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The agreement between the Salmon Whitewater Park Association (SWPA) and the city of Salmon is approaching its renewal time and during the September 7 meeting of the City Council council members spent 45 minutes debating whether or not there should be changes made to the language of the original agreement prior to renewing it. There were two areas of concern; proper appropriation of Local Option Tax monies and possible city liabilities.

When the agreement was first negotiated in September of 2012 it was agreed the association would have yearly one-year renewal opportunities. The first agreement covers Phase 1 of the proposed project which consists of SWPA providing project pre-construction design engineering and the process of obtaining all the government agency permits necessary in order to construct a whitewater park in the Salmon River.

Council President Jim Baker stated there is a public perception that the Local Option Tax ordinance and the SWPA agreement are in conflict and that that misperception could be clarified by rewording the agreement.

The wording of the agreement says the city will not expend any city tax monies on the park. Some argue that LOT funds come from non-residents not city taxpayers while others insist since the city collects the lodging tax it is city money. In the past LOT monies have been approved for SWPA fund raising events.

The voter approved LOT Ordinance dictates LOT funds are to be spent to support events that will draw people to the area. It was pointed out that ‘support’ can mean the cost of porta potties or other infrastructure needs that are necessary to stage the event and that the funding is appropriated to the event not the actual fund raising cause.

Councilman Russ Chinski maintained throughout the debate that clarification was unnecessary since the council already has the final say on what is and isn’t approved for LOT funding.

A motion to pass the renewal as written failed on a four to two vote with Councilmen Baker, Rob Jackson, Neal James and Jim Bockelman voting ‘no,’ Chinski and Ken Hill voting ‘yes.’

A second motion was made by Baker to have City Attorney Fred Snook clarify the agreement by specifying the council can elect to spend LOT monies, subsequent to moving through the processes of the ordinance and statutes, and that Snook will have the clarification ready for a council vote by its next meeting. That motion passed on a five to one vote. Neal James voted ‘no’. Baker then moved on to a portion of the agreement which reads:” SWPA and the city desire to jointly increase safety on the Salmon River to improve recreation opportunities for residents and visitors of the city…” He said mention of safety opens the door to liability therefore that wording should be removed.

Bockelman made a motion to remove the words “increase safety on the Salmon River.”

Jackson responded that to do that says the city does not consider it is important to have a safe river.

Attorney Snook commented that safety on the river is up to the government agencies, not the city.

Hill said the section of river being proposed for a whitewater park is inherently dangerous with its steep banks and no way to get in or out of the water from the upper end of the island to the boat dock. He said a park with engineered eddies and terraced banks would make the river safer.

The vote on Bockelman’s motion to remove the words ‘increase safety on the Salmon River’ wound up in a tie. In a tie situation the mayor can either cast a tie breaking vote or not, in which case the motion dies with no action. Chinski and Baker urged the mayor to break the tie and Marshall declined stating he preferred to have the full council find a way upon which a majority of the members could agree.

Baker then made a motion to remove the words “improve safety” and also take out the word “jointly’ so that that segment of the agreement would read “SWPA and the City desire to improve recreation opportunities for residents and visitors of the city.” Hill, Baker, Neal and Bockelman voted ‘yes’ Chinski and Jackson voted ‘no.’ The motion passed on a four to two vote and Snook will now rewrite the agreement and have it ready for a final vote at the council’s next meeting.

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