Finance Committee Resolves Salt Spreader Procedural 'Hiccup'

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
City Garage
City Garage

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – Smiling and shaking hands after a burden has lifted, 2010 Council chairman James Insco and Mayor Kim Wolfe shook hands after resolving an administration decision to purchase a salt spreader.

At the December 13 meeting, Huntington City Council turned down the purchase of two salt spreaders, emphasizing that the department had failed to properly protect its equipment. The surprise council decision came just as a snow storm dropped inches of the white stuff.

Shortly thereafter, Mayor Wolfe contacted Finance Chairman Steve Williams individually inquiring about reducing the spreader purchase from two to one. The spreader cost $8,000, which would put it below the $15,000 threshold necessitating prior council approval.

Although some council members were advised of the mayor’s decision, others were not. Insco told the committee “there’s not one person bigger than the other ten.” Some of those not consulted had expressed concern that the timing of the purchase could be perceived as disrespecting council’s decision.

Vice Chairman Mark Bates emphasized concerns that while procedurally correct the spreader purchase following the no vote by council had the potential for establishing a method for avoiding a council decision. Bates added that one message during the meeting had been that the older equipment had been improperly maintained.

Jim Ritter had introduced the first reading of a proposal that would have reduced the non-council approval purchasing limit back to $5,000. In 2008, council raised the threshold to $15,000 , which represented a compromise based on inflationary factors. The $5,000 limit had been in effect since the 70s.

Mayor Wolfe told council “the $15,000 limit has worked well and will continue to work well.” Fire Chief Craig Moore, Police Chief Skip Holbrook and Public Works Director David Hagley all supported the $15,000 limit.

Chief Moore, in particular, made a strong case for retaining the $15,000 limit. Stressing that we are “within our budget,” he told of a fire station back door replacement that cost more than $5,000. Though not characterized as an emergency, the delay of a month for two readings before council would have cost the city excess energy.

Councilman Nate Randolph suggested that the proposed purchase reduction was a “snap reaction” classifying the purchase of one spreader as a mere “hiccup” along what he termed “a comedy of errors” along the working together path.

Chairman Williams acknowledged that he had answered in the affirmative when Wolfe asked, ‘Can I buy one?” He apologized if his advice inadvertently led to the non-notification of other members.

The learning curve now seemed to stress re-doubling efforts to ensure that all members of council are notified of significant issues and decisions, even if they represent compromise or properly follow procedure.

At the last council  meeting, chairman Jim Insco had tactfully, yet symbolically, characterized his unhappiness with the decision using an analogy of a dating “break up.” . Insco had carefully noted that a restoration of working together was solvable. The finance committee meeting proved to be the discussion and ‘make up’ by all parties.




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