By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
COUNCILPERSONS PAST AND PRESENT
Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick swore in Councilpersons Marianne Naslund, John Seehuus and Rocky Walker last Thursday at Sultan City Hall. The three were elected to council during November’s election along with Bob McCarty. Councilperson Bob McCarty was sworn in during the month of December.
On-hand to congratulate the newcomers were ex-Councilmembers Kay George, Steve Slawson and Kristina Blair, who chose to support the first council meeting of 2014 by occupying seats in the audience.
SULTAN STAKEHOLDERS’ GROUP COMMENTS
Al Wirta, spokesman for the Sultan Utility Stakeholders Group, spoke and informed council that unless city officials agreed to negotiate with them, they will proceed with their lawsuit against the city for misappropriation of funds.
The Stakeholders Group initially brought suit against the city in October of 2012. The group alleged that the city had been misusing ratepayer funds by utilizing utility-fund money on expenditures not related to the improvement or benefit of the utility; an act that is not permissible by law. The lawsuit was at first dismissed, but soon after, a Snohomish County Judge granted a motion to reconsider.
The Stakeholders’ group then decided to try another approach.
“In an attempt to save the taxpayers money, we put the lawsuit on hold in hopes the new council would be willing to settle this matter out of court,” said Wirta.
Wirta described how the group proceeded to support city council candidates who had made a commitment to them to prioritize the resolution of the alleged utility-fund issues. During the recent election campaign, the group actively supported then-incumbent Councilperson Kay George, Bart Dalmasso and Bob McCarty, only one of whom was elected.
The group maintains their allegations.
“We have always been willing to sit down, off the record, with our respective attorneys, and the mayor and the council, and attempt to work out our differences,” said Wirta.
He stated that the Stakeholders’ Group had now advised him to approach the new council with an offer to negotiate.
“The ratepayers feel that it is prudent to make this offer directly to the city’s new decision makers,” said Wirta.
He requested a response be received by Monday, Jan. 13. He advised that if the Utility Stakeholders’ Group receives no notification from the city, they will proceed with the litigation.
In an effort to have Sultan’s 2035 population allocation reduced, the city will be moving forward to obtain an Environmental Impact Statement. The EIS is being required by Snohomish County in order to update the Urban Growth Area. The city has made application for these changes to be included on the county’s 2015 docket.
The proposed update removes land known as the Trout Farm Road area, and adds in its place two smaller, more developable areas.
A lowered population allocation for the city will significantly reduce impact fees for water and sewer when it comes to new development.
Council authorized city staff to move forward with the environmental study.
Signage in support of the upcoming Sultan School District levy sparked a bit of concern from ex-Councilperson George.
Sultan City Council meetings typically end with a second public comment period, giving attendees the opportunity to comment on agenda items only. George spoke, questioning whether or not advocacy for a ballot measure expressed during a council meeting was appropriate.
At cluster of signs in support of the upcoming school levy had been positioned within council chambers so as to be available to those who wished to have one.
“I understand that this ballot measure will probably pass, as most city school measures do pass,” said George.
She then encouraged council to investigate the propriety of a ballot issue being presented during a council meeting.
MAYOR PRO TEM
Councilperson Marianne Naslund moved to appoint Councilperson Joe Neigel as Mayor Pro Tem. The motion was seconded by Councilperson Davenport-Smith and passed by council unanimously.