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KRMA questions city lab prices

December 20, 2018

KANKAKEE — Members of the regional sewage treatment board say they might not be getting a good deal from the city of Kankakee for lab analysis.

The Kankakee Regional Metropolitan Agency and the city’s lab are under the same roof, but they are considered separate operations.

For more than two decades until April, Richard Simms was KRMA’s executive director and the city’s environmental services superintendent, which operates the lab. This means that Simms, who now is in a dispute with both entities, was on both sides of the lab transactions.

At the KRMA board’s monthly meeting Tuesday, Bradley Mayor Bruce Adams asked that the new executive director, Dave Tyson, see what other labs charge.

Adams acknowledged there was talk years ago to shift the city lab under the KRMA umbrella. KRMA, an agency created 20 years ago by an intergovernmental agreement, provides sewer services for Aroma Park, Bourbonnais, Bradley and Kankakee.

But city employees resisted the idea because they wanted to remain with the city government, he said. City workers get more popular, traditional pensions, and KRMA offers 401(k)s.

In the discussion about lab services, Adams said he mentioned that he heard “pure hearsay” that Simms increased the budget for lab analysis, with the mayor saying he thinks “an arbitrary number was pulled out of the air.”

Asked in an email to explain, Adams wrote, “What I said was, hearsay that whomever was budgeting for the lab was told by Mr. Simms to increase the budgeted amount for lab analysis by $10,000 per month, from $45,000 to $55,000. I don’t know how factual this is, as I said it was hearsay.”

At the meeting, Adams said that once KRMA does comparisons, it can share the information so that the city can “get more in line with what we should be paying.”

As superintendent, Simms himself received payments in association with the city lab, according to city records. Throughout the course of 20 months, Simms’ monthly lab payments increased four times, for a total of 60 percent until September 2018. The monthly payments started at $17,552 in January 2017, then jumped to $20,000 in June 2017, $22,000 in October 2017, $25,300 in May 2018 and $28,300 in September 2018, the last month for which the firm was paid.

City officials have not said who approved the regular increases or the reasons behind them.

KRMA sent a demand letter to Simms in September asking how he spent $768,000 for a software application that is incomplete and unsable. Simms has not responded.

The city also has expressed concern about its payments to Simms for software.

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