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Ripon workers going to Hughson

HUGHSON — The city has a street project that needs inspection services. Ripon has inspection staff whose work has slowed because of the recession.

So the two will work together in what officials called a win-win situation for the cities and save taxpayers $150,000.

The Hughson City Council on Monday night, acting as the city's Redevelopment Agency, approved a contract with Ripon for construction management services for Hughson's downtown streetscape project.

Contractors will refurbish sidewalks, asphalt and lighting on Hughson Street between Charles and Third streets, said Linda Kuipers, redevelopment and housing project analyst for the city. The work will cost about $387,000. "As funds become available, hopefully we'll be doing more blocks," Kuipers said.

The council approved a contract with RRM Design Group, a private contractor, for administrative services on the project. But having RRM do the field inspections as well would be pricey, City Manager Joe Donabed said.

"It's like paying a doctor to do a nurse's job," he said.

Kuipers said working with Ripon will save the city more than $150,000.

She said the arrangement is unusual, but such contracts might be more common as cities look for ways to save money and keep staff working.

"They have the staff, and their work has slowed," she said of Ripon. "When you do networking and tell people what your problems are, sometimes you find solutions."

In other action, the council delayed consideration of hiring a staff member to act as a liaison between the council and city employees after Councilman Ben Manley pulled the item from the agenda.

Manley said he wanted to put the item back on the agenda at a future meeting when the full council is in attendance. Councilman Thom Crowder was absent Monday.

Hughson has had a recent history of upheaval among elected and appointed officials.

The City Council has evaluated Donabed twice within the past month, after some council members claimed they were misled on the details of a street maintenance project.

Council members also intended to evaluate City Clerk Mary Hemminger and Public Works Director David Chase last month, but didn't after City Attorney John Stovall warned them they could not "fire or discipline" people in those positions.

In April, Crowder argued with employees over a $40 bill for coffee and $320 spent at a tire store in Modesto instead of in Hughson.

Crowder also asked for a city investigative committee to check into "particular allegations," but he gave no specifics. Donabed said he filed paperwork with the Stanislaus County civil grand jury to check into Crowder's claims against city staff members.

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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