STANTON — Water, or rather the temporary lack of it during Old Fashioned Days, was the hot topic at Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Stanton City Commission.
Members of the capacity crowd who turned out for the meeting were upset over the fact that a city hydrant had been shut down by police while it was being used to fill a portable swimming pool for the Ultimate Air Dogs event at the festival. The officer who ordered the hydrant closed cited a city ordinance prohibiting the use of hydrants for nonemergency use by the city.
Several residents immediately contacted Stanton Mayor Monica Tissue-Daws to complain about the shutoff. Tissue-Daws OK’d the use of the hydrant and it was turned back on so the pool could be filled.
At Tuesday’s meeting, angry business owners and residents sought to discover the person responsible for instructing the officer to turn the hydrant off. The issue was initially broached by Councilman Ken Burris, then quickly picked up by the audience during the public comments portion of the meeting.
“I want to know why the water was shut off when (former city manager) James Freed gave the city permission to furnish water to Old Fashioned Days for (the past) three years,” Burris said.
Tissue-Daws responded that she had “been advised” the water usage was a violation of a city ordinance. She also noted that she had “nothing in writing” showing that Freed had given the green light to the water usage during his tenure as manager.
Burris continued to pressure Tissue-Daws for the name of the person responsible for the shutoff, but she responded that she “had no idea.”
“That’s why I turned the water back on,” Tissue-Daws said. “I didn’t want to wreck the event. Our police officer decided to shut it off. They’re not required to call me. I dealt with it the best way possible. It wasn’t discussed beforehand.”
Burris countered that whoever shut the water off “jumped the gun,” adding that it was good that Tissue-Daws turned it back on, but that it should never have been turned off in the first place. Burris intimated that problems were not being handled well since Freed’s departure.
“James (Freed) was more qualified to run a city than any of us sitting at this table,” Burris said.
“Well, I certainly appreciate your vote of confidence,” Tissue-Daws responded. “Do you actually think I liked dealing with this issue?”
Several people in the audience, including Judy Guevara, owner of Hotel Montcalm, claimed that city Clerk Janet Davis was responsible for telling the officer to order the hydrant turned off. Local attorney Ron Finegood also blamed Davis for the shutoff.
Guevara was even more critical of Davis and the rest of the commission.
“I’ve lived and run a business here for 20 years,” Guevara said. “There’s just a mean-spiritedness that comes out of this council and permeates the city. This is not an isolated incident; there’s just a nastiness that comes out of here that’s just not right.”
When contacted earlier Tuesday by The Daily News, Davis said she had “no idea” what was being said and denied even being aware of the incident.
“I can’t imagine why they’re blaming me,” she said. “I had nothing to do with it.”
Tissue-Daws said she would consult the city’s attorney about the possibility of somehow changing the ordinance to allow for hydrant use in future, similar situations.
In another water-related incident, city resident Celeste Stout again addressed the commission, noting that the costs associated with cleanup and repair of her basement — damaged because of improperly installed drainage pipes during last summer’s infrastructure renovations — had yet to be reimbursed by the city.
Stout has appeared at several commission meetings this summer and says she has yet to hear back from Tissue-Daws or the city’s attorney on the matter, despite having repeatedly submitted requested paperwork to the city.
Burris suggested the contractor should provide the reimbursement before receiving final payment from the city. The commission voted unanimously in support of Burris’ motion.
In other business, commissioners approved a contract to be presented to incoming city manager Jake Eckholm, who has already indicated he will accept the offer. If all goes according to plan, Eckholm will begin working Sept. 2.
As part of a shared manager agreement, Eckholm also will serve as manager to the village of Lakeview.