RAWLINS — Rawlins City Council meeting exploded on Tuesday as City Manager Scott Hannum and Councilman Aaron Durst began a heated argument over code enforcement.
While their exchange did not occur until nearly 30 minutes into the proceedings, the tone of the meeting was set early, when a Rawlins resident roasted the council’s past actions relating to the ongoing lawsuit between the city of Rawlins and Dirty Boyz Sanitation.
With the formalities and pleasantries of proclamations out of the way, Tonya Lewman began her public comment quietly enough by thanking the city council for live streaming their meetings, but requested they remain on the website to circumvent falsely attributed statements.
Words of praise quickly turned to rebuke, however, as Lewman began a scathing indictment of the council’s actions in regards to their lawsuit with Dirty Boyz, accusing them of selectively enforcing their code to suit their own whims.
Lewman took special objection to the council’s defense of conspiracy explaining the lack of public input during discussion of the sanitation license.
“No one conspired to be silent. If given the opportunity, believe me, the entire room would have quite a few words to say,” said Lewman. “You wouldn’t have been able to shut them up.”
The council did not take kindly to the accusations, but dutifully sat through Lewman raking them over the coals.
While Lewman’s comments provided fuel to the visibly on-edge council, discussion of allowing auxiliary power units to run unattended and its enforcement provided the spark that plunged the meeting into a heated argument.
Durst produced a report from the Rawlins Fire Department, given to him by one of his constituents, which showed precisely the worst case scenario brought up by Vice Mayor Steve Sanger during his speech of opposition to unattended, running vehicles.
The report recounted an incident where a truck, parked next to a home’s intake vent, flooded the residence with carbon monoxide, forcing evacuation. The main issue for Durst: no citation or warning was issued in the case.
“There was no legal reprimand to the person that caused this, so we clearly have a problem with enforcement,” said Durst.
Hannum quickly responded that, while not knowing the details of the case, current ordinance enforcement protocols have no issues. The thrust of his argument was that selective enforcement allows for extenuating circumstances to be weighed when making a reprimand decision.
Durst continued his argument that the case shows Rawlins Police not reprimanding clear violations of code that nearly cost lives, making it evidence of a failure to enforce the code already on the book.
The debate quickly devolved into a debate over whether ordinance enforcement of the law should stem from the spirit of the law or the letter of statutes.
In a subsequent interview on Friday, Police Chief Troy Plamer summed Hannum’s point by saying, “We have ordinances in place to solve an issue when it becomes an issue.”
Lewman piped up as the two continued to argue, saying her comment was not in opposition to selective enforcement, only biased selective enforcement.
“I’m not going to stand here and have false accusations thrown at us that we’re biasly or selectively enforcing ordinances,” retorted Hannum before challenging the public to report examples of bias to his office or the police.
Discussion finally ended when the actual requirements of the current ordinance and the proposed changes became clear. The current ordinance states it is illegal for anyone to run their vehicle unattended, but the amendment would allow auxiliary power units to run unattended.
Thus, with Durst’s concerns for diesel fumes alleviated by the amendment’s true meaning, the council voted the amendment into law.
Drust concluded by stating he remained concerned for current enforcement. Hannum promised to look into the issue raised by Durst, but reiterated his opinion that selective enforcement allows for flexibility when attempting to change delinquent behavior.
Other discussions and actions:
• Title 18 passed into law along with the added adoption of Jay Grabow’s request to removal of encumbrances. The council felt his proposed removal of the bonding requirement would leave the city exposed to developer closures. Grabow thanked the council for their hard work on revamping the city’s code to be clearer and as developer friendly as much as they could in good conscience.
• A bid of $12,807.60 by R&D Sweeping & Asphalt Maintenance was approved to rest-stripe the downtown’s parking. The current parking stripes do not allow trucks to park, as they do not provide the necessary space to house trucks, as required by city ordinance.
• DDA presented a proposal to help fund several large iron statues of horses in conjunction with the county and Rawlins High School students.
• Several questions were raised by Durst over changes being placed in strange categories. The questions were quickly resolved, though Hannum asked any question on the budget be asked prior to council meetings so his staff can thoroughly research their responses.
• Mike’s Big City Bar and Grill was granted the ability to carry their liquor license to other cities, as the organization is catering an event in Baggs.
• A CCVC grant request by Recreation Services to improve advertising for the city’s amenities was approved. The grant would give the city $2,500 in funds to improve citizen awareness.