Bloomington Public Works-Council should be asking questions

By:  Diane Benjamin

Public Works employees aren’t happy, especially with Jim Karch.  The feeling I get from discussions with some of them is that they don’t trust him and how the department is run.

Start with the new garbage trucks and cans purchased some years ago.  It was supposed to save money and the backs of workers.  But last week a citizen reported to me the cans were being picked up and three workers were required.  That wasn’t in the new plan.

Meanwhile, garbage rates have done nothing but increase, so where is the promised savings?

Then, remember the party at Public Works:   https://blnnews.com/2018/06/04/party-at-public-works/

The City told me no taxpayer money was used, it was paid for from the vending machine profits.  The problem with that is vending machines on public property generating income means it is tax money.  The only way to verify that was to FOIA the vending machine contracts.  I’m still waiting, the City extended my request.    FOIA_1_EXTENSION_18-06-0680_

They haven’t located the contracts yet, evidently they don’t have a “contracts” drawer.

Next I heard from employees that a large group was taken off filling potholes etc to attend a class on using sewer cameras and rating the sewers condition.  I FOIA’d that.  This is what I received:

That’s a total of $12,274.95.

The Public Works guys are telling me this job has a heavy operator classification and only senior level employees will ever be able to use the working sewer truck.  They also told me one person trained was a seasonal tech who will never use the truck.

I asked Jim Karch why so many employees were trained.  This was his response:

The Public Works guys told me the City only has one camera truck, so I asked Jim how many they have.  This was his response:

Confused?  I have no doubt the Public Works guys want to do a good job for taxpayers.  They are frustrated by what they see as wasteful spending and even lies about potential savings.  Their available staff was supposed to increase when bulk waste pickup went to twice a year.  They haven’t seen any additional workers yet.

I’ve always thought Jim Karch plainly laid out why the streets are a disaster – the Council has failed to provide enough money for years if not decades.  Now somehow they find more money right before elections.  Every other year some work gets done, don’t expect much next year after the April 2019 election.

The one obvious problem is the disconnect between Jim Karch and the guys who work for him.  The employees aren’t happy with what they think is wasteful spending.  Spending 3 days training employees who will never use the equipment is evidence.  Somebody needs to start listening to them.  Somebody should also figure out where all the promised savings are.  Instead of asking questions, the Council passed automatic 3% increases every year so they never have to discuss garbage again.

Maybe a new Council would help.

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Comments

  1. We must always remember that the arteries of the good old boy crony system need frequent injections of cash. The money needs to be kept flowing into the hands of everyone connected to it and supporting it. If you are part of the system and do the establishment’s bidding, you are rewarded with contracts with the city or other parts of the establishment. The need (like in this case to train 2 or 3 employees) gave them an excuse to spread more money around ($12K) by training anyone and everyone even remotely connected to the job. Example: Harlan Vance Co gets contracts from the town of Normal all the time… last one was $13.6K for jackets. One has to wonder what their connection to the crony system is? Who do they know or what do they do for the Mayor and his cronies? Perhaps they are just there and the town of Normal just uses them? But then we should be suspicious right? $13.6 K for jackets? Really? And the Farnsworth Group? They are a hog the size of a Cat D9 at the taxpayer troughs here and we all know it.

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  2. Wow , wasting time and money , over 800 dollars per attending person who will probably never be near that equipment to a company ? wonder what connection there is for that ,, about as bad as some expensive studies done . . What is wrong with this , and why does it happen ..no consideration of anything anymore , no accountable reasoning nor trying to save but instead use savings as a reason wither it fits or not ..must be part of that perfect fit thing i keep hearing about .

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  3. Country Bumpkin says:

    The reason for the disconnect between Karch and his employees is because he attempts to run an efficient department, but gets little support from his superiors.

    He is the only department head to suggest outsourcing (garbage pick up). No other staff or council jumped on board to support him and it died. Is it any wonder his employees don’t like him?

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    • old stanky says:

      Many times the “boss” is put between a rock and a hard place simply by the nature of being the boss. Many people don’t understand that intil they’ve experience being “the boss.” Not that I am sticking up for Karch but those thoughts need to be considered. Imagaine trying to be the boss of a department that is employed for the City of Bloomington that has no competent leadership. Pension or not, I wouldn’t want that job.

