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Florence city council under fire

Staff writer

For the second time in three weeks, the Florence city council removed details from previous meeting minutes.

Councilman Matt Williams moved to condense a section of the Aug. 20 meeting minutes. The condensed section included a comment from resident Darla Spencer criticizing the council, saying she would “think hard next time she went to the polls.”

Williams motioned to change the description to say she and other community members expressed concerns about the Crystal Springs situation. The motion passed 3-1.

“I want to cut these pages down from six pages or 13 pages,” he said. “Just a couple would be great. We don’t need to hire a stenographer.”

Several audience members spoke out, protesting that the minutes were already written and it was important to keep them accurate.

“That’s like picking up the city’s trash and then you dump the truck and pick it up again,” Evan Slater said.

Spencer addressed the topic of censorship when she made her comment, city clerk Janet Robertson said.

“In defense of myself, Darla personally asked her comment be put in the minutes,” she said.

Councilman Trayce Warner opposed the censorship of meeting minutes Monday and at a previous meeting.

She spoke in support of the audience having a voice at council meetings.

“We are not kings and queens,” she said. “We are representatives of these people out here. They have a right to ask questions, they have a right to expect answers.”

The council entered executive session for half an hour to discuss financial matters with their attorney concerning the DeForest’s lease offer for access to Crystal Spring. A second executive session of 15 minutes was held immediately after for the same topic.

A motion was passed to have the city attorney look deeper into the details of the DeForest’s current proposal.

“The reason I made the motion tonight was because there has been some pressure within the council to proceed with eminent domain,” Warner said. “It’s a much better deal to negotiate for something that’s agreeable to all of us than it is to immediately proceed with eminent domain.

Several members of the community were dissatisfied with the council’s decision to keep spending money on an attorney.

“I can’t imagine what would be such a big deal that you need to spend more money that you don’t have,” Spencer said.

Local business owner Sarah Dawson spoke to the council about loans and grants for municipalities.

Mayor Bob Gayle was looking into external options to help the city finance eminent domain, he said at a previous meeting.

At the time, the city was pursuing eminent domain as a means of seizing Crystal Springs.

Grants would not be available this late in the year and the council would only be able to get a loan, Dawson said.

“You have to pay back the loans,” she said. “It’s not like you’re given money just to take care of everything and then they walk away.”

The city is not currently pursuing eminent domain, Gayle said.

“The hope is that we can come to some sort of terms that everyone is happy with and we don’t need to borrow any money,” he said.

Following the first two executive sessions, the council then entered a 15-minute executive session with the attorney to discuss personnel matters of nonelected personnel.

A payment to Flint Hills Electric for $8,463.45 was withheld until the next meeting.

A work meeting was set for Sept. 20 and the regular meeting on the 17th was moved to the 24th.

Randy Dallke of Atmos Energy appeared to discuss combining gas meters for the city building and ambulance building.

“We can do that, it’s no cost to you,” he said. “It’ll eliminate one bill over here.”

The motion to allow Atmos to eliminate one of the meters passed unanimously, saving the county between $30 and $40 per month.

Mark Slater was approved to attend a fire chiefs’ conference, which will cost $405 for the city.

Councilman Ken Hoffman expressed concern that the city needs a new garbage truck.

“I think it’s time we started researching the possibilities of getting a new one,” he said. “If you go used, you’d better make darn sure you’re getting a deal.”

Warner agreed about the need for a new truck, but the county needed to make sure they could afford it, she said.

“I agree we need to start investigating what we’re going to do but we also need to figure out where the money is going to come from,” Warner said. “We’re spending a lot of money here guys, and we’re running out.”

Last modified Sept. 12, 2018

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