Dearborn officials acknowledge issues with public works

DEARBORN, Mo. — Danielle Perkins kept her promise and showed up again to express her displeasure with Dearborn public works’ efforts to smooth out the ditch issue in town, and city officials seem to be sharing her concerns at this point.

A resident on August Street, Perkins came to the Dearborn Board of Aldermen meeting on Monday, Oct. 9 and said ditches dug out early in the summer have still not been fixed. Donald Swanstone, alderman and director of public works, explained that the jetter needed to clean out congested culverts broke and a bucket to go on the Bobcat to dig smooth ditches is also out for order.

While the lack of equipment should cause some delay, the issue of using work hours effectively came up.

“Still not done,” Perkins said. “Here’s what I’m seeing. I know ditches aren’t that important and aren’t that big of a deal, but the problem is we’re either incompetent at finishing a project that we start and wasting the town’s money or we just don’t know what the hell we’re doing in the first place.”

Dearborn mayor Jamie Morey planned to ask public works employees Tim Otto and Alex Ball to attend the November board of aldermen meeting to discuss their work practices. The move comes after an apparent verbal confrontation with the workers last month.

“We can order all the stuff we want. Getting it done’s the next thing,” Morey said.

The current issue started in June when public works dug out drainage ditches with no advance warning to affected residents, who complained to the board about the condition of their properties. The depth and uneven nature of the “trenches” were questioned along with potential maintenance issues.

Morey and the aldermen have since repeatedly asked public works to smooth out the situation.

However, Perkins spoke at the September meeting and advised work had still not resumed in most areas of the city. Swanstone then spoke with employees about providing a more detailed report of work done in the city for officials to review at board meetings.

According to Morey, Otto and Ball came to his house shortly after last month’s board meeting and complained to him about the requests.

The September report included a line that read, “Fixed some ditches,” with no other details provided. This month’s report included an increase in the amount of entries but not necessarily on the specifics of work performed.

“I think this is maybe a joke. I don’t know,” Morey said before reading a selection. “‘We got the truck out; did rounds; cut the trees over the street.’”

This brought up the question of how much work public works actually did during 40-hour work weeks.

According to city records, Otto — a long-time employee — makes $25.42 per hour, while Ball, hired full time in August of 2015 to replace two part-time workers makes $16 an hour. That equates to more than $80,000 in annual salary with no overtime included.

Perkins asked if the city is paying the employees for 40 hours without receiving 40 hours’ worth of work each of week.

While some complained about seeing the workers inactive around town during the day, other residents defended the workers. Public works remains responsible for after-hours snow removal and issues with water lines that often require extra time.

Officials hope the discussion next month could help clear up some of the specifics of every day job duties residents might not know about.

“They’re punching the clock,” Morey said. “It’s not 100 percent, but the city is a business, too. I will invite them (to the next meeting). Maybe there’s something we’re not seeing.”