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Council to place 12 charter amendments on ballot
There was a lot of discussion Monday night on the pros and cons of allowing the mayor and council members to get compensated for their service time.
But the discussion will end there.
The council voted unanimously to place 12 of the 13 recommended charter amendments on the ballot for the May 12 election. The Charter Review Commission met for about two months to come up with a list of recommendations for the council to vote on including on the ballot.
Left off the commission's list was an amendment that would have allowed the mayor to receive a monthly stipend of $300 and council members to receive $200 a month.
This would have gone into effect June 1, 2013, making it possible that none of the current council members would have been impacted.
"It gives me a level of comfort when asking someone why they want to run for the council that they're not doing it for the money," said Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Steve Lyda. "So I can't in good conscience vote to put this on the ballot."
Mayor Melissa Northern said she opposed compensation.
"Once you start the compensation package, it starts to get out of hand," Northern said. "It increases, and it becomes a slippery slope."
Councilman Tom Hayden, who is running against Northern and Al Cloud in the May election, said he wouldn't vote on giving mayors and council members a stipend.
"But I think the best thing is for the residents to have a voice and to put it on the ballot," Hayden said.
Dennis McKaige, who served on the Charter Review Commission, said this is the fifth administration to refuse a recommendation to place the stipend on the ballot.
Several items will be on the ballot, however. Among those is a proposal to require a supermajority vote by the council to repeal or change the oil and gas drilling ordinance.
The ordinance was amended last year, and among the changes was increased setback regulations between pad sites and homes, churches, schools, etc.
This came five years after the gas drilling ordinance was amended. Many people said that ordinance had weak restrictions.
"The history of this town has proven that it is easy to weaken the ordinance," said resident Tammi Vajda. "We worked hard to get this ordinance in place. If new technology comes along or there are new mandates passed down, then I would think that changing the ordinance would be automatic."
McKaige said the idea behind the supermajority requirement is that gas drilling is a topic so important that it reaches the same level of a master plan change, which requires a supermajority vote.
Resident Steve Dixon, who is running against Lyda and Jay Cannon for Place 4 in the May election, questioned the supermajority requirement.
"Some of the conversations I have heard from other council meetings is that [a supermajority requirement] would make it more difficult to make a change," Dixon said. "My hope is that sometime in the future if there is some kind of new technology, if that change is recognized by the council, hopefully common sense will prevail."
Councilwoman Kendra Stephenson said she was also concerned about the supermajority requirement.
"It's a double-edged sword," she said. "It makes it harder to change, and it makes it harder to improve."
She also denied claims that she is against the current oil and gas ordinance since she questioned the supermajority requirement.
"If ever there was a charter amendment that people should evaluate and understand for themselves, this one is it," Stephenson said.
Other items placed on the ballot include term limits. The proposal states neither the mayor nor any council member may be elected for more than three full consecutive two-year terms. This would begin after the May 2013 election.
There were several amendments related to petitions, including a proposal to require a petition to be signed by 15 percent of the town's registered voters instead of 15 percent or 300, whichever is greater.
Another item is a proposal in which a public-private partnership requires a town election.
If any of the amendments pass, the charter can't be changed again for two years.
Early voting runs from April 30 to May 8.