By Nick Worth
The Holbrook City Council decided Tuesday evening to retain the second call to the public.
The council has been hearing two calls to the public, the first to address agenda items, with a time limit of five minutes, and the second at the end of the meeting to allow citizens to speak to the council regarding items not on the agenda, with a time limit of three minutes.
During the first call Tuesday, the council heard from Leo Maestas who asked them not to do away with the ending call.
“It’s been a tradition,” Maestas said. “I’m asking you guys to leave item 13 (the second call to the public) on the agenda because sometimes it’s the only way the people can talk to their leaders.”
When the council reached the item during the meeting, Mayor Jeff Hill explained why he put removal of the second call on the agenda.
“It’s not a traditional thing,” Hill said. “It wasn’t on there when I first joined the council years ago.”
Hill said he put the removal of the call on the agenda because of events which occurred at the last regular meeting of the council.
“We heard a lot of concerns, some legitimate and some not, on an item that wasn’t even on the agenda,” Hill said. “We listened while people spoke for over an hour and we couldn’t comment and had to call a special meeting a week later.”
“It allows false information to be put out over the air,” said Councilman Richard Peterson. He asked if there was a way the council could respond to concerns about non-agenda items during that call.
“This is a meeting of the council,” Hill said. “It (the second call) un-limits the public and limits the council.”
Vice Mayor Charles Haussman disagreed.
“I would not want to deny the public the opportunity to provide information to the council,” Haussman said. “I believe people need an avenue to express themselves in an appropriate manner.”
Councilman Phil Cobb said the council should err on the side of letting people speak.
“I want to keep it on,” Cobb said. “That’s a price of democracy.”
Councilman Wade Carlisle said he agreed with Cobb and Haussman, “but we need guidelines. People should address us in an orderly manner and with respect.”
“If a citizen wants to address an item on the agenda, they can,” Hill said. “I don’t like that we can’t respond.
“I let a couple of calls go,” Hill said, referring to some unruly behavior at the previous regular meeting. “I won’t do that again.”
Attorney Marlene Pontrelli of the Dickinson Wright law firm, who serves as legal advisor to the city, told the council the second call was optional.
“There is no obligation to have it on the agenda, but most municipalities have it,” Pontrelli said. “You can’t limit it, except for time.
“If there are negative comments, criticism, or anything out of order, the mayor can use that gavel and restore order,” Pontrelli said and added, “We can provide parameters.”
“I could have been more strict about it,” said Hill. “That’s something I can take care of.”
He then referred to the last paragraph on the printed agenda, which reads:
“The city council welcomes public comment at this time for items not listed on the agenda. There is a three minute time limit per citizen.”
“Can we amend that to read one appearance per person with a three minute time limit?” Hill asked. He added that public comments must pertain to city business and asked Pontrelli to advise on the wording of the statement.
“Can we combine it with the items on the agenda call?” Hill asked of Pontrelli.
Pontrelli noted that with a time limit of five minutes for agenda items and three minutes for non-agenda items, it would be difficult to keep track of.
The council then unanimously approved the proposed change in wording of the call to the public statement.
In other action Sept. 9, the council:
* Discussed the process for appointing a new police chief upon the resignation of Holbrook Police Chief Mark Jackson, which is effective on Oct. 5.
“You all know how I feel about Chief Jackson,” City Manager Ray Alley told the council. “He has done an excellent job in my mind, but we need to move on. We can appoint an interim chief.”
Alley then said he needed to talk with Lieutenant Jody Harrelson and Jackson about what they think would be best for the department. Haussman noted that the next scheduled meeting would not be held until Sept. 24 and asked if a special meeting would be needed to take action. Alley said he would not object to a special meeting.
It was learned in a call from Hill to The Tribune-News on Wednesday morning that Jackson rescinded his resignation following Tuesday night’s council meeting.
“That’s good,” said Alley of Jackson’s decision. “I was really pleased to hear that. He doesn’t want to leave when the department needs some help and I’m extremely glad he’s staying.
“There’s not that much wrong with the department,” Alley continued. “We just need to fix a few things.”
