By Amber Schumacher
EDGEMONT - During a packed Edgemont City Council meeting on Sept. 4, there was only one open seat available and the rest filled with citizens eager to speak their minds about the city’s recent decision to forego signing a contract with the Fall River County Sheriff’s office in the upcoming year.
The conversation started after Edgemont Mayor Jerry Dibble gave the following statement during the Mayor’s report, “Last week we made a decision about the law enforcement contract and I think we put the cart before the horse - we should have had a plan in place.” Following his statement two council members both came forward to verbally take back their vote in the matter during the last meeting.
Firstly, councilman Jason Shook addressed the citizens present and stated that he wanted to go on record stating, “I just went along with the vote because I knew there were at least three other members, I did not vote with my conscience and I am sorry. I am not for this decision and I fully support the current law enforcement.” As soon as Shook was done speaking, council member Bob Worden also spoke up to echo those same sentiments, “I am guilty of this too. I support the current law enforcement. I have talked to multitudes of residents and they are happy with the current law enforcement.”
The Mayor’s statement, along with Shook and Worden’s set off a conversation that had been brewing since the beginning of the meeting. With tension in the room high and citizens upset, the flood gates opened on the topic.
Resident Les Hanes began by asking the council what was wrong with the current law enforcement contract and urged the council to “start focusing on getting new business in town instead of dickering around with the law enforcement issue.”
Mayor Dibble responded, “I want to see something different.” Hanes continued to question the council’s decision, “So is it a budget issue? Move onto bigger issues, this is a waste of time. Public safety should be the most important thing.”
Dibble calmly stated, “The current contract has 30 hours a week and public safety is the number one issue.” With the Mayor and the council not offering up much for information, the residents appeared to only grow more restless and intent on getting to the bottom of the issue.
Edgemont resident Amanda Rocchio chimed in, “Has any other municipality tried this before so that we can compare results? Were they successful?” At first Mayor Dibble didn’t appear to understand Rocchio’s question but responded, “we don’t know whats going to work.” Rocchio responded back, “We don’t know? It’s a really bad idea to go in blind.”
After only hearing minimal explanation from Mayor Dibble, resident Kevin Eberle started in by asking to hear from the rest of the council on the matter. Councilwoman Sandra Woodward offered up her experience in the issue when she stated that she had approached Sheriff Bob Evans many times in response to the contract and he “never came to the table.” Woodward continued, “there are many things in that contract that aren’t fulfilled.” When pressed by the residents to explain those specific things, Woodward’s short list included, ordinance and code enforcement, issues with paying $115,000 a year, and an issue with Hot Springs getting 54 percent of the service calls and paying nothing towards the county contract.
Woodward’s statements erupted a slurry of back and forth conversations on the validity of her data, referring to a pie chart showing service calls that was given to Woodward directly from the Sheriff’s office in Hot Springs. Residents had no qualms about calling Woodward out on her list, stating that ordinance code enforcement is not the job of city law enforcement and in every other city, is that of an ordinance officer. The conversation turned into an argument of sorts between Eberle and Woodward and a few other residents about the conditions of the contract in reference to code enforcement and the need to eliminate that from the contract if it is left continually unenforced.
The conversation quickly came to a halt shortly thereafter when Mayor Dibble requested the council move along to other matters of business. With the council giving little information as to why their decision was made and appeared to be, at least ‘partially’ backpedaling their decision, the citizens present appeared to be dissatisfied with their unanswered questions and the future of Edgemont’s police protection.
In other business of the evening, the input of citizens in attendance continued as new Edgemont resident Debbie Davidson presented her problem to the city and begged for the water to be turned on at her residence. Davidson, who had relocated to Edgemont from Arizona, had been looking forward to coming to Edgemont to make a home and try to make a living. She had walked right into a situation that left her holding an overdue water bill for almost $400. That bill grew to over $600 after she was required to post a deposit and the monthly bill of $105 to begin her water service.
Davidson pleaded with the council and offered to make payments twice a month until she was caught up and said that she just wanted a hot shower and to have hot water to clean with and do dishes with. Her plea fell on the hearts of a few residents who offered her a hot shower at their house until the council could agree on terms and turn on her water. Davidson and council member Woodward went back and forth several times, with Woodward shaking her head and stating her dissatisfaction with the payment arrangement.
Councilmember Shook jumped in to state, “zero times $105 will always be zero. We need to start working with people to get revenue from the homes and into our account. It has to start somewhere.” After continued conversation and input from Shook and council member Carla Schepler in favor of Davidson’s promised agreement, the council voted via roll call vote to allow Davidson to pay $105 towards her regular bill and a $75 installment payment until the account is current. During the roll call vote, every member was in favor of the arrangement except for Councilwoman Woodward.
Before the council went into executive session to discuss the Union Contract approval and the 2019 budget, they wrapped up the meeting with a few additional matters of business as listed below.
• Opened sealed bids for Block 6, Lots 3,4,5 of the Original Town (located behind Nuts & Bolts) and awarded the bid to the highest bidder for a total of $2250.
• Opened sealed bid for Block 7, Lot 5 of the Original Town (old Kearn building) and only received one out of state bid for $526. The council opted to hold out for a higher bid.
• The council discussed the loan application for Well number six in the amount of $200,000 to cover their shortage, which would bring the total loan amount to $750,000.