By Kathleen Sloan
Truth or Consequences City Manager Juan Fuentes directly addressed the petition circulating town, authored by resident Deborah Toomey, which in her words, seeks to “get the city out of the trash business.”
It is unclear if Fuentes got his PowerPoint presentation approved by city commissioners, but it appears he did, since it states “City’s response.”
Fuentes gave the presentation one hour before the regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 28.
Under a commission-manager form of government, the citizens have three petition rights: recall, referendum and initiative, as stated in State Statues 3-14-16, 3-14-17 and 3-14-18. This petition is an initiative to pass an ordinance that states, “City shall not acquire or maintain refuse disposal areas or plants after Jan. 1, 2013.”
Fuentes doesn’t give any argument to the petition’s first “Whereas,” which states the city violated the citizens’ due process by not seeking their input on a solid waste collection plan, the location of the solid waste collection center or its acquisition and, therefore, does not seek to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.
Just as the city sidestepped seeking the will of the people, to sound out what they think is in their best interests, Fuentes states the uninterrupted service the city will provide after its landfill closes is best for its citizens. He sidesteps whether the county can do a better job serving their interests and if that is what they want.
Fuentes refutes the petition’s claim that the city violated State Statute 3-48-2, which states “A municipality may, by ordinance: A. acquire and maintain refuse disposal areas or plants within or without the municipal boundary.”
Instead of considering the solid waste collection center a new plant, he says the city’s code, 11-3 and 11-10, already gave the city authority to make these decisions without passing a new ordinance, without public input.
But city code cannot trump state code, and 3-48-2 requires the city to pass an ordinance for this new solid waste collection center.
City Code 11-3 says the city “shall have the exclusive right to gather and collect refuse.” This points out that the city should have passed another ordinance before trying to contract out the hauling of refuse. Contracting out this service is not covered in the city’s ordinance, which specifically states it’s illegal for any business or person to collect waste. It’s the “exclusive right” of the city.
The city recently rejected both responses to the Request for Proposals to haul solid waste.
Fuentes also presented commissioners with a government-to-government agreement between South Central Solid Waste Authority and the city, which would also require a new ordinance.