East Carbon officials exploring proposal for consolidation vote
|Former county sheriff and local resident Jim Robertson presents a consolidation ballot proposal to East Carbon officials at Tuesday's regularly scheduled public meeting. The proposal recommends allowing East Carbon and Sunnyside voters to decide whether the two cities should be merged. At the Aug. 26 meeting, the East Carbon City Council members and mayor agreed to explore developing a plan to place the issue on the ballot.|
In a regular public meeting Tuesday, the East Carbon Council agreed to look at the steps required to put the issue of the consolidation between the city and Sunnyside on a ballot for the voters in the community.
"I can't state where I stand on this issue," said Mayor Dale Andrews. "At present, I am neutral. I don't have the answers, but I think we are willing to go the mile to look into it."
The mayor's remarks came after former county sheriff and East Carbon resident Jim Robertson made a presentation to the officials in front of packed audience crowded into the council chambers on Aug. 26.
"It goes without saying - there may be some disadvantages to consolidation, but there are truly a number of advantages," pointed out Robertson in a written and verbal statement. "Both sides should be examined thoroughly and objectively."
"In my view, it is imperative to take the appropriate action that would be beneficial to all citizens of this area," added the former county sheriff.
Robertson proposed that a plan of consolidation be developed. He suggested that the development of the plan be followed immediately with a resolution passed by the council confirming the intention and desire to form a consolidated community.
"There are opportunities out there and two cities combined with common goals under consolidation can achieve the remarkable," stressed Robertson. "Step by step. Let no one be afraid to ask the question why. And let no one, after studying the merits of consolidation, be fearful to ask why not."
The audience applauded at the conclusion of the former sheriff's presentation.
Andrews explained that he had already passed out copies of the state law regarding consolidation to the council members.
The mayor read part of the law and talked about meeting with Sunnyside with a mediator to put the cities' assets and liabilities on the table to achieve a positive result.
"The law says that we can't assume Sunnyside's debt and they can't assume ours unless the debts were accumulated to serve both communities," said Andrews.
"We do share common debts on water treatment and on the Grassy Trail Reservoir. I believe that, on the treatment plant, the debt is about 61 percent for East Carbon and 29 percent for Sunnyside while the water treatment facility is a 50-50 debt," added the mayor.
Councilman Dave Maggio discussed how a city would work in terms of leadership until the next election following consolidation.
"Let's face it - without ECDC, we would have a larger debt than Sunnyside. To do this, there is a whole lot of involvement here. Lawyers will need to be involved in it," said Maggio
ECDC is the East Carbon Development Corporation, a private landfill within the East Carbon City limits.
"I wish we had done this before all this indebtedness happened," noted Maggio. "One of the fears I have is for the employees of both cities."
"I think if the cities combine it would be only be fair to reduce the work force through attrition. It wouldn't be fair to take a guy who has worked for the city for 20 years and to let him go. I just can't see this as costing us jobs in the community," remarked Maggio.
Council member Joyce Caviness agreed.
"I think it would be smart to keep our employees anyway," stated Caviness. "Let's face it, each place has it's little tricks. For instance, a groundskeeper in Sunnyside might know a lot about the park, little things to run it, no one else would know. I think waiting until attrition brings the numbers down would be a good idea."
Caviness proposed that East Carbon officials set up a committee with two council members and several citizens representing the city to look into the issue.
In his presentation, Robertson also recommended that everything in both cities should be examined before any moves are made. The recommendation included considering every little detail in every department in the two cities.
"When all this is completed, allow each council to study and review," urged Robertson.
"Remember to keep it simple. Do not provide certified audits, for those are not easily understood by many. Let the final figures speak for themselves," added the former county sheriff.
It appeared that the majority of the East Carbon City Council members agreed with the former sheriff's statements regarding the matter.
City officials and citizens "should research every inch and do what is best for East Carbon," commented council member Darlene Kuhns.
Maggio voiced concerns that people might decide to jump on the bandwagon of consolidation simply because the proposal was becoming a fairly popular idea in the East Carbon and Sunnyside communities.
"I agree with Jim that the bottom line is everything," explained Maggio. "It's not a good idea to jump on this blindly. I'd hate to see people vote on this like it's a popularity contest."
According to several comments raised during the Sunnyside Council meeting last week, one Sunnyside resident attending the East Carbon gathering pointed out that a consolodation plan had to be in place before an election could take place in connection with the matter.
East Carbon Council members discussed the fact that, in the event the movement for the consolidation ballot were made by petition instead of by a city resolution, the officials would have only 15 days to set up a plan.
"Why not get this consolidation study committee together and commit to doing all this in 15 days, like as if there were a petition out there?" asked Caviness.
The East Carbon City Council members then proceeded to discuss several details involved in approving the proposed consolidation ballot
Andrews indicated that he would contact the county officials and request mediation assistance on studying the issue in conjunction with Sunnyside.
The council wondered what Sunnyside had done to date in connection with the consolidation proposal.
Sunnyside councilman Doug Parsons was in attendance at the meeting. He was appointed by the Sunnyside City Council to study proposal
Parsons advised the officials that he had waited to start the process of exploring the matter because he wanted to see what East Carbon decided to do about the proposal.
In addition to discussing the proposal, the East Carbon Council asked citizens to exercise caution about what they said and told other people about consolidation.
"We're all friends and neighbors," pointed out Kuhns. "Not any of us know all the answers. Let's get the facts down on paper and then have a debate about it. We have to work together. Let's not have bickering over this."
After the mayor and council decided to determine what steps are necessary to complete in order to plan for a consolidation vote on consolidation, several residents in attendance at the meeting expressed appreciation to East Carbon officials for looking at the issue with the well-being of the citizens in mind.