Council moving toward November election

The Yuma City Council was scheduled to have a virtual workshop this past Tuesday evening to discuss dash cameras being installed in the Yuma Police Department’s patrol cars.
YPD officers have been wearing body cameras for the past several years. Mayor Ron Swehla broached the subject at the end of last week’s regular meeting of the Yuma City Council, saying he felt it is important the YPD also get dash cameras, and that Chief Jerry Thompson would have more information for the council at a later date.

A workshop then was set earlier. The agenda also included discussion about submitting lodging and sales tax questions for the November election. Yuma electors twice have defeated a lodging tax question, most recently in this past April’s municipal election.
Speaking of which, the council took the first step last week toward asking the voters to approve moving the municipal election to November.
The council passed the first reading of the ordinance putting the question on this upcoming November’s ballot. The vote was 4-0, with Swehla and councilmen Mark Shay, Daniel Ebersole and Tim McClung in attendance. Councilmen Dan Baucke did not participate in the virtual meeting.
(Luke Goeglein and Bryson Chrismer also did not participate, but were not announced as being absent. Both confirmed to the Pioneer late this week that they have resigned. Look for more in next week’s edition.)
If passed in November, the first municipal election held in coordination with other elections in November would be in 2025.
Council members were presented two ordinances during last week’s meeting. City Attorney Kathryn Sellars explained that option one provides references and summaries to the parts of the city charter that would need to be changed, while the second option fully outlines each section that would have to be changed, and voters would have to vote on each of the sections separately. The first option would have just one question for voters to approve.
It was noted the second version was more comprehensive and gave voters more information. However, council members that the simpler first version would be preferrable.
Sellars said a resolution could be formulated outlining more informational details for the voters, but would not be part of the ballot question.
The council approved the ordinance with the simpler version on first reading. There will be a public hearing prior to the second reading at the council’s next virtual meeting on July 21.
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. 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. She said it would allow the staff to focus on other pressing duties, rather than an election. Sellars noted the county clerk’s office deals with elections more often, and has a steady protocol in place that, while not completely eliminating the stress, makes it more manageable.
It also was explained then that switching the election date cannot shorten or lengthen the terms of the current council members, so the city still would have April elections in 2022 and 2024, with the first November election being in 2025.

Nuisance discussion
The council also held discussion on a previous topic, code enforcement.
Sellars reviewed what is a “general” nuisance, which involves a fellow citizen’s complaint, and provided a list of specific nuisances, which do not. She explained a code enforcement officer cannot just enter a property, but can observe potential code violations from public property. Ifa potential violation cannot be viewed from the street or alley, a request can be made of the tenant to enter the property. If allowed, the officer can inspect the property ad decideIf that is denied, the city could get a search warrant.
Sellars went over how the city works with property owners asking for it to be addressed in seven days, and that can be extended if a good-faith effort is being made. If no effort is ever made, it can eventually become a court action, which could lead to either a civil penalty or an abatement order. Sellars said the city normally would do an abatement order, because that allows the city to clean up the violation and charge the cost to the property owner.
McClung said the flow chart provided by Sellars was helpful, but asked who is “the officer” responsible for different instances. Sellars said it is not specified if it would be the code enforcement officer or the police, or other city employees, because it allows for more flexibility.
McClung got specific and asked who one would call about a barking dog. He was told if it was during regular business hours, one would call City Hall. If not, then one could call the W-Y Combined Communications Center.
Sellars said the council could always discuss the subject more at a later date.

Dog park and railroad sidewalk
Ebersole presented a couple of proposed projects during last week’s meetings.
He said he would like to see sidewalks built at the railroad tracks on Main St. He said it is a hassle for walkers, bikers and strollers to cross the tracks, and many use the street instead, which can lead to a dangerous situation with passing vehicles.
Ebersole said he remembers there being sidewalks there during this youth, and would like to see them again.
His second proposal was a dog park in Yuma. He said he had visited with City Manager Scott Moore, who suggested city-owned land on the east side of the Jeff Armstrong Ball Park complex as a location. Ebersole said it would probably be a low-cost project, and community members could get involved. Moore said the city had some information about dog parks it gathered about three years ago, and would share that with the council.

Rest of meeting
• Moore informed the council that Smithfield wants to extend the lease for another year on the land on which it stores corn for its feedmill along Detroit Ave. The total cost is more than $20,000.
• He also said the sewer lining work on the main lines in the alleys in the first two blocks along S. Main was going well, and the crew would return to do the service lines in the near future.
• McClung shared that he had been contacted by a local business that was not happy it had been asked to provide a service to the city that instead was provided by an out-of-town competitor.