The Saratoga Sun -

Talking 'bout a resolution

At short Saratoga Town Council meeting, plenty of discussion about resolution signed outside of public meeting

 

March 25, 2020



Unlike more recent meetings of the Saratoga Town Council, the March 17 meeting of the governing body was under 30 minutes due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Despite the shortness of the meeting and the limited agenda, there was still plenty of discussion within that half hour.

That discussion came as the town council was informed that they needed to place priority on two Mineral Resource Grant (MRG) applications submitted by the Town. One was submitted by the Saratoga Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD) under Resolution 2020-03, which was read and passed at the February 18 meeting. The other was submitted by the Saratoga Police Department.

Both departments pleaded their case to the governing body prior to the vote. SVFD Treasurer Creed James implored the council to place the MRG application for the fire department as the higher priority, stressing the importance of safety for the SVFD members.

“For us, it’s a safety issue and I think that’s the biggest thing and I think that’s what we really need to look at because our gear is out of compliance and we’ve been working getting it back into compliance,” said James. “No one gets hurt, it might not be an issue, but if we get paged out on a call and someone gets hurt or worse, investigators are going to come look at our gear and, if it’s out of compliance, then we’re really in a bad spot.”

According to Creed, additional issues would be insurance payouts if there was a death in the line of duty and the equipment was found to be out of compliance. The SVFD Treasurer stated that non-compliant gear discovered during an investigation could impact money paid out to the family of a fallen firefighter.

Sergeant Tyler Christen informed the council that the police department was looking at two vehicles that were showing signs of mechanical issues and had over 100,000 miles on the engine.

“At some point, those vehicles are going to go down for repairs. Whether it’s just driving around town or responding to an emergency in town,” said Christen.

Christen added that, should a vehicle go down while responding to a call and another officer is unable to respond in time, the Town could face possible civil litigation for not providing adequate vehicles to law enforcement.

“I think maybe this could make it a little easier to decide. I noticed, when we got our council packets ... we had a Resolution 2020-06 in there and I remember the February 18 meeting where we passed Resolution 2020-03 and 2020-04,” said Councilmember Jon Nelson. “I’d like to ask what happened to Resolution 2020-05. Was 2020-05 signed and submitted?”

Saratoga Town Clerk Suzie Cox retrieved Resolution 2020-05 from her office and placed it before the council. Councilmember Judy Welton read the document and stated that it was for the purpose of purchasing new vehicles for the Saratoga Police Department. When asked by Nelson when it was signed, Welton stated the date was February 18.

“It was not. It was not read or brought before the council at that meeting,” Nelson said.

Indeed, according to minutes from the February 18 meeting there were only two resolutions publicly read and signed by Mayor John Zeiger following permission from the council. The first, 2020-03, was for the SVFD to submit an MRG application. The second, 2020-4, was to approve the Saratoga-Carbon County Impact Joint Powers Board to apply for a Wyoming Business Council grant for the extension of water and sewer services to the south of town.

At the February 18 meeting, Zeiger had asked legal counsel Tom Thompson the proper way to approach the Saratoga Police Department’s request to submit an MRG application. Thompson informed the council that they could give the mayor permission to sign the grant application, adding that Cox had already indicated a resolution would only be needed if the grant application was awarded.

Nelson, following his statement that Resolution 2020-05 was not brought before the council at the February 18 meeting, read from Wyoming State Statute 16-4-403. The statute, part of the public meetings act, reads, “All meetings of the governing body of an agency are public meetings, open to the public at all times, except as otherwise provided. No action of a governing body of an agency shall be taken except during a public meeting following notice of the meeting in accordance with this act. Action taken at a meeting not in conformity with this act is null and void and not merely voidable.”

The council member stated that his interpretation of the statute was that Resolution 2020-05 was void and signed illegally as it was not done in a public meeting. Nelson then made a motion that the MRG application from the Saratoga Police Department be withdrawn. That motion died due to lack of a second as the rest of the council appeared to prefer ratifying the resolution at the next meeting rather than withdrawing the application.

Nelson made a second motion that the Saratoga Town Council place the MRG application from SVFD as top priority. That motion was passed unanimously.

The next meeting of the Saratoga Town Council will be at 6 p.m. on April 7 at Saratoga Town Hall.

 

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