BIG PINEY – A disagreement about who has authority to enforce a town ordinance led to a town official turning in his letter of resignation.
At the Big Piney Town Council’s June 20 meeting, building inspector Ron Davison approached and referred to a letter he had written to a property owner about what he perceived as violations on municipal property.
“(The property owner) did not get that letter,” Davison said to mayor Ben Jenkins and the council.
Jenkins said when he learned of Davison’s letter, he asked that it not be sent.
In it Davison apparently referred to what he described as trash and a safety hazard on town property, a sidewalk. He said town ordinances give him, as Big Piney’s building inspector, the authority to enter people’s private property to enforce them.
“It’s not your responsibility to write that letter,” Jenkins said. “That ordinance on ‘trash’ – where does it say you are responsible for ‘trash’?”
“Yes it is,” Davison said. “You went over my head twice now.”
Jenkins replied, “Being that I don’t work for you, I didn’t go over your head.”
The mayor said he asked the property owner “to clean the place up.”
“Are we going to have everybody remove their things on city property,” he said, adding that some lumber on the sidewalk was moved. “Are we going to go through everything that’s on city property and make them move it?”
Davison said he hears complaints about the property under discussion “every day.”
“It’s a mess,” he said. “And it’s my job…”
Jenkins said Davison’s job as a building inspector is to deal with people who come to the town for building permits and that would be the only reason he needed to go on private property.
“You’re not an enforcer. It’s up to the town,” he added.
Town attorney Scott Sargent said of inspection access, property owners “also have the right to say no.”
“The ordinance says I can enter at any time,” Davison stated.
Sargent said, “There’s nothing in the ordinances about garbage or weeds.”
“And if they ask you to leave, then leave,” Jenkins said. “There has to be a certain point where you walk away.”
Some residents objected to Davison’s entering the property; he commented that he considered bringing a deputy “to protect myself.”
“You would never do anything about this,” Davison told Jenkins, saying he’s often gone from Big Piney.
“We have different opinions, Ron,” Jenkins said. “I think it’s none of your business.”
“I think it is,” Davison responded.
Councilmember Scott Scherbel said he saw multiple issues at play.
“I would like to see (the) property look better but it doesn’t bother me,” Scherbel said. “Nobody has spoken to me about it other than you.”
As mayor, Jenkins “is responsible for giving directions … and the mayor has asked you to not take any steps,” Scherbel added.
Town employees can bring issues to the council but ultimately “do as the mayor asks as the administrator of the town or (choose to) not be an employee,” Scherbel said. “You’re defying the mayor.”
He said perceived trash, weeds and other problems should result in letters “to all of those property owners,” not just one. The town council hears about those issues and communicates with the mayor for his decision.
“For two years he’s been letting (the homeowner) dig a hole down there and fill it with trash,” Davison said. “Who controls the mayor?”
“If we feel he’s out of control, we do,” said Scherbel.
“Well, I think he is. If you think you can do it better,” Davison said, setting his resignation letter in front of Jenkins.
“We’ll accept your resignation,” Jenkins said.
When the council moved on to July Fourth festivities and the parade down Main Street, Councilmember Aimee Davison asked if the “hole” in question was safe for passersby.
“They can’t walk into it,” Jenkins said. After a brief discussion, the town agreed to offer the property owner some “nonpine logs” from a pile at the sewer lagoon to build a box around a hole.
The council then approved Bank of the West as the town bank and reappointed Kristi Gray as town clerk. It also unanimously approved the third and final reading of Ordinance 17-01, amending operations of retail liquor establishments in line, falling in line with Pinedale and Marbleton.
When it came time to discuss the budget, councilmembers shared copies of the draft – the town’s computer server “crashed” the week before and new copies weren’t yet – available and approved several small amendments.
Gray’s copy had her notes written on it but she made copies for the council.
“I might be able to get it cleaned up a little more,” she said, depending on how the problem is resolved.
Big Piney as well as Marbleton 2017-2018 budgets will be examined here in the near future.
“There is nothing on the hard drive,” Gray told the council, saying the server “ran with the Internet” and when the Internet is down or the power out, she couldn’t get onto town programs.
She didn’t yet know how much data was lost.
“I’m going to look into it,” she said. “Trust me; I’m going to try to get it as close as we can (to the crash).”
“We had the Internet down here for a week after that (recent) storm and we couldn’t do any work,” Scherbel said. He asked about Wi-Fi; Gray said it “doesn’t work” in the town offices.
The council discussed remote backup for $22 more a month.
“I have a sentimental dislike over someone else in full control of our data,” Scherbel said.
Councilmember Davison replied, “Well, no one has control right now.”
With high ground and running-water levels through the town due to record snowmelt, water/sewer employee Joe Dankelman said that water situation is just under control. However, the sewer system is still handling excess from a church’s leaky toilet, a trailer court with a broken line and a business with a large leak.
“Today we were running 1.2 million gallons through the sewer (to the Marbleton wastewater facility),” he said. “Too much.
“We need to have a meeting for that,” Jenkins said of a tabled proposal to charge customers more who don’t repair their outflow. The council set a workshop for Wednesday, June 28, at 6 p.m.