Montpelier City Council held its regular meeting on June 17, 2020. All members were present. There was also a significant number of community members present at the meeting.
After the regular business of the meeting, the Council moved to the agenda items. When reviewing the bills, the Mayor pointed out to the Council the payment for $25,000 was for a new rescue truck for the Fire Department. The truck was obtained from Evanston, Wyo. It was purchased at substantial savings to the Department.
The first item addressed on the agenda was the replacement for the position left vacant by Charles Horikami. Mayor Sharp made the recommendation that Quinn Pope fill the position. The Council approved the recommendation, and Pope joined the Council at the table.
The Council heard from Gary Teuscher, CPA, with the city audit. Teuscher reviewed the numbers with the Council. The City has done very well with their savings and is in a good position financially. There has been a steady improvement in the financial standing for several years.
The next agenda item was Scott Jessen. He addressed the Council about the four-way Stop on Clay and Fifth streets. Jessen asked for some history as to why it had been placed there and if it was needed. His main issue with the sign was that when vehicles with loud mufflers stop, they are very loud when they accelerate to resume. He feels this has destroyed the peace of the neighborhood. The Mayor explained that before the four-way stop was there, people who were coming down Fifth St. would pull out around cars that were turning, and there were several times school children crossing the street there were almost hit. The sign was put in place to protect the children. The Mayor said that if at a later day this could be prevented without the stop sign, then it would be removed.
The next item was opening the budget. Opening the budget will be done at the Budget public meeting that will be held August 19. This will allow the City to move money from savings to the general budget or the specific budget needed. Several grants will be accepted and money for increases in the budgets, such as the Police department wage increase to make the Department somewhat comparable to near-by departments. Currently, if an officer quits Montpelier City Police and goes to work for the Sheriff’s office, it is a $4.00 per hour raise. The Budget opening was approved.
The next item was the preliminary budget review. The amount the City will receive from the county and the state is going to be lower this upcoming budget year due to the COVID-19 impact on the state. The Mayor would like to see a three percent increase in employee wages except for the Police Department, and their addition would be more than the three percent as previously mentioned. The final proposed budget will be presented at the next meeting.
The next item was the block grant. Montpelier City has the opportunity for a Downtown Community Improvement Grant from SECOG. The grant would be $500,000.,and there needs to be a City match. The City can count the purchase of the new City Hall and the upgrades that have been completed. The Strong building demolition will also be able to be counted. If the City is to proceed with the grant, there needs to be a part-time, temporary employee hired to work until the grant is submitted and then possibly to administer the grant if awarded. It will need to be updated by the architect. Emma Morton, from SECOG, was present by phone to answer questions. It is unknown at this time what the cost so the architect can proceed will be. This information and numbers for the temporary position will be presented to the Council at the next meeting. They moved to table the decision to proceed with the grant until the next meeting. Emma did say that with the work that has already happened this year, Montpelier would be very competitive in getting the grant. If the City does not proceed for the grant in November, it will lose its grant match for the next year.
The next items on the agenda were the T-ball and Coach pitch. Parks and Recs had decided to postpone due to issues from the community about having sports at this time. When the June tournaments were canceled last week, they put T-ball and Coach pitch on hold.
The Mayor gave some history on the situation. When the Parks and Recs put out the registration, it was open to Utah and Idaho teams. The record filled fast, and there were 60 teams signed up. At that point, Utah had the COVID-19 flare-up, and it was decided that Utah teams would not be allowed in order to help protect the community. It was also agreed that the July tournaments would be capped with only 34 or so teams permitted.
After this meeting, it was announced to the community that the County Fair was canceled, and also word was received that Teton County had canceled their tournaments, and several of those teams wanted to come here to play.
On Saturday, the Mayor, Shane Johnson, and Lisa James met by phone. The Mayor had reached out to the hospital and doctors, to ensure that they were comfortable with the tournament continuing. They were not, and would not sign off on the tournament. At the same time, Facebook postings were numerous with even an obituary of a man who died from COVID-19, and the City was told it would cause the same thing to happen here. With all of these developments, the June tournament was canceled. It was decided they would let the Council decide on what to do with T-ball, Coach Pitch, and the July tournaments.
On Sunday, both Lisa and the Mayor received numerous calls, some thanking them for canceling the tournaments, some cursing them, and some inappropriate. With all of the calls and comments, Shane Johnson was quoted as saying this issue was splitting our community. Grandparents who had grandchildren that would have played were glad the tournament was canceled. They had not told their families this, but they were worried about having this many people from outside the area come and spend significant time here.
Because of the large public outcry, the decision to support the cancelation needed to be ratified by the Council so as to not put all the final decision on just one or two people but the whole Council.
The Mayor talked with everyone who contacted him about T-ball and Coach pitch as well. Almost everyone felt that as this would be the kids from our community, this would be okay. There was some concern about even Garden City kids being involved.
The Mayor made it clear that the only thing to do about this issue was that the Council ratify the decisions made. He was not opening this up for discussion. Citizens were asking why events were taking place that the City had no control over. There was some misinformation in the community and expectations of things that the Council had no control over. The Mayor made it clear the only decision the Council had to make at this point was whether or not the July Tournaments would take place. There have been calls to help minimize the expense to the people with reservations and explain the situations to the lodging establishments.
Ted Slivinski talked with the Maggie Mann from the Health Department regarding T-ball and Coach pitch. She felt that because the kids were from the local area that the risk would be much lower. There would always be concerns about sanitizing and social distancing. With all of the mental health issues our community has endured, physical activity for children is very beneficial. She was in favor of going ahead. Ted shared with the group all of the people contacted and information reviewed that made him come to the recommendations he is making to the Council. He thoughtfully explained all levels of the decisions he had made.
Citizens commented gave several opinions on whether they agreed with the decisions or not. Several comments seemed to be based on erroneous information and, when possible, the Council corrected the information. Most citizens commented in a calm manner and made their point of view heard while others felt only their opinion should be considered. After a lengthy decision, it was decided by the Council to go ahead with the July tournaments with the right to cancel if circumstances changed. The Boys teams will play on July 17-19 with a capped roster, and the Girls 10,12,14,16 will play on July 23-25.
The final decision of the Council was whether to attempt a parade on the Fourth of July. With concerns that social distancing may be extremely difficult and that there is no one willing to be in charge of organizing the parade, it was decided to cancel the parade and hope that no issues make it necessary to cancel any further events. The Mayor urged the support of the Cruise that is planned on the afternoon of the July 4 at 2 p.m.
After all agenda items had been discussed, the Mayor heard any further questions or comments from the Council. The only members having any comments were Bobbi Leonhardt, who thanked the Council for the support shown for our local Fire Department, and Councilman Quinn Pope who gave an update on the Oregon Trail Center. The Center will open on July 1 with limited tours. The Center is working on a visual and virtual tour that will be available online. More details will be announced at a later time.
The meeting was adjourned.