In an emergency session called on the eve of the Pioneer Day holiday, the mayor and City Council tried to quash rumor and appease apparently unhappy public safety volunteers who don't want a fire chief.
Responding to a letter written to the Council by Terry Sorensen, past president of the Ambulance Association, Mayor Ed Sanderson said he was incensed at some of the implications about the City Council, their actions and his own.Sorensen said he wrote the letter, listing a variety of concerns that include the redecoration of the mayor's office and the recent pay raises the City Council voted for themselves, not to cause trouble but to alert the officials to the divisiveness growing within the city.
"Very little in the letter is original," he said. "What I wrote is the sum of my contacts with city employees over the past two to three months."
Council members, including Freeman Andersen, Betty Memmott, Carol Har-mer and Lewis Church, said they were surprised at the negativity in the letter and anxious to establish better lines of communication.
"We couldn't get along without you," Church said.
"It's obvious that we have a communications problem," Andersen added.
Sorensen's three-page letter revolved largely around whether the city is going to name and/or hire a fire chief - something the city officials have discussed in budget work sessions but have not determined to do as yet.
"I'd like to straighten things out before they escalate," Sanderson said. "We're hoping our volunteer groups will support us in what we're trying to do."
He said naming a fire chief or asking the current public safety director, Mike Ferre, to oversee the volunteer fire department as well as the police department might bring the groups together. He said nothing has been decided and the volunteers are "too much resource" to risk losing.
Sanderson said he does not appreciate being told he thinks he's a god or that he is issuing edicts that are blindly followed.
"I'm mandated to supervise the public safety, by state law," he said. "That's why I'm there."
He suggested that changes being made in the way the city budget is handled and in moves to remodel and centralize the governmental departments may be upsetting people who are used to traditional patterns in the city.
"Give us a chance," said Councilwoman Carol Harmer. "If you and your people are frustrated, imagine how we feel."
Sorensen said the rising frustration cannot be ignored. He said the volunteers as well as others in the city are feeling unheeded and that fuels the fires of unrest.
"I am not an enemy," he said. "I wanted to open communication that has not been there."
The mayor and council members agreed that perhaps meeting together in an open forum in the near future would be a good idea.