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PETITION DEBATE 8-15-12 LMS

At its August 15 meeting, response to a petition signed by 465 people was once again a topic of discussion and was followed by a vote of the Salmon City Council.

The petition initiated by Jim Sustaire posed two questions and asked for a yes or no vote as to whether the questions should be placed on an official election ballot. The first question was “Should the city of Salmon expend tax dollars to own, operate and maintain a Whitewater Kayak Wave Park?” The second asked, “Should a Recreation District be established using city and county tax dollars to own, operate and maintain a Whitewater Kayak Wave Park?”

City Attorney Fred Snook repeated a previous explanation about the petition’s question regarding how tax dollars should be spent. He said a decision on how tax dollars are expended falls under a classification of administrative action which only the council has the authority to enact.

At previous meetings Snook has used the council’s past decision to use tax generated funds for sewer and water improvements as an example of its legally authorized administrative jurisdiction.

On a related but separate topic Snook updated the council on a recent meeting with park organizers concerning an agreement between the city and the Whitewater Kayak Wave Park Association. The agreement is necessary for a permit application and it includes firm statements by the city against the city’s contributing any tax dollar funds to the project. He said coming to an agreement between the city and park organizers is a first step and only applies to phase one of the project. If the project proceeds beyond phase one, each subsequent phase would have to obtain approval from the council.

As to the question of the city participating in a drive to form a Recreation Taxing District Snook said by law the city cannot be involved in any way. He said such an initiative would have to come from the citizenry so that portion of the petition is a moot issue as far as any action on the part of the city.

Snook said it would be redundant to have an election vote since the city has already taken the position of not providing any funding for the project. He said the only thing the city/association agreement does is authorize a permit to access the city owned Island Park for purposes of proceeding with an engineering study which he said could take years to complete.

Councilman Jim Baker expressed concern over the council’s not being responsive to the 465 certified voters who signed the petition. He made a motion to put the petition question of whether the city should contribute tax dollars to the Wave Park project on the ballot as a non-binding advisory vote.

During discussions following the motion Councilman Jim Bockelman suggested the council should wait to decide on a response to the petition until its next meeting when the final agreement with the Whitewater Kayak Wave Park Association will be ready for a vote of approval or denial. He said there would be a cost to the taxpayer for printing ballots and the petition’s issue is all about costs to taxpayers.

Councilman Fred Waidely said spending tax dollars on an election vote just to placate one fourth of the city’s registered voters is a waste of money when the outcome won’t mean a thing. Baker objected to the use of the word ‘placate’ and they decided they each have a different definition of the term.

Councilman Jesse Bender pointed out the council has until September 7th to put the issue on the November ballot and the next council meeting is on the 5th. She said if the agreement between the city and Whitewater is approved during the meeting on the 5th, the expenditure of city funds question on the petition would be answered.

When Baker’s motion to place the petition’s city funding question on the ballot for a non-binding advisory vote came to a council vote, the result was a tie. Bender, Kluesner and Baker voted yes and Bockelman, Waidely and Ken Hill voted no. That left the decision up to Mayor Leo Marshall.

Marshall acknowledged all the work involved in creating the petition and gathering the required number of signatures to place before the council. Marshall said, “I would like to see what the council is going to do with this agreement, so I’m going to vote ‘no’.”

He proposed the City of Salmon/Whitewater Kayak Wave Park Association agreement be officially placed on the September 5th council agenda.

Snook clarified that the petition initiative itself had been defeated and that there could still be a council motion to call for an advisory vote on the ballot.

A public comment period followed the council’s petition vote. Kathleen Brown used the opportunity to say, “If you had passed the petition, passed for the vote to be taken, you would have in effect spent tax dollars on the Kayak Park.” She advised the council to be more careful about spending tax money on something that was a moot point anyway.

The council’s next meeting will begin at 6PM September 5th in the Salmon Valley Center Meeting Room.
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