August 19, 2015

City meeting hinges on controversial issues

By Daniel Arens

Controversy and debate defined the Hazen City meeting on August 17 as several long-standing issues came to the forefront of public discussion.
The future location of the new bus barn has been disputed for a long time. After a public hearing held earlier this summer, a task force was built to analyze the potential locations and determine which was most feasible.
The task force determined that a location between the Hazen Public Library and the Heritage Park was the best option. Commissioner Nancy Wolf explained that the bus barn’s construction hinges upon a federal grant that the city has received, and that if the construction is delayed due to continued debate, the city could risk losing the grant. She cited other benefits of the Heritage Park location, including its proximity to Hazen City Hall.
Several residents of Hazen attended the meeting to weigh in on a public hearing regarding the rezoning of the library and adjacent parking lot from recreational to commercial use. There was little debate about the rezoning once it was clear that the city would not at the time rezone the property immediately east of the library, where the bus barn could potentially be built.
However, these residents made their voices heard during the later discussion. Chuck Stroup recommended that either Auditor Monte Erhardt, the citizens of Hazen, or both send a letter to the state Department of Transportation, through which the federal grant will be handed out, and request the grant be delayed while the location is still being discussed. Wolf replied that she did not want to see an endless series of debates, pointing out that if a decision was made for the bus barn to be constructed elsewhere, some residents may not like that location, and the debate would start again.
Mike Quinn told the board that they should “make this a win-win instead of a lose-lose” by obtaining ownership of abandoned or junked old buildings which could be refurbished as a new bus barn. Quinn warned that a series of quick fixes and small mistakes could lead to larger problems of the community’s overall look.
Stroup spoke of the sentimental value he placed on the park due to memories from his childhood, while Quinn said that the park had been a popular place for people to gather during the recent All School Reunion. All the residents who came to the meeting requested that the beauty of the park and its use for various outdoor functions be taken into account in the decision making.
“We appreciate all your comments,” Commission President Jerry Obenauer said. “We all live in our town here, and we all care for our town here.” Obenauer instructed Erhardt to examine what steps, if any, could be taken to hold the grant while the discussion is ongoing.
Donald and Geraldine Murschel complained to the city board about the damage their property has sustained over the spring and summer due to a damaged curb stop. Murschel said his attempts to receive help with the property have been “brushed off” by the city, and that Water and Sewer has failed to supervise the the situation.

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