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Tempers Flare at Riverside City Council

Possible Sewer Plant Issues Brought to Light

by Walker County News Today staff

Tuesday’s meeting of the Riverside City Council was held immediately following a budget workshop at Riverside City Hall.  Though the agenda only included eight items, the meeting lasted for almost an hour.

Riverside Sewer Plant Issues

During discussion of the sewer plant report, there was a lengthy debate of how to correct issues with the plant’s current operations that may not be in compliance with state regulations.  At least one council member expressed concerns about what would happen if the TCEQ inspected the sewer plant’s current operations.  Concerns about current operating procedures included the fact that the drying beds haven’t been used in years and that the plant’s lagoon system is not being run as designed.

According to councilman Bill Tutor, who previously toured the sewer plant with a state employee sent to assist the City, the plant could be functioning as designed, but is not currently being utilized as designed.  Tutor went on to explain that the city did not need to spend almost $750,000 as originally requested by the plant’s current operator; the state’s expert advised them that they could correct the issues for about $20,000.

In Other Business

Council voted unanimously to:

  • Approve a proposed solid waste (trash) contract
  • Approve the 2018 Joint Election Agreement with Walker County
  • Approve a contract for new printer/copier for City Hall
  • Approve the sewer report

Tempers Flare

The tensions in the room began to rise when Mayor John LeMaire presented two bids for street repairs.  According to city staff, a third company (Waters Construction), came to Riverside to view the projects but failed to submit a bid.

Of the two bids submitted, the first presented was  from A-1 Construction Company based in Montgomery, TX.  The A-1 bid was for $25,400.    Mayor LeMaire said that he didn’t “feel good” about the representative from the company.  He went on to say that ” We’ve never used him before and I’ve been told some bad things about him,” adding that “I’d rather not use him.”

The second bid presented by LeMaire was for $76,832 from A&L Asphalt of Willis.  The mayor again gave his opinion of the contractor, referring to the bidder as Tommy and saying “we’ve used him for a very long time.”  LeMaire added that there was a “handshake agreement” that Tommy would supervise the work and make sure it was done properly.

A review of the budget revealed that there was only about $6,000 left in the budget for road repairs, putting both bids outside of the budget; the agenda did not include any budget adjustments to pay for either bid.  In spite of insufficient budgeted funds, the mayor pushed forward with the A&L bid, expressing that he wanted Tommy Long (of A&L) to get the bid.

After a motion by councilman Frank Rich was made (and seconded) to approve the A&L bid Mayor LeMaire failed to call for any discussion of the bids.  Instead, he asked who was in favor of accepting the A&L bid.  LeMaire also did not ask who was opposed until prompted twice by Tutor to complete the vote process and call for a showing of hands for those opposed to accepting the A&L bid; Tutor was the lone “no” vote saying he wanted the mayor to complete the vote process so that his dissenting vote would be on the record.

Mayor LeMaire then slammed his fist on the council table; Tutor followed suit, saying “I can slam my fist on the table too.”

LeMaire responded:  “I’d like to slam my hand somewhere else.”

Tutor’s drawled response:  “Well come on, cowboy.”

The mayor did not respond.

Mayor LeMaire appeared to struggle with procedural issues under Roberts Rules of Order several times throughout the meeting, at one point even asking “What do we need to do?  Do we need to take a vote or something?”  It is unclear whether the mayor’s choice of skipping discussion on the road bid issue was intentional or an oversight.

Riverside City Council meets on the first Tuesday of each month at Riverside City Hall; the meetings are open to the public.  The city does not maintain a website so anyone interested in obtaining agenda documents prior to the meeting should contact the city at:  riversidetx@windstream.net

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