A decision on whether the city will contract with the Suburban Improvement District for sole maintenance responsibility of Cherokee Village streets faces yet another roadblock as the result of action by the city council at its Aug. 5 meeting.
By a vote of 5-2, the council tabled action on a motion by Alderman Ray Torbit to "rescind and declare null and void" a proposal the city made to SID at the June 17 meeting to take responsibility for road maintenance in the Village. Torbit represents the council on the road committee.
Torbit's motion was prompted by a proposed contract sent from SID attorney Kevin King with a cover letter from King, saying in part, "unless an agreement can be reached and a document executed prior to Aug. 15, 2002, SID will terminate its road and street department as of Sept. 1, 2002. After that time, all employees of the department will be laid off … and there will be an auction for the equipment and materials owned by SID and used for the roads and streets department."
Alderman Charles Bartlett's motion to table effectively delayed action on Torbit's motion and any city-SID contract until further negotiation between King and Cherokee Village City Attorney Tom Garner. "We need to work with SID," Bartlett said.
Voting for the motion to table were Aldermen Bartlett, Marty Betz, Dewey Dark, Scott Paul and Louisa Relyea. Voting "no" were Torbit and Alderman Jack Stroup. Alderman Tom
Paul was absent.Garner reported a "last minute" phone call from King saying SID would probably extend its deadline but no date was given. Garner also expected the "no further negotiations" mentioned in King's letter would probably change. He reported he told King statements regarding shutting down the road department were heavy-handed.
Garner added, "I think an agreement is a good idea, but the city will be making a mistake entering into the contract as written." Because he thinks SID is inflexible on the offer of 13 percent of assessments to go to the city for roads, Garner advised contract wording that would absolve the city from lawsuits by taxpayers who think SID should be paying a different percentage.
Another concern mentioned by Garner and several aldermen was whether the city could expect its 13 percent for 2002 next January or whether the contract language referred to the October 2003 collections. Concern was also expressed about readiness for winter road care if neither SID nor the city has a functioning road department.
"The threat to shut down the SID road department has nothing to do with the city government," Garner said. "It had to do with those who pay the SID assessments." Cherokee Village has no property tax levied for support of city government. Its funds for roads come from state turnback from gasoline taxes. Other city functions are supported by state sales tax turnback monies, local franchise fees, license fees and court fines.
Seventeen residents from the standing-room only crowd spoke to the council with comments ranging from criticism of SID to calls for cooperation.
Reading from a two-page prepared statement, Don Schmitt questioned the wisdom of relying on state turnback funds. "Are there assurances these funds will always be available?" he asked. "How will the city maintain 300 miles of streets and roads with the SID 13 percent offer?" He called for the council to give specifics on a 1-year plan for the future of Cherokee Village and funding for that plan before signing a 10-year contract with SID.
Steve Thompson, local businessman, said he was "encouraged by the city vote to continue negotiations, but concerned about anticipation of lawsuits by citizens."
"I question the personal motives of those who would take the city to court. Don't be distracted by threats of a few," he said. "Move forward and get on with this."
Another local businessman, Danny Mays, alluded to the problem of distrust between the city and SID. "Instead of bantering back and forth, try to develop a better relationship," he said.
John Soden responded, saying, "You people seem to forget you are also who SID represents. We don't need to divide this city, we need to be brought together."
Mayor Marjorie Rogers ended the two-hour discussion saying the council wants to have good roads and will work toward that goal. The next meeting will be Aug. 19.