County Bond Gets Final OK

FAIRFIELD – County Council passed the third and final reading on an ordinance to issue $24.06 million in bonds at a special called meeting Monday night, but not without considerable discussion and suggestions by one Council member that the issue might have been rushed through and critical decisions made in secret.

Councilwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) said the issue had moved through Council very quickly, without Council having had the opportunity to truly sit down and discuss it. Robinson questioned the amount of money designated for recreation in the economic development plan funded by the bonds, and how that $500,000 per district would be spent.

“We saw the wish list in 2009,” Robinson said. “We saw it again in 2011, and the next presentation we have is by Tiffany Harrison (Fairfield Economic Development Director) and it’s already what we want and we vote on it. It’s voted on back there to go forward with it. There are too many things in this bond issue that we have never discussed. We’re talking about $3.5 million for recreation.”

Robinson also questioned the $100,000 slated for upgrades to fire departments in each district.

“Who’s going to make that decision?” Robinson asked. “Is council never going to have any input in anything anymore? Because in the last several months Council has had input in very few things and it is time that Council starts taking their responsibility for which they were elected, and doing this rather having than things dictated to us by two or three people.”

Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) took issue with what he perceived as Robinson’s characterization of votes taking place behind closed doors.

“I want to clarify, there’s never been a vote ‘back there’ as long as Mr. Ferguson has been on Council,” Ferguson said. “You guys with pencils, I want to be real clear. There’s never been a vote taken outside this room. It is kind of disturbing to this Chair that someone on this Council feels that they have not been informed and the other six of us evidently have been informed, because we’ve all been at the same meetings.”

Vice Chairman Dwayne Perry (District 1) also took issue, this time with Robinson’s charge that Council was being led around by the nose.

“Last I checked, we get to vote on this,” Perry said. “I’m not the type of person where I’m going to have anything dictated to me. Sure, we’ve been talking about this (recreation)  . . .  I don’t think it’s a matter of where we’re going to put them (parks), we’re just talking about the funding to put them, and to improve fire protection. No one is making us vote a particular way.”

Robinson later backed away from her suggestion that votes were taken in executive session, but stood firm on her assertion that Council was being kept out of the loop on important matters.

“I misspoke about voting ‘back there.’ Consensus is back there, not votes,” she said. “I’m very disturbed about things that are coming down that I feel are dictated to us without an actual workshop we were supposed to have for lots of things so we all have an opportunity to try to work things out and talk about them. Knowing that I’ve been in the process a long time, this is typical legislation. You come up with brilliant ideas, then when it’s time to put pencil to paper, there is no exact system in working it out.”

“This (bond issue) is more than just about recreation,” Perry added. “We’ve had plenty of opportunity to discuss all these items.”

Mikel Trapp (District 3) said he was also concerned with the recreation aspect of the bond, although he supported the bond issue as a whole. In District 3, he said, there are 14 communities and a single regional park would be of little use to them. The district already has several mini-parks, he said, and a few more similar facilities would better benefit the area.

“My opinion would be that once we pass this, we sit down and give each district the option to decide what’s best for their district,” Trapp said. “If we could get a couple more (mini-parks) in the areas that do not have anything, I think that would suit the citizens fine.”

“I don’t think Council would turn a deaf ear to that,” Ferguson replied.

The bond issue passed final reading on a 4-1 vote, with Robinson the lone dissenter. Councilmen David Brown (District 7) and Kamau Marcharia (District 4) were not present at Monday night’s meeting. Council will hold their next regular meeting April 22 at 6 p.m.