By Garrett Estrada
Ely Times Staff Writer
The Ely City Council and Railroad Management Board voted to create a special “Ad Hoc Committee” to oversee the railroad consisting of members from both bodies as well as the general public in a meeting between the two boards on Tuesday night at the Armory.
The new committee, which had been proposed at previous city council meetings, will consist of three members from the Railroad’s Board of Trustees, three members from the Management Board and three people from the community outside of either entity. To try and insure the public portion of the board not weigh in too heavily for either side, both boards will create a list of recommendations for who they would like to see appointed from the community, and then see if there is any they can both agree on.
City Councilman Sam Hanson mediated the meeting as chairman of the board in the absence of Mayor Pro Tem Dale Derbidge. Hanson said that he was pleased with the progress that was achieved by sitting both boards down in the same room.
“I could not have hoped for a better outcome than the way the meeting went tonight,” Hanson said.
Executive Director for the railroad Mark Bassett said that he was “pleased” with the meeting and found it very helpful in moving forward on the issues that have been brought up by city council members in prior weeks.
After hearing letters from the community in the public comment section of the meeting that were critical of the city’s involvement with the railroad, Hanson felt the need to go on record to apologize. He said it was his original idea to consider if it would be feasible for the city to take over the railroad’s bookkeeping, an idea Hanson admitted that he is no longer in support of.
“The whole purpose was to find out if the city could even afford to, which it cannot, as I understand things. I would never make that motion now just because of the financial side of things,” Hanson said.
He added that “unless someone brings it up again, that idea has officially gone away.”
Bruce Setterstrom, another member of the council that has made waves for putting things on the agenda about the railroad in the past, said that he was very concerned about some of the information revealed by Bassett during the meeting. At one point, he directly asked Bassett if he was paying railroad foundation employees to come to the meeting, to which Basset responded that he wasn’t, the foundation was.
“I don’t know how many employees showed up tonight, but I do know now that the foundation paid the employees to show up. That in itself is very wrong,” Setterstrom said.
The councilman said that he felt he was unable to have all of his questions answered during the meeting, but is optimistic about finding out more as a potential member of the new “Ad Hoc Committee.”
Even still, Hanson said that he felt the meeting was a success in transparency and cooperation between the two boards.
“I think it will go a long way to calm the community’s fears and calm the fears of anyone contemplating contributing to the railroad.”