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Council’s streamlining effort draws citizens’ ire: City also views one and six year street plan
January 29, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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A proposed change in the way citizens can address items on the council agenda was supposed to help streamline the process, but turned into a point of contention at Monday’s Gering City Council meeting.

The change would require citizens to fill out a form stating their concern prior to having the item placed in the council agenda.
Gering Mayor Tony Kaufman said many of the problems, such as needed sidewalk repairs, can be handled directly by one of the city’s departments, so it wouldn’t have to go to the council for consideration.

Once a citizen fills out a short form expressing his or her concern, the document is turned over to the appropriate committee or staff member to remedy.

“That way a citizen’s concern could be addressed sooner than waiting two weeks for the next council meeting,” Kaufman said. “This isn’t about keeping citizen concerns out of our meetings.”
Several members of the media also interjected themselves into the discussion. They claimed the action would violate the state’s Open Meetings Act by not allowing citizens to be heard before the council. They also said the action would violate the spirit of transparency the council has been working to maintain.

The concern of public comments before the full council is already part of the meeting process. Meetings open with “correspondence and citizens with business not scheduled on the agenda.” The public is free to address the council, but if the item isn’t officially on the agenda, the council cannot act on the concern.

But council members Don Christensen and Larry Gibbs said the proposal would just make for more paperwork and hoops for citizens to jump through before they could address the council.

Gibbs, Christensen and Phillip Holliday voted no on implementation of the proposal. Council member Rebecca Shields was absent, so the vote was 4-3 in favor. Because five votes were needed, the measure failed to pass.

Mayor Kaufman said they need to better explain how the proposal would improve communication with the city, and the council will take it up again at its next meeting.

In other action, Gering Street Superintendent Casey Dahlgrin outlined the city’s one and six year street plan for capital improvements. Scheduled for this year are repaving projects for Country Club Road from 7th to 10 Streets, Mark Drive in east Gering and a short section of 7th Street from U Street to Union Pacific Street. Also included are a 405 foot section of 17th Street south of Yucca Drive, a 362 foot section of Country Club Road west from Five Rocks Road, and 3rd Street from U Street south to the dead end. Estimated cost of the six projects is $843,423.

Council also approved Keno fund requests to build a permanent fence in the area of Five Rocks Amphitheater, build ADA access to the Oregon Trail Park baseball fields, and rebuild the dugouts and extend the bleacher canopy at Diamond One.

Prior to the meeting, council met as the Gering Leasing Corporation and elected new officers. Tony Kaufman was elected as president, Larry Gibbs as vice president, Justin Allred as treasurer with John Mejia as assistant, and Julie Morrison as secretary with Kathy Welfl as assistant secretary.
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