to lend a hand, but said this is Joseph’s show.
“It’s Joseph’s plant, and they’re taking the lead on it,” she said. “We’re just helping where we can.”
A policing agreement between Joseph and Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office, which was signed by the council, is under study by county legal staff.