City Council Meeting 7.11.23
All members of the Mountain Home City Council were present for the meeting on July 11, 2023.
The meeting began with department head reports.
Community Development Director Brock Cherry announced that residential building permits were coming in quickly.
Library Director Shasta Hochstrasser reported that 600 children signed up for the Summer Reading Program. She shared that about 200 of the children reported each week, and in total 8,643 books were checked out and read.
Police Chief John Thompson reported that 4 conditional hires were undergoing background checks.
The Parks and Recreation Director announced that work was beginning on setup for winter activities.
Fire Chief Mark Moore announced that there would be upcoming training for the firefighters utilizing the Sequel buildings. He also stated that the training wouldn’t involve live fire at this time.
Following the department head reports, Councilman Brennan addressed concerns that he had regarding mailboxes placed in the center of sidewalks on American Legion. He wanted to know the process for relocating mailboxes to make the sidewalks more accessible for individuals with disabilities. He was informed that the Post Office has control over the location of the mailboxes.
Next, Public Works Director Rich Urquidi stated that the upcoming water bills will reflect total water usage. He thanked the public for their patience as the new system rolls out.
Following this, there was a unanimous vote to approve the consent agenda.
A motion to approve the preliminary plat for the Silverstone Subdivision was approved unanimously.
Next, the council continued a previous discussion about the potential for increased fees for non-city residents participating in city programs, specifically parks and recreation programs.
Arguments in favor of the increase cited wait lists for activities such as soccer and asserted that an undue burden is put on city dwelling taxpayers when non-residents pay the same rate as residents. Arguments against the increase pushed for a “good neighbor” policy with residents of the Air Force Base and surrounding county community. Additionally, Councilman Bundy cited sales tax and Mountain Home’s vitality to the community as another defense of keeping the rate the same.
City council discussions continued surrounding the signing of a letter of support for Imagine Ventures, a development group seeking a partial tax abatement from Elmore County, to support their tax abatement.
Councilman Brennan expressed his belief that the proposed 5 year abatement at 85% was unjust, and that 2 years would be more sensible.
Before being stopped by the council’s legal representation as well as by an interjection from Councilman Bundy, Brennan appeared to suggest that the developers were waiting to purchase land based upon the council’s decision stating, “The same developer is buying land contingent upon this agreement.”
Brennan vehemently expressed that he would not approve the abatement at the rate and length proposed.
Councilman Bundy interjected stating, “This letter isn’t granting a tax abatement, it is strictly about supporting the project.”
Mayor Sykes seconded Brennan’s notion, stating “5 years is a long time.”
Councilwoman Garvey expressed her support for the project and the abatement stating, “I support it, I support them,” and, “I just want to see this project go.”
After more discussion, Garvey recommended removing the language in the letter that pertained to the tax exemption.
This prompted Brock Cherry to interject, “The tax exemption language is the language that was asked for and granted. You are talking about tax exemption approval, not project approval, that’s the expectation.”
After more discussion, Councilwoman Garvey made a motion to approve the letter for an abatement of “85% for 5 years, absolutely not longer.”
All but Councilman Brennan voted in favor of the motion.
After approving other new business items pertaining to development, the council heard from representatives for the Mellen Water District.
They currently use city water, though a lease granting it to them has expired. They will have the option to meet with legal counsel to discuss their options in further detail. For the time being, the city will continue to provide them with water.