Council decides against going forward with ballot questions

The City of Yuma will not be putting a sales tax and lodging tax question on the November ballot.
The Yuma City Council had held a workshop recently to discuss possibly putting the tax increases before the voters. Yuma’s current sales tax is 3 percent. Municipal electors twice have defeated a 5-percent lodging tax question, most recently in April’s municipal election.

It came up for discussion during last week’s regular council meeting, which was held virtually with Mayor Ron Swehla and councilmen Mark Shay, Tim McClung and Daniel Ebersole participating, along with city staff. Councilman Dan Baucke was absent.
A decision had to be made at the meeting to fit the timetable for getting the questions on the ballot.
Swehla led a quick discussion, noting that as talked about, it is “probably not a good time to do it because of the uncertain times,” adding that people are worrying about local businesses as it is. “My choice is we don’t put it on the November ballot.”
Shay concurred, saying it would be better to postpone for now. McClung said he would like to see what the overall affect COVID will have on the budget before moving forward, explaining he would not want to undershoot the amount the city might need. Ebersole added that “the Lord only knows what 2020 has in store for us the rest of the year.”
Acknowledging the consensus, Swehla said the questions will not be put on the ballot.

Dash cameras
The city will be moving forward with purchasing dash cameras for the Yuma Police Department’s nine patrol vehicles.
The council had discussed the issue at a recent workshop, and Chief Jerry Thompson made the request for the purchase at last week’s regular meeting, with a first-year payment of $36,423. The figure includes installation, equipment, storage and training.
Ebersole said he feels there is a great need for the dash cameras. McClung noted the price will go up as demand increases, so it is best to get it done now.
The purchase was approved on a 4-0 vote.
The YPD has been utilizing body cameras for the past few years.

Municipal election and more
While there will not be a lodging or sales tax question on the November ballot, the city will have another one — asking voters to amend the City Charter moving municipal elections from April to November, beginning in 2025.
The second reading of the ordinance putting the question on the November ballot passed on a 4-0 vote last week. There was no public comment prior to the vote.
The council first discussed going to a November election at its first meeting in June. It was explained then the costs are rising as the city continues to have its own election in April as opposed to sharing in the costs in a coordinated election with Yuma County in November. City Attorney Kathryn Sellars said the city having its own April elections also increases the work load and the stress for the office of city clerk and the employees, which would be lightened by the city switching to November coordinated elections.
The city currently is accepting letters of interest for the two openings on the council, created by the recent resignations of Luke Goeglein and Bryson Chrismer.
It was explained that the city could take nomination petitions from interested citizens and put the candidates on the November ballot, or accept letters of interest and make appointments soon.
Swehla said November was a long way away, and the council already is short-handed, so his choice was to get letters of interest.
Ebersole said he would like the election, but agreed November is far off.
The council eventually voted 4-0 to seek letters of interest, with a deadline of 5 p.m. August 13 so appointments could be made at the August 18 regular meeting.
Speaking of regular meetings, the council voted to cancel the August 4 meeting since it falls during the Yuma County Fair. City Clerk Karma Wells said approving bills was the only thing currently planned for that meeting. The council would have had to hold the August 4 meeting if moving forward with the sales and lodging tax questions, but decided against that.
Shay was appointed Mayor Pro-Tem on a 3-0 vote. The position had to be filled following Goeglein’s resignation. A resolution authorizing Shay to sign for the city as pro-tem passed on a 4-0 vote.
An intergovernmental agreement with Yuma County for a coordinated election passed unanimously.
The council voted 4-0 to extend the credit card waiver fee for another month, meaning people paying their city bills, permit fees and such with a credit card will not be charged the accompanying fee.
Among the bills to be paid that were approved was the semi-annual bond payment. This one was for $180,797.01.
The council approved three purchases for the Electric Department, all which are budgeted.
• One was for $9,000 feet of primary wire for $18,500 from Western United. Borders States Electric had submitted a bid of $29,160. City Manager Scott Moore said he did not know why there was such a discrepancy, but said he thought Western United had a better quality of wire anyway, and its price was in the range he had expected. McClung asked if the wire was made in the United States. Moore said he did not know. McClung said that in the future he would like to know if what the city is purchasing is manufactured in the U.S.
• Another involved doing directional boring to reroute the electrical circuit to Yuma High School, in relation to the school’s expansion/renovation project. The work involves drilling under streets, sidewalks and structures. Kentec out of Sterling submitted a bid of $6,240 for 1,000 feet of underground boring.
• Lastly, the Electric Department is purchasing 15, 35-foot poles from a company in Minnesota for $10,920. There was some discussion about how many poles the city needs to have in reserve prior to approval.
Moore reported to the council that he has received a positive response from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad in his initial inquiries about putting sidewalks across the railroad tracks on Main St.

McClung made a report from the recent Yuma County Landfill meeting.
He said plastics are filling up the landfill at a fast rate. He said there was discussion about having volunteers in Yuma and Wray pre-sort the plastic before refuse goes to the landfill. However, McClung said it is his experience that is difficult to do, and volunteers, no matter how well-intended, lose interest.
He suggested possibly looking into curbside recycling. Ebersole asked if that meant individual bins for plastics and a truck to pick it up, or have a site to drop off the plastics. McClung said it could be either one, adding curbside has expenses.
It was noted that eventually something needs to be done about it

Baucke stays on
Dan Baucke will stay on the Yuma City Council, following a brief special meeting last Friday, July 24.
Baucke has missed three consecutive regular meetings, including last Tuesday’s, July 21, triggering a section in the Yuma City Charter in which he is off the council. However, the rest of the council can meet to determine good cause for putting the missing council member back on, or not.
In a special meeting that lasted only a few minutes, Mayor Ron Swehla said Baucke missed one meeting due to eye surgery, and a second meeting due to job-related duties.
Council members said that was good enough for them, and a motion to reinstate Baucke passed on a 4-0 vote. Besides Swehla, also participating in the virtual special meeting were Tim McClung, Mark Shay and Daniel Ebersole.