Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TOP STORY >> Cabot sets rules on committees

Leader staff writer

Cabot City Council’s budget and personnel committee voted Monday night to recommend to the full council that commissioners be appointed to the council’s public-works committee and that they be allowed to vote. But the decision was not unanimous and the reaction was mixed.

For four years, all eight members of Cabot City Council’s public works committee were allowed to vote on issues that were to be placed before the city council, including the three commissioners who represented Cabot WaterWorks, the planning commission and parks. Commissioners are appointed by the city council, not elected by voters.

Bill Cypert became mayor in January and intended to continue the practice. He had already appointed commissioners from Cabot WaterWorks, planning and parks to the committee when City Attorney Jim Taylor informed him that the 2007 ordinance that set up the committees said nothing about appointing commissioners or allowing them to vote.

The ordinance said five council members would serve on each of three standing committees: fire and police, budget and personnel, and public works.

So Cypert asked the council to rescind the appointments until an ordinance clarifying that the non-council members on the public-works committee would be allowed to vote.

Alderman Kevin Davis, who like Cypert took office in January, was the only committee member who voted no, but others voiced concerns.

“What I haven’t wrapped my mind around is them having a vote to move something to the council,” Davis said.

Alderman Rick Prentice said his concern was that three non-council members could conceivably overrule council members and send proposed ordinances to the full council that the council members on the committee didn’t support.

Alderman Patrick Hutton, who is not a committee member, said what was needed from the three non-council members was their input.

“They won’t be restricted by not getting to vote,” he said.

Alderman Jon Moore said the question of voting should be left up to the chairman.

The practice of allowing non-council members to vote was started by Alderman Ed Long who chaired the public-works committee for four years.

Cypert, who represented Cabot WaterWorks on the public-works committee, said he wanted representatives from the three commissions on the public-works committee because he “liked the idea of building consensus.”

He said in a later interview, “I think it’s critically important to have the input from those three. But whether they vote or not is not an issue.”

In other business, the committee recommended the appointment of Aaron Benzing to the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission to replace Cypert who resigned at the end of December.

The committee also heard from Eddie Cook, director of operations, about new employee badges. The badges are color-coded red for fire, blue for police and black for the council. The badges will include pictures of the employees and bar codes with additional information.

The new badges were made in-house on a machine that cost the city about $2,000. The old badges were hand-made cards with glued on pictures.

The new badges will look more professional, Cook said.

During the comment portion of the meeting, Cypert told the committee that a piece of equipment in the street department called an Asphalt Zipper is dangerous because of the way it is mounted.

The Zipper essentially chews up old asphalt and turns it into a base for street repairs.

Currently, it is mounted in the bucket on the front of a backhoe.

Cypert said he learned from Gary Walker, an engineer and chairman of the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, that the Zipper is too heavy for the backhoe.

“It affects the center of gravity,” Cypert said. “It makes it front heavy.”

Carrying the Zipper is hard on the backhoe mechanically and also makes it dangerous because on ground that isn’t level, the back wheels sometimes don’t touch the ground.

Cypert said Walker’s advice is to remove the front bucket from the backhoe and weld quick connections on the backhoe, bucket and Zipper so the Zipper can be mounted directly to the backhoe.

Cypert said Walker, who knows about heavy equipment from his job with New Holland, also told him that the small backhoe to clean ditches that is included in the 2011 budget would be too small for the work it would need to do. Walker recommends a larger machine.

Cypert said in a later interview that the smaller backhoe would cost about $35,000 and the larger one would cost more than $100,000. There is money in the public works capital-improvement fund to pay for the larger machine, he said.