JOLIET – Among the things new Rialto Square Theatre board members learned during a tour of the facilities last weekend was that the person in charge of maintaining the property had quit weeks ago.
Building Operations Manager Mike Biedron said Wednesday that he left the Rialto in December because he "had had enough" after cleaning toilets and bringing his wife to help do janitorial work because the Rialto would not hire people to take over custodial duties.
"I left pretty abruptly because I was at my wit's end," Biedron said. "We were drastically understaffed."
Biedron returned Saturday to lead the tour of the new Rialto board through the theater and adjacent office space, exemplifying his expertise with the property.
Board member Joe Carlasare said he "was shocked" when he learned during the tour that Biedron was no longer working for the Rialto.
"I was concerned about that," Carlasare said. "You've got a guy who has eight years of institutional knowledge. You're talking about a guy who knows that place ... every component and every piece of machinery."
Carlasare said he had previously been given Biedron's name when he asked for a list of top managers at the Rialto, and no one told him that Biedron was no longer working there.
He and other board members were appointed in January after the entire previous Rialto board resigned Dec. 29. Carlasare said other board members also did not know Biedron had resigned until he mentioned it on the tour.
Biedron said he left the week before Christmas after he had been told for months that something would be done about the custodial situation.
He and his wife, Nancy Biedron, who was paid $11 an hour, had taken over janitorial work May 1 to fill in after the previous custodial contractor, Unicare Building Maintenance, stopped providing services because it was not getting paid. Unicare is suing the Rialto and claims an outstanding balance of $23,383.
"My wife didn't want to do this," he said, noting she has a full-time job.
But they both took over cleaning duties to help the Rialto.
Mike Biedron said he did not have another job when he left the Rialto but now is working for the state of Illinois.
Interim Executive Director Timothy Berry said one of the engineers from Mike Biedron's staff, Mark Busen, has taken over the building manager's duties on an interim basis. He said the Rialto plans to hire someone for the job but did not know when.
"It's just an important position that needs to be filled," Berry said. "We do hope to fill it sooner rather than later."
Berry works for VenuWorks, the management company that arrived in September and is in the process of negotiating a contract with the new board. At least a one-year contract must be in place before the Rialto receives $250,000 in needed funds from the city of Joliet.
The Rialto faces a backlog of unpaid bills that was listed at $597,000 last week.