Mayor tells council Monday that fire hall decision can't be referred to a public vote by David Lias Members of the Vermillion City Council were stunned Monday when Mayor William Radigan announced that citizens won't have an opportunity to vote on the construction of a new $1.2 million fire/ambulance building.
Alderman Joe Grause isn't satisfied simply by the mayor's statement, however. He plans to seek legal advice, and told the Plain Talk that he is hopeful that Monday's decision of the city council can be referred to a public vote.
Radigan told members of the council that the issue couldn't be put before voters because the council was making an administrative decision.
He made those comments after two motions to reward the project to the building's lowest bidder had failed Monday, and Alderman Kevin Annis made reference to the public's opportunity to vote during discussion of the facility's funding.
"We in the Labor and Finance Committee did decide that if the council wanted to spend the money, there would be sufficient money in that second penny sales tax with some of the different things that have happened lately," he said. "I don't have a big problem if this council were decide to do it, because I'm relatively sure that it would go to an election and the people would decide.
"It's my feeling that the people don't want to spend this money," Annis added, "and it doesn't matter what compromise you come up with."
"Is what we're doing here legislative or adminstrative and is it referable to a vote of the people?" Radigan asked City Attorney Martin Weeks.
"That's a good question but I think that if you study that over, I believe in this case it would not be referable," Weeks said.
During the city council's June 12 meeting, Grause said he was concerned that citizens of Vermillion would be forced to pay for a fire hall/ambulance facility they don't want.
"Whether it's what the people of the city want, the further you push it, the faster it's going to get pushed through," he said.
Radigan told Grause at that June meeting that the final decision on this issue would rest with citizens.
"They (citizens) can always bring it to a vote. If they want it or not � that's their choice," Radigan said June 12. "This is an action that will be subject to a vote of the people, and if they don't want it, all they will have to do is circulate a petition, file it and it has to go to a vote."
When Grause reminded Radigan Monday of what he said in June, Radigan replied that the right time to circulate petitions and bring the issue to a public vote was in June, even though bids for the project hadn't even been opened at that time.
Annis said he favors construction of a new fire hall facility, but said the city may be focusing on what it wants rather than what it needs.
"It was my understanding that when we get to this point, that the people would be able to vote on whether we made the right decision or not," Annis said. "The fact is that if they can't, that just makes it a stronger no vote from me."
Alderman Roger Kozak also indicated that the notion that the public couldn't refer the council's decision left him "totally amazed."
Grause said seven out of 10 people he has talked to oppose spending so much on a fire station. He plans to speak with an attorney, and is hopeful that petitions can be circulated to call for an election.