Project oversight questioned
Resident questions Saratoga’s ability to manage, oversee projects at town council meeting
The second monthly meeting of the Saratoga Town Council barely had a quorum, yet the council still dispensed with routine business despite concerns raised by a town resident over the town’s handling of maintenance and repair projects.
The council meeting came on the heels of a public hearing for liquor license renewals for town businesses. The public hearing was intended to allow concerned citizens to discuss liquor licenses, but according to Saratoga Mayor Ed Glode, nobody raised any objections during the meeting and the liquor licenses were renewed.
The council then convened its second regular meeting with councilman Steve Wilcoxson and councilwoman Jennie Lou Ivory present along with Glode, giving the body a quorum.
Council members Richard Raymer and Will Faust were absent.
The meeting seemed to be destined for a quick conclusion until Steve Heinitz, a local resident, took to the podium to address the council during the public comments period of the meeting.
Heinitz told the council he was concerned about the town’s stewardship of certain projects around the town, specifically referring to a sewage treatment lagoon improvement project that is ongoing.
“I have no confidence that this town is capable of managing, having any oversight, inspection or quality control,” Heinitz said, going on to cite other projects conducted by town authorities he believed were improperly managed.
Heinitz referred to problems with the hot pool heat exchanger, and a recent potential issue with meter pit piping that can fail. The meter pits were installed several years ago, but due to a workmanship flaw by a contractor, some residents have suffered failures of piping in the pits.
That issue came to a head during the summer when another town resident expressed concerns over the meter pit piping after a failed pipe at his daughter’s home resulted in an expensive repair. Because the repair was caused by faulty workmanship by a town contractor, that resident believed the town should pay for the repairs caused by faulty meter pit piping.
Heinitz also expressed concerns over a river dredging project earlier in the year that he contended had not significantly fixed any issues. The project had also been awarded to a contractor that was not the lowest bidder, Heinitz pointed out, saying, “… the (river dredging) project reeks of graft and corruption.”
At that point, Glode, who had been quiet, took exception with Heinitz’s characterization, objecting that Heinitz had accused Glode of being corrupt.
Heinitz said he had not accused any one person of corruption, and was expressing his opinions about the project during the public comment session of a legally constituted town council meeting.
After things settled a bit, Heinitz went on to discuss the sewer lagoon improvement project, which he said the town was incapable of properly managing. Heinitz then questioned a sewer outflow project that was canceled last year.
The sewer outflow project was mandated by the state in order to mitigate ammonia discharge into Hot Slough Creek near the sewage treatment plant. After months of data collection and analysis, the town proved to the state’s satisfaction that ammonia discharge levels were within legal limits.
Because of that determination, the outflow project was no longer deemed necessary.
The grants issued for the outflow project were then reapplied toward the sewage lagoon improvement project. The goal of that project is make incremental improvements to the sewage treatment lagoon.
“The town isn’t getting what we’re supposed to be getting,” Heinitz said over Glode’s polite objection.
Heinitz then went on to read aloud an August memo from town clerk Suzie Cox addressed to council members. In the memo, Cox warned council members of impending cash flow problems, advising council members to cut back on spending until the cash flow situation had been resolved.
“This is certainly an issue and you have to be running these projects in a better manner, giving this town, community and these taxpayers more for their money,” Heinitz concluded after reading the entire memo.
With little discussion, the council moved on, quickly hearing reports from town departments before adjourning.
The next scheduled meeting of the Saratoga Town Council is 6 p.m. Dec. 5 at Saratoga Town Hall.