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Tension high at Bear River council meeting

Posted: Tuesday, Jun 18th, 2013

BEAR RIVER — Tempers flared at the June 11 meeting of the Bear River Town Council, when the board voted to remove former mayor Robin Rhodes from the Bear River Regional Joint Powers Board, and replace him with current mayor Troy Nolan. And the vocal critics did not limit their comments to that issue, though it was the only new business appearing on the agenda.

After councilor Brian Stokes moved to remove Rhodes from the Joint Powers Board, an elderly Bear River resident — individuals were not asked by the council to identify themselves — was the first to forcefully express his disdain for the group.

“You people have gone too far,” the man said. “Trust me — I know. I’m 79 years old; I’m not a kid. I’ve been through all this a hundred times. You’d better settle back a take a good look at what you’re doing to this town. Not to individual people — but to this town. There are 500 people out there, and every time you open your mouths, it’s 500 people.”

Bear River resident Rick Eskelson then asked the council why they were seeking Rhodes’ removal.

“I’m going to be honest with you,” Nolan responded. “State statutes and the Joint Powers Board say we do not have to give a reason; therefore, I’m not going to give one.”

Nolan’s comment elicited some heated exchanges, which were followed by a more specific reason from Stokes for Rhodes’ removal.

“Robin Rhodes, I think the world of [him],” Stokes told the full house. “I’ve worked with him for 11 years, and he’s done a lot of good for this town. I think he’s been wonderful to have around. The problem I have — and this is the main thing I’m [supporting this] for — is we cannot have two bosses at town hall. When somebody comes in and interferes with town employees doing their jobs, after we have a duly-elected mayor by the 500 people you spoke of…[Rhodes] can’t come in and contradict what he’s doing.”

Stokes also asserted there has been contention among Joint Powers Board members as a result of Rhodes’ continued involvement, as well.

“It’s not politics,” Stokes said, “I just want things to settle down around here and run right.”

“It’s not about me,” Rhodes retorted, “it’s about the water system. The water system’s not even completed.”

“The water system will function fine,” Stokes said. “We have good people in place, and good people to service it.”

Rhodes then made reference to an email from Evanston Mayor Joy Bell — copies of which he circulated to those in attendance, as well as the Herald, implying that the letter suggested the contrary.

Councilor Jerry Sage then responded aggressively with his own opinion of the situation.

“I hadn’t entirely made up my mind, but you just made up my mind for me,” Sage told Rhodes. “It’s not fair to place these employees in the position you just put them in. It’s not fair, and you’ve been doing it, and doing it and doing it. And you’re doing it right now, and it’s not fair to those employees.”

Another resident questioned the wisdom of removing Rhodes from the position due to his experience bringing water delivery to the community.

“I know it took a lot to get the water out here, and I know there was one person who got it done,” the man said, “and I think people ought to look at that as a value, not only to their homes, but also to their water systems.”

Another man said he lived out of town, but agreed the Joint Powers Board should keep someone who is able to effectively maintain it.

“We don’t live in the town…but I pay the water bill,” he said, “and I want somebody on there that knows what they’re doing, who started in and has seen it through, and has the connections to take care of the problems when they do arise. And we all pay the bill, all the way down the line. …The things that are going on out here are getting a little ridiculous.”

Former council man Ron Hornibrook echoed the sentiment.

“You all know that you don’t have anywhere near the expertise that Robin has,” Hornibrook said. “Robin started this, and pushed it to completion — well, almost completion, because it isn’t complete — and now you’re going to toss him aside and knit pick…you don’t know anything about water systems compared to Robin, none of you do. And you ought to be ashamed of yourselves for pushing him aside. Correct it with him, don’t just remove him.”

Following additional discussion, the board voted 4-1 to remove Rhodes from the Bear River Regional Joint Powers Board. Jennifer McMurtrey, Nolan, Stokes and Sage voted for the measure, while Margaret Huggins voted against it.

The board then approved the appointment of Nolan to the Joint Powers Board. Nolan abstained from the vote, though he remained in the room during its consideration.

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