- Story highlights:
- Public Works Director Chad Bedlington resigned,
- Public Works requires $27 million for maintenance upgrades,
- Council keeps postponing funding decisions,
- Council asked to consider $350,000 in triage funding to cover emergencies,
- Yelm residents need to brace for certain water/sewer rate increases,
- Now two department heads are in an acting capacity (Public Works, Finance),
- Turnover costs the city in productivity, continuity, dollars to replace personnel,
- Something is amiss in leadership with too frequent staff turnovers,
- City needs to hire a head-hunter for a qualified Public Works Director.
- Our Public Works staff deserve our praise and an expert Director!
Editor’s note: The Nisqually Valley News was invited to the Public Works department last August to write an in-depth report on the aging facility that needs a major and immediate refurbishment, yet there is no funding on the immediate horizon. That means some or a majority of the upgrade costs will have to be born by the users, City of Yelm residents. The NVN story published August 22, 2019, stated the issue clearly:
“But there’s one thing that can’t be ignored — the 25-year-old treatment facility and its technology are quickly becoming obsolete, and there are some repairs that cannot be made.
“That’s why the city council and staff are discussing the construction of a new membrane bio-reactor system that would bring more efficiencies to the system and process cleaner reclaimed water. It would likely cost upwards of $17 million to construct the facilities and install the system.
“Those connected to the facility say it’s likely a question of ‘when a replacement will come and not ‘if,‘” quoting Eric Rosanne.
- On September 30, 2019, the City of Yelm issued a news release that said in part:
“Over a three-year period, the City has replaced many components to keep the current facility functional, including the system control software, distribution system, and eliminated single points of failure but still requires an estimated $27 Million overhaul to manage current and future demand. The City is exploring a variety of options to renovate the facility while keeping utility rates as low as possible for the citizens and businesses of Yelm. Options include a widely used Membrane Bioreactor system, and advocating for State Funding and allow Yelm to be a leader for other innovative treatment options including ceramics and algae.”
- On October 8, 2019, the public heard for the first time at the Yelm City Council session that City Administrator Michael Grayum was once again the Acting Public Works Director. However, upon inquiring, this blogger was informed Public Works Director Chad Bedlington was not on leave for a family matter as he was last Spring, rather he submitted a resignation letter. This leads to many questions and places the city in a precarious position in a department that REQUIRES a fully-qualified, daily hands-on manager, expert, and department head. Bedlington had been in this post for almost 3.5 years, replacing former Public Works Director Ryan Johnstone, who also resigned.
- Bedlington had made a presentation to the city council on September 24, 2019, with a recommendation by public works staff to enter into a water and sewer rate forecasting analysis. That request was tabled by the council, again “kicking the can down the road” due to the council’s concerns that rate increases are in the forecast and will not be favorably received by residents.
- At the October 8, 2019 council session, Acting Public Works Director Michael Grayum, recommended a $350,000 “triage funding” to have in the ready with the coming emergency breakdowns that will occur with the Public Works facility in such challenging state, since regular maintenance has been deferred since 2009-2010. Click here begin at 35:00 for the monetary gap explanation and suggested $350K triage funding.
Bottom line: With Bedlington taking the heat for Splash Park cost overruns that would have had to have been approved at a higher pay-grade than his, a council that keeps deferring tackling the Public Works debacle, no foreseeable funding, while the city keeps adding more hook-ups, the Public Works Director’s job would have to look like a lose-lose for anyone. To properly replace Bedlington, the city is going to have to jack-up the pay to attract a quality Department Head to take over the issues in Yelm!
I am deeply saddened that a man of Chad Bedlington’s integrity, experience, genuineness and public likeability is leaving Yelm. However, I wish him well in his next endeavors and thank him, for his service to Yelm during a challenging tenure.
Secondly, Department Heads are a vital team for any city. They lean on each other, share ideas, discuss solutions and work through issues for the upliftment of the public, the Mayor and City Administrator under who they serve, the City Council, and their City Hall colleagues.
Therefore, I am VERY concerned that Chief Stancil and Community Dev. Dir. Grant Beck have once again lost two of their vital Department Head colleagues (Finance Director Wolf and Bedlington) with whom they were able to kick-back and “blow off some stream.” As a former corporate director, I can tell you morale among management leaders and their staff must be top priority. And this city is operating with 2 Acting Directors as Department Heads, which leaves the city vulnerable in these key areas.