Randy Reis loved his job as the building inspector for the City of Denison and loved working on city projects, his wife, Cindy, said.
Reis died on May 2 last year after a long battle with cancer. He had been the city’s building inspector for about six years.
On Thursday, Reis’s work for the city and his contributions as a husband, family man and community member were remembered at the Denison Rotary Club’s weekly meeting.
Denison City Manager/City Engineer Terry Crawford presented a program on the renovation of the Morningside Park shelter house. It was a project that Reis had helped plan but sadly, he was not able to see it through to completion.
Along with illustrating Reis’s work for the community, the presentation was an example of people working together for the community.
The momentum to renovate the shelter house came from the Women in Business Impact Organization, a group under the umbrella of the Chamber & Development Council of Crawford County.
At about that time, Crawford and Reis started working on the plans to renovate the shelter house and began to attend meetings at the Denison Job Corps Center to see how students and instructors in the construction trades could work the renovation project into their programs.
The presentation incorporated slides of Reis’s handwritten notes on photographs of the shelter house, showing the changes to make and how to carry out those improvements.
The slides told their own story about how Reis worked and planned.
A problem with stormwater flowing through the building during heavy rains was solved by protecting the floor of the building with a layer of concrete blocks.
One slide showed Reis’s plan to move the walk-through door on the north side of the shelter house to the south side next to the overhead door; that eliminated another access point for stormwater.
Other slides had Reis’s handwritten notes about changing the lighting, adding more electrical outlets and replacing the roof.
A sketch Reis had made showed how the layer of concrete block, to guard against stormwater, would tie into the existing structure of the building.
As Crawford showed slides of how the project unfolded, he spoke about the input from Reis and others.
Brian Kempfert, director of Denison Parks & Rec, had a hands-on contact with the project about every day, Crawford said.
He added that a suggestion to replace the shelter house siding with a highly durable material instead of metal came from Councilmembers Nathan Mahrt and Corey Curnyn.
“We have a lot of people giving input into the project, and I think it’s come out really well,” Crawford said.
Not all parts of the building were replaced. The windows were able to be reused with new framing and the existing concrete was overlaid. Metal trusses for the roof stayed in place after they were examined.
Still to be improved is the driveway to the south side of the shelter house.
Crawford said the intended remedy for the road is to use a new product called a grass driveway. It is formed by using a honeycombed hard plastic material filled with rock. This is installed over a prepared base and grass seeded on top.
“This is something the city council wants to experiment with,” he said.
He said the idea came from Mahrt as a way to not add to the impermeable surfaces in the community which add to the storm water stream.
Hiring Reis was one of Crawford’s first jobs when he became the city manager in 2012.
He said, “I miss his jokes. He kept things at city hall pretty light and lively for us.”
Cindy Reis and son, Colin, were able to get away from school to attend the Rotary meeting. Cindy teaches math at Denison Middle School and Colin is a Denison High School student.
She said she was glad they were able to attend.
“I think it’s also nice for Colin to see how much his dad’s work and ideas were appreciated,” Cindy said.
The presentation of a plaque - a gift from the city hall staff in memory of Reis - was a surprise to Cindy and Colin. They had only been encouraged to attend the meeting where Randy’s work for the city was going to be honored.
“He loved what he did,” Cindy said. “He loved working at the city and he loved projects like this. We are proud of him. He certainly had a talent.”
In an email exchange with the Bulletin and Review after the meeting, Cindy commented on the enjoyment her husband received by working for the city.
“He had a lot of respect and appreciation for his coworkers not only at city hall but in other departments too. He also just simply loved Denison, his hometown, and wanted to see the town thrive,” she said.
She added what attracted her husband to apply for the job as the building inspector was the ability to use his expertise, after many years of experience in construction, in a different way.
“Thirty some years of hard labor takes a toll on a person’s body,” she said. “It was a hard adjustment for him at first to use only his brain and not his hands, but he said many times that was the best decision he made.
“He loved to see projects through from planning stages to final completion and inspections.”
Some examples she gave were the renovation of city hall, the Morningside Park shelter house project, new housing units by the hospital, renovations on the former No Frills Supermarket building and the Hilldale Estates housing project on North 10th Street.
“I knew of his excitement for the job because of the many times he would drive me to a project site to show me the progress and tell me what the plans were,” Cindy said.
“Randy was a person that enjoyed talking to people from all walks of life. He could carry on a conversation with anyone. In his line of work, he got to meet many people, from engineers and architects on major projects, to the simple, everyday people just trying to make some improvements on their homes,” Cindy said.
“He had good relationships with so many of the local contractors that he dealt with on a very regular basis. He enjoyed seeing them and talking with them when making inspections. He really enjoyed all aspects of his job,” she added.
The total cost of the shelter house was $15,322.30. Most of that was for materials as the Denison Job Corps Center students and instructors provided the labor.
Through the collaborative project, the popular location for garage sales, family gathering, graduation parties, reunions, bridal shows and baby showers has experienced a rebirth.
Looking at the project that has Reis’s handprint on it, Crawford commented, “He had a way of putting plans together fast. I wanted to show it (the shelter house) off a little bit to thank him for what he’s done for the city.”