City council develops ballot questions

Craig residents will have to consider three questions on the city's April ballot but giving city council members pay raises won't be one of them.

Council members considered increasing their $200-a-month paychecks to keep pace with the cost of living at their budget work session in October, but shot down the idea at their regular meeting Tuesday.

Councilor Bill Johnston proposed the increase, to become effective in four years so it didn't seem self serving, to encourage more people to run for a council seat.

"As time goes on, we're finding less and less of these seats filled because volunteerism is dead," he said.

Councilor Tom Gilchrist supported the idea.

"Nobody's here for the money," he said. "I personally don't see it as a big deal to give a little raise."

A cost of living increase would raise a council member's monthly salary to $208.

Councilors Don Jones and Carl Chapman opposed the initiative, also saying people don't serve for the money.

The issue died, Mayor Dave DeRose said, because of lack of support from the council.

Residents will be asked to change the city's charter to raise the floor for competitive bidding. The city currently has to request sealed bids for any project, service, material or equipment that costs more than $2,500. Approval of the ballot question would raise that limit to $10,000, a figure City Manager Jim Ferree said was an average for cities he researched.

"It would alleviate some of the red tape in getting some of these things purchased," he said.

City staff members supported the suggestion, as did the council.

"I agree completely," Gilchrist said. "We're wasting a lot of time with the bidding process. Sometimes there's more in the process than the total project's worth."

City officials, as outlined by the charter, would still have to go through an informal bid process on purchases to get competitive quotes.

"I think it's a real good idea, $2,500 doesn't go far," DeRose said.

The second question residents will be asked to consider is whether to allow the city to use or sell the abandoned sewer lagoons, located west of the Moffat County Public Safety Center on First Street.

City charter requires voters to OK the removal of any property purchased for utility purposes from the utility infrastructure. Because the property was abandoned as a sewer lagoon, City Attorney Sherman Romney advised the council they were not required to put the issue to a vote, but council members agreed it should be the decision of area residents.

There is a proposal before the council asking them to donate the land to the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership so it can be used as a business park geared toward industries in need of high-speed telecommunications.

"We need to free it up," Jones said. "We know it's not going to ever be a sewer lagoon again."

Even if the question is approved, the city council must pass an ordinance to sell or transfer the property, which would require the full public process.

Lastly, the council plans to ask voters to approve a one- to two-mill property tax increase to be used to construct sidewalks based on the priorities outlined in a plan created several years ago by a civic improvement authority. The plan lists routes to area schools as its top priority.

There was debate over whether the city was ready to go to voters with this question. Jones said he'd like to see a plan created outlining how that money would be used and who would be responsible for maintaining the sidewalks before placing a tax question on the ballot.

DeRose suggested the council agree to put the question on the ballot and then hold a series of workshops to iron out the details.

"I tend to feel like if we don't start something, we'll never do anything," he said.

One mill generates about $45,000 a year and there were questions about whether that would be enough money to make a difference.

"We should start building a fund so we can actually do what we set out to do," Johnston said.

Resolutions that would solidify the wording of the questions and authorize city staff to place them on the ballot will be presented at the council's Jan. 28 meeting.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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