PDT Staff Writer
City Council flat refused to bring forth legislation to again place the issue of the form of government the city would operate under at Monday night’s conference session.
Sixth Ward Councilman Steve Sturgill brought up at the last meeting, the possibility of again asking voters to decide if they really want to switch to a Council/City Manager form of government from the current Strong Mayor form. In November, voters said “yes we do.” Sturgill said he is convinced there was not debate and not enough information put out to voters for them to make the decision on. Sturgill is proposing informing the citizens of the city how much government is going to cost over the next 10 years, including a $100,000 plus salary for a City Manager.
Sturgill told Portsmouth Mayor David Malone he had expected to see the legislation at Monday night’s conference session so there could be a discussion.
“I assume by it not being on there that you an I didn’t communicate well or there was no interest,” Sturgill said.
Malone told him there could still be a discussion.
Sturgill said action had to be taken soon because Council would have to approve it some time in early August in order for it to get on the November ballot. He said his premise is that he believes too much blame for recent woes within city government was put on the mayor, and he believes Council has to shoulder much of the blame as well.
“What brought all of this on?” Second Ward Councilman Rich Saddler said. “Why do we want to add another additional cost to the taxpayers by having another vote on this?”
Sturgill reminded Council there is already an election scheduled for November, so the cost would not be that much.
“There is going to be some cost for something like this to be on the ballot,” Saddler said. “Have you had a lot of people not to do this? Or not agree with what already happened or what?”
“If you go back and check the record, 64 people voted more than necessary. It won by 64 votes,” Sturgill said. “What I have heard over the last six months, we cannot afford our current government. So I don’t think, as a matter of the political campaign that there was much discussion at all last time, as to what this is really going to cost. We have had a lot of issues over the last 10 or 12 years, and most of the time all the issues are laid at the doorstep of the Mayor’s office. But I would argue that there’s enough blame over the last 12 years on the Council that has created many of the financial issues that we now face.”
While much discussion took place, most of the Council members had removed their microphones and could not be heard by the people in attendance or in the media, a consistent problem at Council meetings. For a time, Third Ward Councilman Nick Basham turned up the system, but with many of the microphones lying in front of the Council members, there was still periods where no one involved in the conversation could be heard.
Sturgill asked for an ordinance to be prepared, but by a 4 to 1 vote, that was rejected.
“The only alternative that I see is that obviously there would have to be a committee put together,” Sturgill said after the meeting. “There would have to be enough signatures on those petitions to make it mandatory for them (Council) to take a look at 1,500 signatures and be compelled to determine this is an issue people are concerned about. What I want to find out is if the people of this community understand what the financial burden is that they are going to be encumbered with over the next 10 years. If we can lay out a plan what EPA is going to cost us - in turn that is going to be wastewater, water, sewage, and if people understand over the course of the next 10 years, in addition to the expense for City Manager, they are willing to pay that, I don’t have a problem. But that’s not what I hear.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com.