CITY ASKED FOR CODE VARIANCE
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POLICY ISSUE DEBATED 1-21-15 LMS

The first of three required readings on an ordinance to amend a portion of Salmon City Code was passed at the January 21 meeting of the Salmon City Council. Ordinance 15-797 contains some changes to codes that address delinquent sewer and water accounts, deposit requirements and shut off procedures.

One of the sections in the ordinance states that future fee amounts will be set by resolution instead of being written into the ordinance itself which requires a process of three readings to change. Councilman Fred Waidely moved to accept the ordinance and waive the three reading rule. Council President Jim Baker amended the motion to make it the first reading only, and his motion passed unanimously.

Immediately following passage of the first reading of the ordinance having to do with sewer and water issues a letter was presented to the council from Rowdy Davis and Eliza Jernigan requesting that city policies on back payment delinquencies be waived so services can be restored to a house at 612 Idaho Avenue. Water and sewer bills for the address are $734.92 in arrears.

The city has explained that according to city code the past bill has to be paid before services can be reactivated and that there is an added reconnection fee which brings the amount needed to restore service close to $900.00.

The property is co-owned by Jernigan and her ex-husband. City policy states that the water and sewer bill is owed by those listed as owners of the property.

Davis spoke as a representative of the Calvary Chapel. He said the church is wanting to help Ms. Jernigan get reestablished and he asked for a variance to city policies so that services can be connected and she can occupy the house until it is sold.

The council discussed the issue for half an hour during which time many suggestions were made however the bottom city-policy line remained. The amended ordinance just passed on the first reading does not include any changes that would allow reconnecting services before past bills are paid. It does however redirect responsibility for upholding city policies from the City Clerk to the City Council.

At present City Clerk Mary Benton oversees making sure city codes are upheld, that all users of city services pay for those services and that all customers are treated equally. She cautioned the council that if special arrangements to bypass city policies are made in this case, which the council does have the authority to do, then everyone will be entitled to the same exemptions from city code.

Councilman Waidely adamantly opposed the city becoming involved. He said he is not in favor of anybody not paying a water bill regardless of circumstance, unless it is a circumstance created by the city. Councilman Jim Bockelman agreed that city code rules should not be circumvented.

Councilmen Russ Chinske referred to the councilís ability to make agreements and suggested someone should contact the other co-owner of the property. Baker wondered if a property lien would be possible and Attorney Fred Snook said if both owners would agree to placing a lien on their property that might be a possibility.

Those making the city policy variance request were asked to come to the next City Council meeting with some hard and fast proposals for the council to consider.
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