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    • Concerned citizen says:

      You are wrong. Jim Karch is a dis honest person who hides behind his religious beliefs. He has been caught lying many times and has lied to council many many times

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  4. #pawsw/claws says:

    Training 15 employees to scope the sewers is a waste of tax dollars but it “solidifies” job security for those who have a special skill. As I recall, there were 15 Solid Waste workers who would lose their job if the trash collection was outsourced. It was claimed that those 15 would be used for road/sewer repair even if the collection was outsourced. NO SAVINGS!!
    In Karch’s defense, the sewers need to be examined and repaired before the streets otherwise roads have to be redone after sewer cave-ins.

    The following are cold hearted statements—too bad. I have little sympathy for the Public Works employees. Pension spiking is written into their contract. They get automatic annual salary increases at a higher rate than most private sector workers in the City. Their healthcare benefits are gold plated compared to the bronze or tin coverage (if at all) that most private sector workers in Bloomington have. They are fortunate the Council didn’t vote to outsource because they would be out of a job right now. If working conditions are so unbearable, I’m sure there are some qualified, unemployed people that would be happy to have the job.

    Hales has left. There is new management—although temporary at this point—who has different values and expectations. To an extent, workers are grumbling about those changes.

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    • There would most likely be 10K applications for their jobs in less than a week. Cry me a river boys… you are in the public sector and you have the mashed potatoes with the gravy and bacon bits.

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      • You guys are being a little harsh! I really feel they want to do am good job without wasting a bunch of money. They did agree to not have spouses on city insurance if they were covered at their employment.

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      • Harsh is my middle name… LOL

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      • #pawsw/claws says:

        Oh, Diane…I call it as I see it…you should know that by now!

        “Agreeing” to remove spouses from their health insurance if the spouse has coverage is not a sacrifice. Most private sector companies do that as standard procedure. How about they “agree” to give up pension spiking in order to save the City money. That amount saved, would be in the millions of dollars.

        I agree that the Public Works employees, for the most part, work hard and do a good job. But, it is their JOB and they are paid handsomely and receive generous benefits for it. It is called “work” not “pleasure.”

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  5. I have NO problem with training the workers who WILL use the cameras or their assistants, that’s about it. and like the REST or the city, it’s spend, tax, spend, study, spend study and tax. This crap IS getting old and as for the sewers, They ae in IUR street at least once a month or so, So WHAT does that tell you? YES we NEED new infrastructure, streets, sewers, water supply, etc. meanwhile the council worries about a frigging “welcoming ordinance” GET REAL!! FACE the facts, address the issues and QUII avoiding the MAIN issues!! JOHNEE??

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  6. A new Council would certainly help a lot. A consultant was hired to do a fiscal analysis for the new trash cans and trucks. The program was to be a temporary trial program. The consultant recommended the use of one size of can. The fees were based on a single size and a single fee. The Council’s “philosophy” is “pay for use.” That is why there are three sizes of containers. The Council failed to heed the consultant’s advice. Nobody took into account the longevity of the trucks—a necessity when determining fiscal impact. The “buck stops” with the Council & Hales, the City Manager at thee time.
    I believe the main problems with the change in Solid Waste pickup is the failure to adequately communicate and the rapid implementation.
    BUT, behind it all is the Council’s inability to be fiscally responsible—too much money spent on things other than basic services.

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  7. garibaldi says:

    I drove down from northern Il today and as soon as I reached Bloomington the roads began to toss my truck about. Who built and approved GE Road from Veterans to Hershey? Does Karch have any role in this? The sewers are crumbling and he sends people to training who can’t benefit from it? What kind of hack is this guy? I guess your article sums it up!!!!

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  8. Term limits for council members and mayors. They gain WAY TOO MUCH power!

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  9. We already have term limits. They are called elections. We, the people, must participate in order for our society to succeed. Participation is more than just voting. When was the last time an official was elected by a majority of eligible voters?

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  10. Special elections are costly. Most times elected people whose seats are vacated are replaced by the political party to which they belong. The mayor and City Council of Bloomington are non partisan offices. That was the original intent when the form of governing Bloomington was changed to a City Manager/City Council system.
    Perhaps the best means available are to: badger the Council, question the judgement
    of IWU, and to implore the local Democratic Party to urge the Mayor to keep partisan politics out of City Hall. His day to day interference is deplorable and an insult to the citizenry. The people must participate or our form of government shall fail.

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  11. 1panper says:

    That’s what we had today here in Fox Creek…two guys riding the back as in in the old days but only one guy would get off when the truck stopped, even though there was a can directly across the street…I am guessing they drove down the street twice…but why two guys…50% of cans were put back with the lids open, not that the wind was blowing, could be a nice surprise if we get the rain that is in the forecast…..hard to see how this saves money

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    Liked by 1 person

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