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Boes takes oath as Williams councilman
Kent Boes took his oath of office as a first-time Williams city councilman on Wednesday night and quickly learned that sometimes politics can be rough.
And if that is not enough, Boes is in line to be mayor at the end of 2013.
City Administrator Chuck Bergson also took his oath as the city clerk, and John Troughton Jr. was sworn in for a second four-year term on the council.
A divided City Council selected Pat Ash as the new mayor, and later sparred with representatives of the Williams Fire Protection Authority over the city's share of the budget.
"I can see the handwriting on the wall, and the vote is going to go against me, so I see no reason to second the motion," Troughton said after Councilman Alfred Sellers had nominated him to repeat another year as mayor.
That motion had followed one by Councilwoman Angela Plachek-Fulcher to nominate Ash. Boes seconded that motion.
So after Sellers' motion failed to get a second, the council voted 3-2 to name Ash mayor.
A similar scenario played out when Sellers' motion to nominate himself as vice mayor did get support from Troughton, but lost on a 2-3 vote.
Boes, nominated by Fulcher with support from Ash, won the seat on a 3-2 vote.
And that would not be the last of the political jousting between Troughton and Ash, who had two very different stories about whether the proposed 2012-13 Fire Authority budget came to the city's Finance Committee.
Ash, a member of the fire board, said it did; Troughton said he never saw a complete budget.
But that dispute did not change the essential fact, which was the council as a whole did not get a copy of the final proposed budget 20 days prior to the JPA approval as required.
Part of the confusion was about when the fire budget was actually approved.
What is now being called a preliminary budget was passed in September, and apparently was sent to the city with a letter.
However, city staff said it did not get the budget or the letter.
Either way, that budget was not intended to be the final version since so much rested on Measure G passing on Nov. 6, which it did, making permanent a half-cent sales tax increase first approved six years ago, but set to sunset at the end of March.
The fire board then adopted the same budget again after the election, but the representatives at the meeting conceded they did not notify the city 20 days prior to taking the action.
The result has been the city was working off the 2011-12 fire budget, the city's share of which is about $245,700 and about $15,000 less than the new budget.
The city pays 70 percent of the total budget.
The fire authority has been working off the new budget, putting the city about $9,000 behind in payments, including late fees based on 12 percent interest.
However, Fire Authority representatives Doug Turner and Gerry Nall were clearly frustrated by the fact the council was claiming lack of knowledge about the budgets when two council members — in this case, Ash and Fulcher — sit on the fire board.
Turner was equally concerned about a statement attributed to Finance Director Rex Greenbaum, who reportedly stated that the city intended to use increases in the motel tax as part of its share to the fire authority.
Greenbaum did not attend the meeting.
Turner said the motel tax is supposed to supplement the budget, not supplant part of the city's responsibility.
None of that satisfied Troughton, however, who argued the fire board has an obligation to send the budget to the city 20 days prior to approval.
He was upset about the lack of formal communication, and believed the two sides should be working more closely for a common goal of public safety.
Troughton suggested that without full council oversight, the city could end up with a cost liability it does not want.
Troughton argued the fire authority could approve a $1 million budget, and the city would be obligated to pay $700,000, Troughton said.
That raised the ire of Nall, who said that would not happen; and Turner noted it takes a four-fifths vote to approve the budget, and there are two council members on the board to protect the city's interests.
"That is why the (fire authority) was set up the way it was," Turner said.
That stated, Troughton also pointed out that he would have supported a city share that is even greater than what the fire board ultimately approved.
He said the share of responses for city calls compared to rural calls justifies a higher share.
That was later supported by Ash, who noted that in the previous month, 86 percent of the calls the department responded to were inside the city.
In the end, it was a suggestion by Boles that led to a compromise.
The budget would come back to the council in January for formal approval. In the meantime, the city would pay the money owed based on the 2012-13 budget, and the fire authority representatives agreed that the late fees could be waived.