* Heard a report from Hill pertaining to a proposed committee to advise the police department. Hill said he, Haussman and Carlisle were going to come up with a committee and had decided on two members of the council, one member of the county attorney’s office, Chief Jackson and someone from the Highway Patrol.
“I was hoping to include the chief (Jackson) since it is for his benefit, but in light of his resignation, I want to put it off,” Hill said. “We can see if the new chief wants to pursue it.”
Maxwell said he wants the entire council to be involved in selecting the committee and Haussman said he thought each council member should be involved in choosing a committee member. Cobb said he wanted to include some of the lower echelon police officers.
* Heard a report from Alley that plans for a new dog park at the east end of town have been submitted to Arizona Department of Transportation engineers for approval.
He told the council the city would do some of the work, while other parts of the work could be performed by the local Boy Scout troop.
* Heard a report from Fire Chief Cary Simpson on the status of the city’s new fire engine, which is being built to order.
* Approved payments of claims for the period of Aug. 16-Sept. 5.
Hill noted the claims included a $40,000 donation from the city to the Navajo County Fair.
* Approved a payment of $1,557.60 to Walt’s Hardware.
* Discussed an agreement with the Silver Creek Humane Society to place kennels on city property.
Alley told the council the society asked to put 13 portable kennels on the property just behind the animal control pound to house some dogs that are up for adoption.
Animal Control Officer Merrill Young expressed concerns that the kennels will not be enclosed in a fence and might cause liability issues. He also said he did not want the kennels to become permanent.
“I would like a limit of no more than six months and no more than 13 dogs. Not a revolving door,” said Carlisle. “When one dog goes, then there will be 12, and so on.”
The council asked Alley to look into the liability issues, provisions for housing the dogs during the winter months and the possibility of a licensed agreement, instead of a contract.
* Approved payment of $8,400 to Precision Electric for a backup pump for two of the city’s lift stations.
* Discussed a remedy for flooding on McLaws Road.
Alley said some dirt washed out of certain property onto the road.
“I want to put the dirt that washes into the road back onto their property instead of hauling it off,” Alley said. As far as correcting the flooding issues, he said it was not immediately possible.
“I can’t fix all the issues, without hurting someone else,” Alley said.
In response to a comment from Hill, Alley told the council it would be very expensive, costing between $50,000 and $100,000 to hire and engineer to look at the issue.
Carlisle then suggested contacting Navajo County for any information on the drainage of the area.
* Heard from Alley that he has promoted Pat Serna to the position of street superintendent upon the retirement of Brent Holmes.
Alley said the position was opened in-house and that two excellent candidates had applied. He said the decision was difficult because both men were qualified, but he eventually chose Serna because his experience working in three different city departments fit in with Alley’s plans for a public works pool.
* Discussed replacing Sterling Solomon as city attorney for cases in the magistrate court.
Alley asked the council to hold off, because Solomon may be able to arrange his schedule to allow him to keep representing the city.
* Discussed cancelation of a lease by Christian International Outreach for the Eagle Heights Apartments, which are the former Northland Pioneer College dorms.
Alley said the group fixed water leaks and cleaned up the grounds, leaving the property in better shape than when they arrived. He said the group is not using the property as much as they thought they would and so wanted to cancel their lease with the city.
* Approved a $2,000 raise for Magistrate Evelyn Marez.
Marez told the council she is receiving $15,000 per year.
Alley noted an increase to $17,000 would be just a few dollars less than was paid to Judge Ralph Hatch.
“I did take a cut, but didn’t realize it at the time,” said Marez. “Now, with two years of experience under my belt, I would like to make at least as much as Judge Hatch.”
* Approved the purchase of new radios for the fire department with Arizona State Forestry grant funds.
The total cost of the radios will be $6,918, of which $3,500 will be refunded to the city through the grant.
* Adjourned into a short executive session to discuss an alleged personnel violation with Pontrelli.
Upon returning to regular sesseion, Hill asked Pontrelli to investigate the alleged personnel violations and report back to the council.
* Heard concerns on various topics from Joe Charondo during the call to the public.
By Nick Worth