The dirty laundry that first came out here regarding problems in the city of Lincoln’s street department were aired on KLIN on Wednesday.
Coby Mach’s “Drive Time Lincoln” spent much of the show yesterday interviewing union attorney Gary Young about the bullying, infighting and safety problems that have long plagued the street maintenance division of the Public Works department. Young told Mach — as he told me — that of all the public employees he’s represented statewide, this department is the “most poorly run” of all, and has been for five to 10 years.
A dozen city employees met with Mach — as they did with me multiple times in recent years — to talk about the problems they’ve experienced. They chose to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation.
Part of the reason this is news is the police investigation into the death of one of those street maintenance workers last year was recently made public, and it was inconclusive. Eric Kohles, 37, died a few days after an old Heckendorn mower he was using to mow a ditch tipped over onto him. Employees say Kohles’ death is emblematic of the kind of retaliation, bullying and training inadequacy that plagues the department.
One new issue that came out on the show is an allegation that a gambling ring is operated in the department.
“It is a one in a million kind of place,” Young said on KLIN. Young said the mayor’s chief of staff, Rick Hoppe, called him Wednesday and offered to meet with him and try to resolve the issues. Young said he’d take Hoppe at his word, although Hoppe has met with the street workers and union officials several times in recent years already.
Sheridan Boulevard, which runs through the lovely Country Club Neighborhood, is getting a makeover that will take several months.
Detour signs went up Monday and the road is being torn up between South Street and 27th Street. The city is doing a mill and overlay, new curbs and gutters and some new sidewalks from South Street all the way to Calvert Street. The $1.2 million project is being paid for with city wheel tax dollars.
I was surprised Sheridan rose to the top of the list of importance, given there are many, many worse-looking streets in Lincoln. But a few years ago, when I had the same question about why the road in front of my house made it on the city’s to-do list, I was told some streets are so far gone that it really doesn’t make sense to just resurface them. And the city can’t afford to totally redo them, so less damaged roads get done first. So there you go.
The project was originally scheduled to be done in 2010 with federal stimulus money until city officials realized they wouldn’t be able to meet the feds’ aggressive “shovel ready” deadlines given the Country Club Neighborhood’s recent national historic designation. The historic designation requires that the impact on the district be examined first.
The Sheridan Boulevard work is expected to last four or five months.