Friday, March 19, 2010

Trustee ignored public input

At last week's meeting of the Blaine County School Board, absent Trustee Dan Parke—in what I consider a patently unethical move—phoned in his vote in favor of installing an expensive, completely unnecessary and potentially dangerous fuel storage tank on our Wood River High School campus. This proposal violates a written promise made to the community six years ago that no fuel would ever be stored there. The other "yes" vote came, not unexpectedly, from unelected board appointee Mari Beth Matthews. Board members Paul Bates and Steve Guthrie sensibly voted against the proposal, citing the inadequacy of the site and the violation of the public trust.

Parke, who otherwise missed the entire five-hour meeting, appeared via speakerphone merely to vote. Unfortunately, that meant that devoted board member Parke missed the public comment portion of the meeting, during which I and another concerned citizen voiced our strong objection to the plan. In addition, letters from Leslie Dilley, Pen Stroh and Julie Fox-Jones, opposing the fuel storage and dispensing station, were read into the record. At the conclusion of my statement, I handed the board a petition signed by over 200 Blaine County residents opposed to the plan. Nonetheless, Parke (at least, I assume it was him) voted for the plan without listening to a shred of evidence against it. If a judge were to render a verdict without having attended a hearing, he would be laughed off the bench.

With the vote tied, board Chair Julie Dahlgren cast the deciding vote for the tank, justifying her actions by noting that the school district had used above- and below-ground fuel-storage tanks in the distant past (i.e.: before the agreement not to) and that because she lived along the highway and "had to breathe exhaust fumes," she sympathized, but it was the right thing to do. Compelling reasoning, Julie. But you choose to live where you do, whereas I'm sure the homeowners who built houses near the site of the high school never intended to reside in the shadow of a stinking eyesore like a bus-fueling station. Think that their property values and quality of life might be affected? Could be.

Just before casting his vote, Parke (or at least his speakerphone) had the audacity to state that "everyone I talk to seems to be in favor of this." Really, Dan? Everyone? Because from what I saw of you last night, everyone I talk to thinks you are unfit to serve. Time for a recall.

Steve Bynum


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