After reading the article by Lyle Sall in the Feb. 14th edition about the Cambridge city council meeting on February 12, 2018, and having attended the meeting myself, I couldn’t remain silent about all the incorrect information it contained.
First off, it was an interesting headline in that the most interesting thing pulled from the meeting was that the city nixes the consent agenda instead of reporting that the new Mayor has been cited with a misdemeanor for violating city law.
2nd, I always held open style meetings for the whole 8 years as Mayor and allowed anybody in the audience to raise their hand to talk and give their opinions. I do not know how one could have a more open style than including the public in discussions, which the new Mayor would have been aware of if he had come to any meetings.
3rd, The consent agenda item referred to is actually a common time saving way to pass the initial, standard, recurring business items required at the start of every meeting without wasting the public and council’s time. It takes three items, 1) Approving the current agenda, 2) Approving the minutes from the last month’s meeting, and 3) Paying the bills, and allows them to be passed, after review by the council, in one motion and one vote. The city council has always had copies of the previous month’s minutes in their packets which are delivered to them on the Friday before the Monday meeting. They always had ample time to review and note corrections. The previous month’s bills were presented at the meeting and, as Mayor, I always allowed the city council as much time as they needed to review the bills and ask questions. I also would always come in and review the bills myself before the Councilmembers arrived. Anybody could come in and request copies of the minutes or bills at any time. Nothing was ever secret as it is all public records and nothing was ever approved without review by the city council! All Mayor Jack Toothman has done is eliminate the time saving consent agenda and instead require 3 separate motions and 3 separate votes, and also to have the previous month’s minutes read aloud in their entirety instead of just having the city council review them and note corrections. I noticed that this change added about 25 minutes to the February meeting.
The 4th major mistake in the article concerns the correction of the December 11, 2017 minutes. Nothing was said about the city council directing me to pursue remedies as the article states. The minutes were actually just clarified to say that I updated the council to let them know that I was still negotiating what to do with the 3 unconnected parties and was pursuing the options. That’s all! It is not the city council that enforces the law anyway, it’s the Mayor’s job to enforce the laws that the city council passes. Mr. Toothman adamantly refused to physically connect to the system. He also refused to sign the connection fee waiver extension I had offered and he continues to refuse to pay his monthly sewer charge. It isn’t fair to everyone else who followed the law and connected when told to and is paying their monthly sewer charge while he doesn’t. My only legal option was to follow the City Code and have him cited for breaking the law. I DID NOT request a jury trial as the article stated! I didn’t request anything. For those interested, the Court Trial that was scheduled for Feb. 20th has been moved due to a conflict with Mayor Toothman’s attorney’s schedule.
The 5th mistake in the article concerns the new sidewalks and snow removal. The city does NOT shovel the sidewalks for the Central Business District Zone as the article states. The city required the businesses in this C1-Central Business District Zone to shovel their own sidewalk’s snow into the parking lane and the city would then come through and remove the snow from the parking lane at 6:30am before businesses opened. The city council did not want large equipment used on the new sidewalks and required the businesses to either hand shovel or use snow blowers, not tractors that could damage the new sidewalks. Councilmember Gary Franklin’s concern over favoring one block of town over others failed to take into consideration the zoning issue. Cities have different zoning such as in Cambridge’s case, R-Residential, C1-Central Business District Commercial, and C2-All other Commercial. All three different Zones have different sets of requirements. This snow removal of the city clearing the parking lane of snow at 6:30am was a Zone C2-Central Business District snow removal plan only. The article was correct in that one Councilmember, Gary Franklin’s, opinion was it was unrealistic to expect the businesses to hand shovel or use snow blowers. When the Public Works Superintendent suggested a possibility to the Council of allowing tractors but of having the businesses be responsible for any damage done if their equipment damaged the new sidewalks, Mr. Franklin was against that and said the city should be responsible for any damage the businesses do to the new sidewalks since the city put 4” concrete instead of 5”. Mr. Franklin also stated that a few cracks in the new sidewalks wouldn’t hurt anything.
The 6th correction is actually a clarification of the article which said the city was operating without a discharge permit for the past 8 years. This is NOT true! The EPA knew they would be making major changes to the new permit requirements and did not want to issue any new permits until they had the new requirements in place so they therefore allowed all Cities to continue operating under their original permits until the EPA was finished with their changes. They have finally reached the point of being able to issue new permits, which, it was reported by HECO Engineers, the Idaho Dept. of Environmental Quality will take over issuing permits and the city would be getting their new permit sometime after July 2018.
7th and last correction; When the excellent city audit and the auditor’s report praising City Clerk/Treasurer Sandra McKee for such well-kept financial books was brought up, Mayor Jack Toothman and the 2 new Councilmembers, Gary Franklin and Mark Loveland, were only concerned that at the end of the auditor’s report was a small paragraph saying that, as usual with small cities, there was not a segregation of duties that larger cities with larger budgets have. They seemed to think spending more of Cambridge’s small budget on hiring someone else to work in City Hall was worth looking into and would correct that. During discussion of the pros and cons of that idea, and also wondering if it was time for the City Clerk/Treasurer to be a full time job, the City Clerk reported to the council that with wrapping up ALL the projects from the previous Mayor’s time, not just Phase 2 of the sewer project as the article says, that about half of the yearly budget for her position had been used but that after finishing wrapping up the projects from the previous Administration, things would slow down and it wasn’t really needed or in the budget to go full time or to hire anybody new.
I sent this letter to the Upper Country News Reporter to publish the corrections but they said it was too long and that I needed to shorten it to just 200 words more or less. That would have been impossible as there was so much needing correction. They suggested I send it to Living in The News.
Thank you for allowing me to correct these errors.