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Gilbert withdraws riverfront committee proposal

A proposal to create an informal committee for council to engage with downtown business owners has been scuttled.

Councilman Phil Gilbert withdrew his proposal after concerns were raised by multiple members of council during Monday night’s special meeting.

Gilbert said at the outset of the debate that his proposal would be an “ad hoc committee” that casually engages with the businesses in the area. He compared it to a parking committee council established a few years ago.

Mayor Maurice Cashman noted, though, that committee had an “objective and action plan

“This doesn’t prevent you from going down and talking to businesses,” he said, or joining the Trestle to Trestle group.

“I’m not sure appointing this committee is in the best interest of all.”

Gilbert said it’s an attempt to “bring in stakeholders and have conversations” in an area where he feels council should be more involved. He said it’s his view that the city tends to develop a plan and then, when finalized, present it in final form.

“I truly don’t believe that has been the case,” Vince DeJoy, the city’s planner, said. “(I) believe that the businesses are being informed.”

“I don’t really understand what’s the harm,” Councilman John Wortman said, arguing there is not a “central location” where people’s ideas collect.

“I think you work through the people that we have working on this project within the city who are going down there,” Cashman said, and working with the Trestle group. “This to me becomes almost like too many hands in the kitchen spoils the broth. It gets too confusing in my view.”

“My concern in a sense, at the end of the day, the people responsible to the public for the decisions that are made are the elected officials,” Wortman said. “Often times we’re brought ideas and weren’t initially involved because we weren’t on that committee (or) weren’t on that part of the city’s structure.”

Councilman Gregory Fraser said he is “somewhat concerned there could be mixed messages. What downtown business may hear from the three of you would be taken as the official voice of the council whereas that may not be what council decides.

“The mixture of messages concerns me,” he added.

Gilbert withdrew his proposal, asserting that it was his intention to make council be more involved in riverfront development.

EMS issue tabled

Council also tabled action on hiring a law firm relative to the broader EMS response issue.

“I believe there will be a work session scheduled in the future,” Wortman said. “I think all of council needs to have a conversation about… the way we go” before the firm is hired.

“Council needs to be informed of the data we’ve collected,” City Manager Nancy Freenock added.

“A lot of the reason why (we are) not retaining council now will come out. Our further actions will not necessitate requiring legal counsel now,” Cashman said.

Freenock proposed that work session for 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 18 prior to council’s regularly scheduled meeting.

“City staff might be able to do some things without paying an outside law firm,” she said.

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