SCOTTSBLUFF — After a motion to include the Monument Pathway project as an emergency item failed to pass Monday night, Scottsbluff city staff worked to set up a special meeting for Wednesday to re-address that issue as well as downtown sidewalk sales scheduled for Thursday through Saturday.
The special meeting will be at the council chambers at 6 p.m. and will cover the discussion of the pathway as well as a potential vote on a festival permit for the sidewalk sales and other items that were on the consent calendar Monday.
A measure to approve a community festival permit for the Downtown Scottsbluff Association was a part of the consent calendar along with five other items Monday night for the Scottsbluff City Council. Council member Scott Shaver made a motion to hear each item individually. With Mayor Raymond Gonzales out of town on business, the four council members present voted 2-2 on Shaver’s motion and the motion died. A second motion to approve the consent calendar as a whole met the same fate with council members Jeanne McKerrigan and Terry Schaub voting in favor and Shaver and Nathan Green opposed.
Shaver said Robert’s Rules of Order for meetings should have allowed any member of the board to pull off individual items to discuss separately, however, City Attorney Kent Hadenfeldt indicated that a vote of the council was required. According to Hadenfeldt, Section 6-1-18 of the city’s municipal code indicates that a majority vote of the council is required to amend an agenda, such as singling out the specific consent items. Hadenfeldt said section 6-1-40 of the municipal code sets up Roberts Rules of Order as a fallback for anything not covered in previous items of the code.
As a result of the split vote, the Downtown Scottsbluff Association did not receive the required permit for the sidewalk sales. Angela Kembel, DSA representative and owner of Cappuccino and Company, said the sales will go on without the special permit. She said several businesses have indicated that they will go to the city to get individual permits for their locations and several other businesses will be conducting the same sales they would have on the sidewalk, but will have the merchandise inside instead.
“It’s just unfortunate that we would have to go through this process,” Kembel said, indicating that each individual business would have to pay it’s own permit fee and provide proof of insurance rather than going forward on the blanket permit that has always been used before. She added that the sidewalk sale, normally held the weekend after Oregon Trail Days, is a big event for several businesses, such as TC and More, which brings on additional staff for the event.
Kembel said the snag does not dampen the sales and she hopes that one day everyone can look back and see it as a learning experience — and that she will make sure to request the festival permit well in advance of the sales next year.
“We do understand that things can get caught up in process, it’s just unfortunate,” she said.
Scottsbluff City Manager Nathan Johnson said staff is working on sorting through all possible actions.
“We’re just trying to work through things to see whether it’s a possibility,” Johnson said.
City hall has been inundated with phone calls from the public, including from downtown business owners who are upset with the council’s actions.
The proposal to add an emergency action item to hear arguments about canceling the northern leg of the pathway met the same fate as the consent calendar when Shaver and Green voted against and McKerrigan and Schaub voted in favor.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation on Monday morning sent an e-mail to Johnson indicating that the city could change the proposed pathway route to eliminate the northern portion of the trail, a portion that several residents of the area have argued against as it would take away some of their property as the state gains right-of-way.
The city would be facing the possibility of re-paying the state $50,000-100,000 in order for the state to make the change. The state added that it needed a response Monday. With no emergency action approved, the council could not take action and Johnson was forced to respond to the state indicating that the council decided not to act and to request an open-ended time extension.
As of Tuesday morning, Johnson said the state had responded to his e-mail and several calls had been exchanged, “but it’s all up in the air at this moment.”
Shaver said he opposed the emergency action because he didn’t see that the measure fit criteria for such action,
“There was no fire, no flood,” Shaver said. “It just didn’t get put on the agenda like I had asked.”
After the council’s meeting July 1, Shaver texted Johnson requesting that a discussion of the pathway be put on the agenda for Monday’s meeting. Shaver believes that if that blanket item had been put on the agenda that the council could have discussed anything within the realm of the pathway, including the proposed change.
However, Johnson and Hadenfeldt indicated during Monday’s meeting that that was not the case. Shaver said he didn’t want to risk violating open meeting laws, so he voted against the emergency action. According to Hadenfeldt, agenda items are required to be specific enough so that a reasonable person would know what might be discussed, meaning that a blanket, generic agenda item would not have allowed for the council to discuss the DOT proposal and an emergency item would have had to have been declared anyway.