It appears Crawford voters in November will decided whether to retain the current 2 ward system for city council seats or switch to a council where all 4 positions are elected city-wide.
That was the consensus of public opinion at a town hall held last night by the city council. Since it was advertised as a workshop, no action was taken but Mayor Connie Shell and the council members made it clear they planned to take all the needed action by the Sept 1 deadline to get it on the ballot.
Shell was very pleased with the town hall, not only for the turnout of nearly 50 socially-distanced people who attended but also in the quality of their questions and information as well as the polite and calm atmosphere.
The audience was told that Crawford went to the North-South Ward system 75 years ago because residents on the north side of town felt excluded from city government, but multiple speakers – council members and the public – said the town is small enough those feelings no longer exist.
Former Mayor Dave Nixon, running in November for a council seat, pointed out that population shifts have made it harder and harder to find candidates to run in the North Ward with election vacations sometimes filled by appointment
The council also took comments on putting a half-cent sales tax for infrastructure on the November ballot, even though Mayor Shell said City Attorney Adam Edmund had determined it was too late for this year with 2022 the next opportunity.
Ponderosa Villa board member Ralene Suchor made an impassioned plea for a sales tax to help fund the nursing home, as was done to support the now-closed hospital but still used to maintain the building, which now houses the clinic from Chadron Community Hospital and Health Services.
The idea of helping save between 35 and 50 local jobs while helping ensure that local residents who need nursing home care could still get it in Crawford drew strong support from several people, but the longer the discussion went the more individuals who said local residents couldn’t afford another half-cent sales tax.
A show of hands at the end had a solid, but not overwhelming, majority against the sale tax idea. Mayor Shell doesn’t think the issue is dead since the earliest it could be put on the ballot is almost a year and a half away – allowing lots of time for discussion and details.
Crawford’s total local sales tax is currently 1.5% with 2% the maximum allowed for municipality of its classification.