Contenious council meeting
Last updated 3/30/2019 at 6:05pm
At Monday’s meeting of the town council, the nuisance ordinance passed last fall led to sometimes heated discussion among townspeople and council members. When his portion of the agenda was reached, local businessman Jeff Huiras of Etched Dreams asked the council to explain a letter sent to a small number of Odessa residents that had been signed as having come from the Odessa Town Council.
Initially, there was no response at all from any council member. Ultimately, as Huiras kept asking questions, it was disclosed that council members, or at least the majority of them, were completely unaware of the letter that bore the council’s name until the Monday of the March 11 council meeting, after the letters had gone into the mail.
Council member and local attorney Vickie Iverson even said at one point that council members had been unaware of the letter prior to the March 11 meeting and that it should have been signed either by Mayor Bill Crossley or the clerk Denise Snead and not by the council without their knowledge.
As Huiras continued to ask questions about how the letter came to be sent and who selected the persons to whom they were sent, the atmosphere in the room became more contentious and adversarial. He also wanted to know why the mayor had not yet appointed a Code Enforcement Team as required by the nuisance ordinance passed months ago in September of 2108. Crossley replied that he would be forming that team in the near future.
Huiras pointed out that a situation with his own building also fit with the definition of a nuisance as stated in the ordinance and read part of a letter he had received stating that the town would remedy it. The letter was dated 2017, and Huiras said the nuisance has not yet been abated. Later in the meeting, public works director Rod Webster said that the situation involved a coal chute that extended from inside the (former VFW) building out into the area beneath the Division Street pavement. Webster said he had worked on filling the empty space that Huiras said was creating a safety hazard on Division but had not completed it. Council members later on told Webster to make a priority of filling the coal chute.
The town’s attorney Mark DeWulf asked Huiras to make his point so the council could move on to other business, saying that the letter in question had been sent as a friendly reminder that the council was soon to begin enforcing its nuisance ordinance and that the upcoming clean-up days were an opportunity for people to get rid of unwanted items. DeWulf said it was not meant to be threatening.
One member of the audience said he was disgusted by the response/non-response of the council and soon left the meeting.
Council member Kelly Watkins also urged that the discussion come to an end, and fellow member Marlene Kramer echoed Watkins’ statements. Huiras thanked the council for their time and left the meeting.
Street work project
Steve Nelson of Century West Engineering informed the council that an application for a grant from the Economic Development Agency had been made, but he would not know whether it was successful for up to three weeks. If the grant is approved, the project for installing new water lines and repaving the streets would be somewhat enlarged and would involve three phases rather than just two. It would also extend the overall project into 2021. Also if approved, the project would involve repaving of the entire streets at a width of 24 feet rather than just patching where the water lines were installed.
Tom Clavel, representing the Planning Commission, said the commission had a recommendation for the mayor for a zoning inspector in Bill Knerr, who had expressed a willingness to serve. Since the position is a paid position, however, the council moved to advertise the position prior to any appointment by the mayor. [Editor’s note: See the classifieds in this issue for the ad.]
The council also directed the town clerk to draw up a generic complaint form to be used to bring issues to the attention of the zoning inspector, the code enforcement team and any other town officials as the need arises.
Town fire chief Don Strebeck reported that open burning is allowed starting now and lasting until the end of April. He did not yet have the final results of the firemen’s auction.
Chief Brent Dell said that new officer Les Jimerson has become qualified successfully in all aspects of his job and is now serving separate shifts on his own, although he and the chief consult with one another for about two hours each day.