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Citizens petition Armstrong council members to resign

By Staff | May 12, 2017

Sound issues complicated Monday night’s Armstrong City Council meeting as the citizens assembled repeatedly asked speakers to hold the microphone. The cord to the amplifier was somewhat short, and at times even speakers who remembered to pick up the mic were barely audible in the acoustics of the Armstrong Community Room.

Mayor Greg Buum attended the meeting and assumed his duty of leading the council through the agenda items. City attorney Brian Thul of Whittemore was also in attendance and defined and clarified a number of items.

During the public forum, Sheila Linge delivered a prepared statement about the public servants lost over the last 15 months due to discord in the city.

“We’ve lost many great people,” Linge said. Linge listed council member Clinton Davis, city clerk Connie Thackery, mayor Todd Eisenberg, and city attorney Chris Fuhrman among those who have left city service.

“We’re about to lose three more hardworking, dedicated people if things do not change,” Linge said.

Linge said she agreed with Dave Grussing in his letter to the editor when he wrote that the people of Armstrong deserve better.

“If you care about the future of Armstrong, you will all resign,” Linge said. Just as her time of two minutes ran its course, Linge said she had a petition asking for three council members’ resignations.

“Our city needs to come together as a whole,” Linge said.

In other business, the council reviewed the statute for authority to reinstate city clerk Kate Staton at the request of an unidentified citizen.

Buum said, “The question is over whether she should have been reinstated by the council.”

According to the city code, the mayor has the authority to appoint and remove department heads, the mayor pro-tem, and other officials.

The council, however, is responsible for hiring employees, including the city clerk, and setting parameters for the employees’ work tasks and conditions.

“That’s the legal position,” Thul said.

The council reached the end of its extension to turn in the city budget to the state. The council approved a general budget of $16,470,000.

The council addressed the issue of city attorney compensation. Thul said he had fielded numerous citizen calls since he was appointed last month. His hourly rate is $250.

After discussion, the council designated the mayor, council, city clerk, and police chief Craig Merrill as the ones with permission to generate a bill with the city attorney.

Thul said, “After this, I will probably decline public calls from Armstrong. I would redirect you to a council member.”

During the public forum portion of the meeting, Brent Nelson, whose property has generated a number of nuisance abatement actions, requested that someone other than police chief Merrill decide when the abatement warranted the seizure of Nelson’s property.

“I don’t want [Merrill] taking any more of my property without authority from the council. He should not be able to just come down and take what he feels like taking. Someone else should decide,” Nelson said.

Buum said, “This is set in code. That’s all I’ll say.”

Nelson said, “I would note [Buum] has several trailers on his property.”

Buum said, “This matter is not up for debate. We’re done.”

The citizens attending the meeting remained quiet and orderly. When a smattering of applause emerged, Buum told them, “Stop that. You’re not at a ballgame.”

The council approved a resolution to appoint a council member to replace resigned member Clinton Davis before the deadline passes to do so. That council member would have to run in the regular election in November.

The council also approved, with Nathan Anderson dissenting, a measure to allot $270,000 for plan and design of a new drinking water system.

Buum said, “This is a no-interest loan for three years. In that time, we will figure out payment either by a rise in taxes or in the water bills.”

The next meeting of the Armstrong City Council is scheduled for June 12 at 6 p.m.