City acknowledges referendum petitions, officials wait for AG's opinion
By: CHUCK CLEMENT, Staff Reporter
About 20 local residents attended Monday's meeting of the Madison City Commission with concerns that city officials would not act on the referendum petitions that were filed with the city finance office last week.|
The city commissioners had placed an item on their meeting agenda, asking for acknowledgement of the referendum petition which call for a public vote of a recently-passed special maintenance fee. The maintenance fee would assess property owners $1 per frontage foot if they possess land along city roadways. The revenue raised from the fee would help pay for street maintenance and repair.
George Lee, a Madison resident who had warned the commissioners in May about a possible referendum, asked the commissioners if they had made a decision. Mayor Roy Lindsay said city officials would only acknowledge receiving the petitions during this week's city meeting.
"We can acknowledge tonight and then put it on next week's agenda," Lindsay said. "At this point, we have some questions."
Lindsay said the commissioners had requested that the South Dakota Attorney General's Office provide guidance on whether passage of the special maintenance fee was a legislative or administrative action. If the commission's passage of the fee resolution was a legislative action, then the decision is referable to voters. If the attorney general determines that the resolution was an administrative action, then questions arise concerning a public vote.
"At this point, we're waiting for further information," Lindsay said. "We're waiting to find out if we're making the correct decision."
One Madison resident who described himself as a retiree told the commissioners that he opposed the maintenance fee and he was opposed to getting "nickeled and dimed to death." He spoke about how the city has increased utility bills by raising rates for services such as water.
"I can't afford it...I don't know where you live, I don't know who you represent, (but) you don't represent me," he said.
Commissioner Scott Delzer pointed out to the referendum supporters that the city commissioners and other municipal officials conducted an annual budget process that started in late July and continued through the month of August. However, Delzer said that public participation was typically absent despite the fact that budget meetings are open to the public.
Commissioner Dick Ericsson told the audience that balancing the city's budget was a difficult process.
"It's very hard to figure out where to spend our money...You're all invited to participate in the process," Ericsson said. "I'd be disappointed if people didn't care about their government, if they didn't show up."