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Council cuts item from meeting agenda

by EVIE SEABERG
Staff Writer | February 23, 2024 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — An already short agenda became even shorter when Councilor Deb Ruehle asked to remove two items at the beginning of Wednesday’s council meeting. 

The first item involved the city’s continuation in the Selkirk Fire Joint Powers Agreement and the second was a proposal to amend city code to include the community planning and development director and the public works director.

In regards to the JPA, Ruehle said she believes it should not be on the agenda without contextual materials for the public and council to consider.

“I feel strongly that there should always be materials,” she said. “... My suggestions would be [to provide] a couple letters from Westside and also from Sagle. There has been other information emailed to us from [Clint] Frank on this item and we are the only ones privy to that so it doesn’t feel transparent to me.”

She suggested adding such materials to a future meeting where the item can be discussed. Councilor Justin Dick also requested details covering proposed levies in Westside and Sagle fire districts and definitions for terms like “authority,” “association,” and “agreement” — all of which describe different options for how to move forward with the existing fire districts.

“We did have a general consensus about working with the JPA for another three months, so I made the assumption that that was the direction we were going to head,” Ruehle said. “I was surprised that this was back on our agenda at all.”

Mayor Jeremy Grimm said he included the item because he wanted to discuss future options with the council.

“I was looking for your guidance and leadership on that so whatever action you prefer to take on this item, I’m not sure it needs to be removed,” he said. “I actually prefer it remain and that during this item you direct myself and staff to work with the authorities to schedule a meeting or take other action as you describe … I didn’t want to make a unilateral decision on this — that’s why it’s on there with no attachments.”

With Ruehle’s motion still part of the discussion, the council discussed what action to take next, with Councilor Pam Duquette suggesting the city hold another workshop. However, because the item was not listed until later on the agenda, Grimm asked that the council move on with the agenda as originally planned. 

“I think it’s appropriate we can discuss all this in the order that it’s agendized,” Grimm said. “I don’t see a conflict. I’m not asking for any action other than your direction … so I would have a preference that the motion fail and we can just work through the agenda as presented.”

The request to remove was rescinded by Ruehle with the consideration that no official action concerning the JPA was expected to be taken.

When the item was addressed later in the meeting, Councilor Jason Welker moved to table the discussion until a special council meeting to discuss the JPA expected to be held in April. This motion followed discussion on whether or not another workshop or a special council meeting would be a more effective way to address the city’s continuation of the agreement. Ultimately, a special meeting was decided on at the recommendation of the city’s legal counsel.

Ruehle also successfully removed an item that would amend Sandpoint City Code to include the community planning and development director and the public works director within the city's list of designated appointed officers and officials. A similar item concerning appointed positions was on the Feb. 7 council meeting agenda, at which time the council agreed to give Grimm a few months to evaluate conditions within the city before deciding how to address the city administrator’s position. This discussion included the future of other potentially appointed positions within the city. 

“I was under the understanding that we were going to give you some time to get the workings of the city going before we made any decisions on changing the current structure, and so I was again surprised that this item was on our agenda,” Ruehle said after making her request. 

After Councilor Joel Aispuro promptly seconded the motion, Grimm asked that the item not be removed.

“Again, I would just add that, I think as agendized it gives us the opportunity to discuss that in a more structured environment than to just suggest it’s removed from the agenda. I would love to talk about it with you all and hear your feedback and share my perspective on it. Again, I think it’s agendized appropriately and would love the opportunity to discuss it with you as agendized, but I defer to your will.”

With no further discussion, the item was removed in a 5-1 vote with Duquette dissenting.