The Bethel City Council has put city manger Lee Foley on administrative leave as the privative investigation into city contracts, personnel, and nepotism advances.
At 10:30 Tuesday night, the council came back from executive session to put Manager Foley on paid administrative leave, pending receipt of what the city calls a legal review into several matters. Council Member Mark Springer explained the motion.
“I am not making this motion lightly. It’s my belief that if the council takes this action it will be in the best interest of the city of Bethel,” said Springer.
The motion passed 5-2. In opposition were council member Eric Whitney and Mayor Joe Klejka. Foley is required to return all city property in his possession. The council appointed Port Director Pete Williams to serve as interim city manager.
The City Council will see the results of the review on on May 2nd. There will be a special meeting on May 5th at 6:30 to discuss the results.
The council had been in executive session focused on the private investigation into nepotism, personnel issues, and contracts.
The council also introduced an ordinance to raise water and sewer rates. At the moment, the city loses about a half million dollars per year in water and sewer service.
Mayor Joe Klejka said the city has not had access to federal and state funds to go toward needed water and sewer projects, because the city’s system doesn’t pay for itself. He says the cost is not in the water, but in delivery systems.
“That’s why it’s suggested for a two tier system for hauled, because the distance is the substantial portion of the cost. The water is really cheap. The cost of the water is cheap, it’s the cost of delivery that’s so high,” said Klejka.
In the proposed ordinance, residential piped water customers see the biggest jumps as water rates go up from 125 dollars a month to 210 dollars this year, and rising up to 265 dollars by 2018. Hauled water customers would see a brand new set of rates. Under the proposal, Bethel would be split into two zones. The more expensive zone two includes Kasayuli, Larson, Blueberry, and Tundra Ridge subdivisions.
Heather Pike said she would not support raising rates at this time.
“Let’s make the community better. I don’t want to continue to put the burden or our back. Some of us can afford it and some of us can’t. The idea of this type of increase, over five years, I cannot stand behind it. I will be opposed now until the end of time, I cannot stand behind this right now,” said Pike.
Pike recommended raising subscription fees, to around 40 dollars a month to bring the utility out of a deficient as a stopgap measure. The council will take another look at the ordinance before it comes up for passage.
The council also passed an ordinance that among other things, addresses shooting within city limits. The council removed language that allowed for shooting in areas designated by the city manager. The new ordinance outlaws shooting in populated areas, except at designated shooting range.