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Hebron's search for operator complicated by 'negative publicity'

Published: Monday, April 21, 2014 10:49 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 8:31 a.m. CDT

HEBRON – Trustees on Monday authorized Village President John Jacobson and a trustee to find an interim sewer operator, a task so far made difficult by recent publicity surrounding the village, Jacobson said.

Jacobson and Trustee Jerry Bough will continue their search for an interim replacement for Satrina Yates, who quit her job as wastewater treatment plant operator earlier this month. After the Village Board's vote, the two now have the authority to hire an operator for a period of 60 days, not to exceed $1,000 in payment per month. Trustee Mark Mogan no-voted the measure, which was otherwise met with all aye votes from the board.

After a busy meeting that also included talk of a village truck – a point of village controversy – Jacobson said the village had been denied by two operators already because of "negative publicity for the town."

A Northwest Herald investigation into Jacobson's first 10 months in office, which ran March 8, uncovered a village staff in transition. A clerk, public works director and his second-in-command, and two treasurers had left since Jacobson won election last spring. Two trustees described a village in turmoil.

Upon quitting, Yates spoke out about her time with the village, saying that the plant she was ultimately responsible for had slipped gradually from her control because of village leadership, and that work conditions were tense and unsafe. She also alleged she'd been forced out to make room for a staff member below her.

After officials do find an operator and as his or her 60 days come to an end, the board will have a say as to the village's next step. If the interim operator is interested, he or she could be hired full-time with board approval.

"My feeling was we get someone for 60 days, then we come back … with all the board members to make a choice on that person," Jacobson said.

The village's water operator, Frank Michalczyk, a part-time employee who has been with the village for three years, also has expressed interest in the position. Michalczyk on Monday asked for village funding to attend a one-week session so that he could be eligible to test into becoming a Class 2 sewer operator. The board tabled a decision on whether to fund Michalczyk's schooling.

Outside of measures regarding the wastewater treatment plant, board members approved the sale of a surplus 1990 Ford F-350. The truck, which had originally been part of a deal to pay a past consultant with the village, will now be sold on an auction website, which is free for municipalities.

Trustees had previously raised questions as to whether the truck had been given to the consultant, Mike Miller, without board approval.

"As far as the village, we don't use it," Trustee Mark Shepherd said Monday. "I just want to see best price at auction, whatever we can get."

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