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During the August 5 City Council meeting a proposal from Sacajawea Center Director Lin Gray to construct four Recreational Vehicle parking spaces for center hosts drew much comment at the meeting and later, by way of citizen comments to councilmen.

Gray’s proposal was tabled until the August 19 council meeting to give the city’s Finance Team a chance to review it. Finance Team Chairman Jim Bockelman reported that at the August 12 team meeting there was much discussion and a lot of input. One suggestion was to use the existing site as a test to see if offering RV accommodations would actually draw volunteers. Gray said the site could be made to house two RVs.

The one area of agreement throughout the debate has been the value of volunteer labor at the center and how much those hours benefit the city in terms of facility operational costs.

Another area of agreement was that City Councilmen do not want to compete with private camp grounds. Councilman Jim Baker was adamantly opposed to the plan when it was first introduced. At the August 19 meeting he said the first proposal of four sites was just too much. In response to Gray’s idea of using the existing site he said it is in a poor location. He proposed instead, creating one or two RV sites at the suggested location, on the west side of the Police Department, with the clear understanding it is for hosts only.

Councilman Fred Waidely concurred and added the volunteers do an important service for the city. He also said there would be an advantage to having someone at the center 24/7. Councilman Russ Chinske liked the idea of starting with two sites and agreed the volunteers do save the center money and the sites would benefit the volunteers. He said he doesn’t think two sites would impact commercial business and if others think it would, he would like to hear their views.

Councilman Rob Jackson said he has received a lot of public input on the subject and that one problem was the phrase “hosts and program participants” in the newspaper story. He said it had the connotation of “program participants” staying for one or two nights and that’s what is fueling the perception of competition. He said if spaces for RV parking were to be approved there would have to be a list of stipulations. Jackson agreed there would be a benefit to having someone at the center fulltime.

The council then invited two audience members, Century II Campground owner Robert Dunlop and Fort Limhi Campground owner Arlene Orr, to express their opinions.

Dunlop said he was not hostile to the idea and that he does not offer monthly rentals at his campground so the two sites at the center would not affect him that much. He said he has some long term people but they pay on a daily basis which would be prohibitive to the Sacajawea Center. He said the two sites would be financially immaterial to him. Dunlop suggested checking on workman’s compensation for the city’s protection. He said he doesn’t think anything is wrong with the existing RV site and that the term “program participants” needs to go.

Orr stated the two sites sound reasonable as long as it’s for the volunteer hosts. Otherwise she asked the city not to compete with her or any other business people in the city. She said with all the people who are having to take jobs elsewhere to make a living there are more people out of town working for wages than in town. “It’s a tough go in here.”

In answer to a question by Jackson, Gray said the rule she has always enforced is that no member of the public can simply come and park and camp on-site, ever. Mayor Leo Marshall said the council did agree that the Shoshone-Bannock tribal members can set up and stay in their tee pees any time.

A motion was made by Baker to move forward on the written proposal [for two RV sites] with the understanding the council can add any amendments or stipulations, as it sees fit. The motion also included an intention to write legislation concerning carryover funds to protect them from being lost to other budgets. The motion was passed unanimously. With that approval, Gray will now start advertising for 2016 volunteer hosts.

Since the council decision constitutes a change in city policy City Clerk Mary Benton said an ordinance will need to be passed. She said the simple change can be passed in one reading by waiving the second and third reading requirement.

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