What started as a six-page agenda quickly began to shorten as nine items were removed and two tabled. Several residents spoke during public comment stating their frustrations about different agenda items.
Kerri Pintar, who attended the meeting, spoke during public comment saying “How is that almost six months later we are still dragging Mr. Bouchard through this process unneccessarily when a comparison to the last meeting a request for the Prospector Hotel was granted?”
She went on to list several other items until her two minutes of time was exhausted.
Jim Alworth spoke during public comment reciting many issues with the city’s budget and mentioning issues with prior council members being the root of the issues the city is currently facing. “The county has a great revenue source, the City of Ely,” Alworth said.
Steve Stork said he was speaking during public comment as a city resident and local business owner and that he had concerns over the room tax agenda item, which would have allowed the room tax fund to go into the General Fund.
George Chachas spoke during public comment questioning why the city turned down the 3 percent from the marijuana dispensary, the continued selective enforcement and snow removal on the streets.
The council moved on with agenda items. The agenda item three in new business that was concerning the issue of providing back pay to the City of Ely paid firefighters and volunteers for the past two years was granted.
It was mentioned that if it wasn’t approved it could entail more costs down the road if a lawsuit was created. Another agenda item regarding fire and EMS was agenda item four. City Treasurer Janette Trask stated that the city has been paying volunteers above what they should be paying as a part time employee. Hours would need to be tracked. This agenda item was also approved.
Agenda item seven was the approval of City Ordinance 708 that would provide a one-time extension of the Mayor and Councilmembers terms to 2020 in order to have the county and city council elections coincide with each other. Much time was spent discussing this issue.
Councilman Ernie Flangas appeared to be against this ordinance but in the end, the vote was unanimous to approve the ordinance.
Approval was given from the council for Municipal Court to begin using Valley Collection Services LLC to collect fees ordered by the court that have gone to Bench Warrant.
Judge Mike Coster spoke before the council stating that some of these collection fees go back to 1986. This contract will not cost the city anything to enter into the contract.
The total amount of outstanding collections is $183,000. City Attorney Chuck Odgers said, “it would be a monumental waste of time to re-issue each bench warrant, this would be the best option.”
The last item on the agenda was a open personnel session for Robert Switzer, city administrator. The session was for consideration of alleged misconduct, professional competence or physical or mental health. Action included termination, suspension, reduction in pay, promotion or no action.
Councilman Kurt Carson started off the agenda item by saying, “:et me start off by saying this is nothing personal, it’s just business there are certain questions that keep me up at night and think they need to be brought forth. All of these questions are solely mine.”
Mayor Melody VanCamp interrupted and said they are from the fire department, “Trask and Carson said these are something that I sat at my kitchen table at one thirty in the morning, scribbled down, because I couldn’t sleep, quite frankly I think it’s something that should keep us all up at night.
All these questions are not to blame Bob, I know I made mistakes I know some of them are mine. We can blame the previous council, this council. It’s something we need to address and fix.
“These questions will show a pattern and we’ll discuss later. This is simploy not working anymore and I don’t think we can keep going down this path.
Switzer stood before the council and addressed the six items that Carson had listed.
The items were requests for explanation on why Switzer overestimated the General Fund revenue by $230,000 for this fiscal year; an explanation of why the scales at the landfill are still not operational; why the county currently owed the city $13,527.37 for Fire/EMS calls and why he has not tried to collect the payments.
The last four questions listed were more budgetary questions, and the last one asking for an explanation of the loss of $652,803 in the General Fund from the date Switzer was hired.
Switzer had an explanation for each question that included exhibits with supporting documentation and also seemed to correct Carson on some of his statements that were inaccurate on the request for explanation.
Switzer explained why White Pine County owes the City for the $13,527.37?.
“The issue was brought to my attention two weeks ago which i discussed with the treasurer. We were instructed by the finance department to send the original bill. Treasurer confirmed contact with the finance department, payment for most of the January 22nd, 2018, a check was received in the amount of $11,911.16.
Carson said “I just have a really hard item justifying having a city administrator around.”
Carson made the motion to eliminate the city administrator position, and move the deputy clerk to the xlerk position, and that position can report directly to the council or liaisons.
Councilman Tony DeFelice seconded the motion.
Hanson said, “If we have to turn around and hire someone a few weeks we’ll be right back where we started. Carson and DeFelice voted for this motion, and Flangas, Hanson and Jolene Gardner voted against this motion. A 3-2 vote was made to keep the administrator position.
Public was allowed to give public meeting at the end of the four hour meeting, and Kerri Pintar approached the council saying, “I have to make one observation it’s bothered me for sometime but tonight it really bothered me, everything is deferred to Mr. Odgers, he is here to advise you of your legal issues not to make decisions.”
Pintar spoke of many observations and ended by saying, “At the rate we’re going your’re gonna be taken over by the county”.
Pat Stork was another resident who approached the council. Stork a city resident and business owner, said, “You guys need to do your homework on stuff.”
Gardner spoke up saying watch your tone, Stork said “I can talk in my tone of voice,it’s my turn, you sit there … listen. You guys went and wasted all that money over there renting that building and where are we at now? If you would have took all that money you pissed away over there put it into the City Hall, you would have been in there half the time. A lot of this happened in past council. There’s been a lot of reckless spending, you people need to wake up and start spending wisely.”