During East Carbon City's last council session on Jan. 10, Mayor Orlando LaFontaine and his council faced a barrage of allegations from local resident Robert Warren, who refereed to the mayor as "absentee" and accused the council of meeting in secret.
The confrontation was brought to a head as Warren addressed the council concerning the possible dumping of polychlorinated biphenyls in the area's ECDC landfill. LaFontaine took time to respond to many of Warren's claims recently while also defining East Carbon's role in the possible dumping of PCB contaminated material as he sees it.
"What I want to be very clear about is the fact that East Carbon City doesn't have anything to do with the permitting of this," explained LaFontaine, via phone interview on Wednesday. "I wish it was in my hands to check the safety of this situation. My family lives here but then on the other hand I don't have the resources that the government does. I don't have the knowledge that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) or the state does and the permitting of this project is in their hands."
According to the mayor, he has no problem with the concerns citizens have brought before the council and the subsequent media attention they have garnered.
"I appreciate Robert Warren's attention concerning this project. This is going to make sure the state stands up and does the right thing for our residents, so I appreciate his opinion," said LaFontaine. " I like the articles that are written about our city because they bring attention to our community."
While the mayor was clear about the fact that the city of East Carbon has little to do with this permit as it would not change ECDC zoning, he was clear that both he and the council are very particular about what is brought into the local landfill.
"When the issue came up of dumping radioactive tailings here we (the council) took a stand against it," he explained. "We never wanted to change their permit, we never want ECDC to be a hazardous landfill. However, this is out of our hands, the dumping of this level of PCBs comes on the state and federal level."
The mayor did report however that ECDC did come to the city early in the process to discuss the permit allowing East Carbon to hire an outside consultant. That consultant, Karl Farley of Greenleaf Americas and his company gave the project a safe go-ahead with some contingencies which the city has passed on to state officials hoping they will be included in the final permit.
"I am supportive of any business that contributes to the economy of East Carbon," said LaFontaine. "But am I worried, of course I'm worried but the state and EPA are telling me that this is safe."
While Warren's Jan. 10 comments to the council were centered around the current PCB issue, LaFontaine saw some of his allegations as an attack on his overall job performance at the city and took issue.
"You know for the first four years I was mayor here, I did this job at 50 plus hours a week," he said. "I quit putting time into my own business, I didn't spend time with my family and I took no time for myself. When my second term started, my mother passed away, my father got very ill and I realized that I needed to spend time with my young children. Again, I only make $400 a month and I now do this job part-time."
While the mayor did admit that he had slowed down and take some time for himself, he also was adamant that he was proud of his record as the East Carbon City Mayor.
"It's not about me, it's the city," he said. "But I am proud of my record, my administration has approved and gotten things done that were not even thought of before. The city has moved forward under my administration. I dare someone to compare my record and what we have done as a city in the past six years to any other mayor in the state of Utah. I don't take second seat to anyone and I don't want East Carbon to take second seat."
The mayor listed the city's accomplishments under his administration as including millions of dollars in grant money, a 24-hour fitness and wellness center used by a majority of the community, a new walking trail, a new ATV Trail, a new ATV campground and city-wide beautification.
"The people who complain and complain in this town, I don't see them coming together to help this city, to volunteer to bring this community together," concluded LaFontaine. "Bob Warren has attacked me but I have never seen him volunteer for this city and to say I am absentee in the age of cell phones and current technology amounts to crying wolf."