East Carbon continues to debate safety complex
During East Carbon's regularly scheduled council meeting Tuesday, local officials continued to debate the fate of the city's involvement in a proposed joint public safety facility.
The discussion became heated when East Carbon Mayor Orlando LaFontaine informed the city officials and a chamber packed with citizens that he intended to reassign the council position overseeing the fire department.
"When I took the office of mayor, I didn't know anyone, so the appointments that we have are essentially the appointments made by former Mayor Andrews," explained LaFontaine. "I have been mayor for a year and a half now and I would like to make some changes as we go forward as a city."
LaFontaine then appointed Brian Powell as the assistant chief of the East Carbon fire department. The mayor said he believed the assistant chief needed to be a firefighter and certified individual.
Powell will replace East Carbon Councilmember Terry Harrison in the position.
LaFontaine then began proceedings to remove Councilmember Darlene Kuhns from her current assignments with the fire department and as mayor pro tem.
"I feel that Darlene has done a good job with the firemen, but our city is trying to move in a direction of growth and I would like to oversee that," commented LaFontaine. "I have spoken with the mayors of other towns within our county and several of them have the assignment of their public safety as a whole and I would like to take on that responsibility."
At that point, Kuhns spoke in opposition of the mayor's proposed action.
"These firemen like me and they respect me. You are taking this away from me because of a personal vendetta and the way I read the law you can't do this without the advice and consent of the council," stated Kuhns.
After a short deliberation, city attorney Jeremy Humes, concluded that LaFontaine needed the support of the council to remove Kuhns from her positions.
Several motions were made and, after polling the council, Kuhns retained her assignment with the fire department and her position a mayor pro tem.
LaFontaine indicated that he was disappointed with the actions of the city council.
"I am very disappointed with the fact that this council would not back me up in upholding a decision that they have made on three separate occasions," commented LaFontaine. "We are never going to have the cooperation of our fire department in obtaining funding for this public safety project as long as Darlene is their representative on the council."
The occasions LaFontaine referred to involved three separate motions passed by the East Carbon council to enter into a partnership with Sunnyside city on a public safety building project.
Kuhns and Councilmember Darma Lopez voted against the combined project in two of the three motions.
According to LaFontaine, Humes has advised him that East Carbon had entered into a binding contract with Sunnyside in seeking funding for the proposed public safety building. And East Carbon could face legal action if the officials were to pull out of the agreement of the present time.
"Our lawyer has informed me that we could be liable for the cost of that building and just as importantly, we made an agreement with Sunnyside. To pull out of that now is wrong no matter how you look at it," said LaFontaine.
But Kuhns disagreed with the mayor's stance on the issued.
In fact, the councilmember maintained that East Carbon pulling out of the agreement would be the best scenario for both cities.
"I feel that East Carbon has an adequate fire department and we are fine right where we are. I would like to see Sunnyside get a new building and bring the ambulance out of the canyon and I will support them anyway that I can," commented the councilmember.
"We should have never stuck our nose in their attempt to get funding in the first place, East Carbon should get out now and let Sunnyside proceed with their project," concluded Kuhns.