• Montesano softens changes to water bill, may reconsider strict leak policy

    MONTESANO, Wash. – After taking heat over a drastic change to the city’s water leak policy, Montesano Mayor Ken Estes said last night that they will phase in the new policy that offers no forgiveness for leaks that can pull a water bill into the thousands of dollars for homeowners unaware of an issue. “We recognize that this is a change for our water customers. Therefore until January 1, 2014 in order to phase in this change, the city will allow a period of adjustment.
    Under a policy adopted by council earlier this month, the city will charge a resident, even if they find an expensive leak.
    Councilwoman Pam McElliot placed a review of that policy on the agenda of their next meeting, noting that it was more strict than neighboring cities.
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  • City employees suspended after investigation finds thousands of hours wasted online

    MONTESANO, Wash. – Three employees of the City of Montesano have been suspended without pay after an investigation of their computers found inappropriate images, and thousands of hours wasted surfing the internet. Montesano Mayor Ken Estes said at their council meeting this week “I believe there has been a culture of time wasting, definitely caused by poor supervision, a lack of respect for public property, and an unconcern for public resources. I sincerely hope this culture is broken, that employees have learned from this experience, and now look forward to regaining the public’s trust.”
    After confiscating eight computers from their Public Works department last summer, a forensic investigator uncovered about 8,000 hours of personal use over the past five years that included sexual content, fishing, sports, and car websites. The computers have been turned over to the Washington State Patrol to determine if any felony laws were broken.
    All three employees told Mayor Estes that they were never told they couldn’t use the computers in that way, and that their previous manager had often participated. Estes noted that while a computer policy has been in place since 1997, there was no requirement to show that an employee had read it.   
    Two employees were suspended for 5 days while another was suspended for 10, all three have filed grievances with their union over the suspension. Estes estimates arbitration over the suspensions will cost the city another $40,000. 
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