City Attorney Kurt Voss said he could not have written the script any better in enacting what he termed an “emergency situation” last week regarding the consideration and eventual passage of an ordinance by the board of aldermen that inked a contract between the city and the St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce.
With the unusual meeting circumstances accompanying the ordinance, Voss told those in attendance that “because this is so unusual in nature,” he believed he could declare the emergency and allow Ward 1 Alderman Zach Fuchs to vote on the bill via a telephone call.
Fuchs was unable to attend the board’s first meeting of the year because he was called in to work an extra shift as a captain of the St. Clair Fire Protection District.
“Zach is not here tonight because of the bad weather,” Voss said. “Because of the uniqueness of this contract with the Chamber, I told the city administrator to get the alderman on the phone.”
The “uniqueness” Voss was referring to centered on the fact that two of St. Clair’s four aldermen have direct ties to the local Chamber. They previously have abstained from making decisions relating to the city and the Chamber leading up to last week’s ordinance.
Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Tate is a member of the board of directors and is the Chamber’s 2014 president. Ward 2’s Barb McGlenn works for the St. Clair License Office, which is under the direction of the Chamber and Executive Director Angela Crawford.
That only left then Ward 2 Alderman Travis Dierker as an “active” board member in attendance.
So, Fuchs was called by City Administrator Rick Childers so he could voice his opinion.
Shortly before the phone call, however, St. Clair Fire Protection District personnel were dispatched to a motor vehicle accident on Interstate 44. When Fuchs answered his cellphone, sirens could be heard in the background as a truck and crew responded to the scene.
“The Sunshine Law permits an emergency situation like this if an alderman can hear the meeting (in progress) and the public can hear the alderman,” Voss said amid the screaming of the sirens, adding that Fuchs must be on the phone’s speaker at the time.
Fuchs said he was.
With the sirens blaring in the background through the cellphone, Dierker made the motion for the board to approve the ordinance, which called for the city to enter into an agreement for professional services with the St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce.
The ordinance reads that the Chamber will make necessary updates to the LOIS system as needed and keep information current during the year for a $3,500 fee.
LOIS stands for Location One Information System.
With sirens continuing to sound in the background, Childers then asked Fuchs if he had heard the motion. Fuchs said yes.
Childers then asked Fuchs if he would like to second the motion. Fuchs said yes.
Dierker and Fuchs then voted in favor while Tate and McGlenn abstained.
Blum cast a third “aye” vote.
Fuchs then hung up so he could work the accident.
“I haven’t done anything like that before in 25 years,” Voss said afterward.
The $3,500 for the agreement was included in the city’s 2014 budget.
After all ordinances were discussed, Dierker resigned his position as an alderman so he could be appointed as the city’s new assistant city administrator. He started his new job last Tuesday.
Other ordinances for consideration on Jan. 6 did not have the same aura of excitement surrounding them, but they were passed nonetheless.
One amended a portion of Chapter 15 of the city’s code regarding the appointment of counsel for the indigent in certain cases.
Voss said this ordinance was drafted after a request from Municipal Court Judge A. David Arand.
In a nutshell, Voss said the ordinance cleans up language and follows U.S. Supreme Court regulations regarding the appointment of counsel.
He said that if the city is considering taking away a “liberty right” and putting an individual in jail, legal counsel can be appointment upon request.
However, “if someone came in with a speeding ticket, we would not appoint counsel,” the city attorney said.
A third ordinance approved last week amends Chapter 6 of the city’s code regarding sediment and erosion control requirements.
The city’s planning and zoning board recommended the amendment in October.
The ordinance outlines applications and protective measures.