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.

Montesano Public Works employees settle union grievance over suspensions

MONTESANO, Wash. - Union grievances filed against the city of Montesano over employee suspensions have been settled, Mayor Ken Estes tells us he was notified yesterday that Teamsters Local 252 will not be going forward with grievances filed by three employees.
A statement will come out later in the week about that. It's all done as far as we're concerned and it's time to move ahead, get back to work for our citizens and do the right thing." - Montesano Mayor Ken Estes
Earlier this month the city suspended three Public Works employees without pay after an investigation of their computers found inappropriate images, and thousands of hours wasted surfing the internet.
Two employees were suspended for 5 days while another was suspended for 10 days. Estes said had the grievance gone to arbitration, it could have cost the city about $40,000.

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. 

Montesano Mayor repeals ordinance adopting “Downtown Plan”

MONTESANO, Wash. - Citing concerns over the city's ability to enforce it, Montesano Mayor Ken Estes has vetoed the "Downtown Plan" adopted by city council earlier this month. In a letter to council the mayor said portions of ordinance #1573 were copy written by an outside company, and it's requirements could create legal challenges.
While many have argued that the city needs some kind of plan, Estes has opposed this plan from the start "You should be able to have your choice of air conditioning units, or whether you want an awning over your door, or whether you want a door every 25 feet.
In his written objection, the mayor requested council review and adopt a codified version, or adopt it as a vision rather than a code.