Syracuse ousts sewer board member after squabble

Thursday , February 13, 2014 - 12:58 PM

Lynn Arave, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

SYRACUSE – The Syracuse city council has appointed a new representative to the North Davis Sewer District board amid a controversy not only over term expiration, but whether more can be done about the district’s finances.

Councilman Brian Duncan was appointed to the sewer board in a 4-1 vote Tuesday night. He replaces Councilman Douglas Peterson, effective today.

Peterson, who cast the dissenting vote, served several years on the board in a mid-term vacancy appointment when a former council member was not re-elected.

Syracuse City Attorney Clinton Drake said in a work meeting the new appointment is about the end of a term, not a removal of Peterson. Drake said state law regulates special districts, like the sewer board, so that terms are staggered, to maintain consistency.

Drake maintained the four-year term Peterson took over expired Dec. 31, 2013.

Councilwoman Karianne Lisonbee had also expressed interest in serving on the sewer board and in the end she nominated Duncan to fill the vacancy.

Both Lisonbee and Duncan not only didn’t like the sewer district’s recent tax increases, but also the high pay board members receive.

“I find it sad that our sewer district pays themselves the highest amount possible,” Lisonbee said, referring to the board member’s $400 a month pay, the highest allowed by state law.

“We need a fresh look,” Duncan said of the sewer district.

Councilman Michael Gailey was primarily concerned about straightening out the mess of partial-term appointments. He favored appointing someone with four years still left on the council, something only Duncan and Mayor Terry Palmer have.

Peterson said that sewer fees are up because of high growth in the district. He also said there’s a huge learning curve in being a board member and there’s a lot of research and work to do on the board beyond its monthly meeting.

“If you want what’s best for Syracuse, leave me on (the board),” Peterson said.

In the end, Peterson said he felt the reappointment was too personal.

“This is already a political jab at me,” he said.

Ryan Furniss, a Sunset city councilman and member to the sewer board, also attended Syracuse’s meeting to voice support for Peterson.

“Doug is a fiscal conservative,” he said. “We raised our rates because we had to.”

Furniss said the North Davis Sewer District still has some of the lowest rates in the state.

Mayor Palmer had voiced some neutrality in the sewer controversy, stating in the work meeting that he had no problem with Peterson continuing to serve, or with a new appointment.

“I’m ready for us to step forward,” Palmer told the council. “I’m tired of us being divided.”

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