Sultan opens to citizens’ gripes

By LESLIE MORIARTY

Herald Writer

SULTAN – These days, it seems the city council and Mayor C.H. Rowe are having a hard time getting their business taken care of.

The problem? Too much time spent on public comments at the twice-monthly council meetings.

So the council has decided to try something new: public gripe sessions.

About 30 people, including the council members and city staff, came to register their gripes, make their opinions known and ask questions about city projects that they want to begin to understand better at the first session Monday, Rowe said.

The hot topic was how to deal with more people and cars in the town of about 2,000 residents.

"It was a good exchange of ideas," Rowe said Tuesday. "But the topics were pretty much the same as those that have been discussed during regular council meetings."

Topics brought to the attention of city officials included land use and annexation, protection of wetlands, what to do with the old city hall buildings, where to locate the food bank and whether the police station should move to the former library building or the old city hall.

Council member Carolyn Eslick said that while she supports the idea of town meetings, she was disappointed that Monday’s turnout was primarily the "same faces we see at council meetings."

"I’d like to see more people come forward and express their ideas, not just the same people all the time," she said. "The fact that we could have some rebuttal discussion with members of the public was helpful."

Public comments came mainly from the founders of a citizen watchdog group recently formed in Sultan: Government Responsibility, Integrity and Truth, or GRIT. Loretta Storm and her husband, Ray Kistenmacher, who live just outside Sultan, said they formed the group to restore the accountability of city officials.

GRIT wants the city council to carefully plan for growth along U.S. 2 in Sultan, both residential and commercial.

"It’s something that everybody is concerned about," Rowe said. "Growth is going to happen. We can’t stop it. But we do need to make sure that we are ready for it."

Having town meetings every couple of months is meant to make regular council meetings go more smoothly, city administrator Roy Bysegger said.

"We are finding that citizens are coming to the council meetings with a desire to talk about various concerns for more than the three minutes they are allotted in the public forum section of the meeting," Bysegger said.

"By having these town meetings, we can give them more opportunity to speak about whatever topics they want to and not have to restrict them to three minutes each."

Rowe considers them a way to live up to a campaign promise.

"It was something that I promised during the election I would do," Rowe said. "It just took awhile to get it organized."

Rowe said the meetings also allow for some interaction and debate between citizens and council members, which is not allowed under the format of regular council meetings.

The council meets on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 7 p.m. at the old city hall council chambers, 703 First St.

The town meetings are planned to be in the new Sultan Community Center on Main Street. The date for the next town meeting has not yet been set but will most likely be in September or October.

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436 or send e-mail to

moriarty@heraldnet.com.

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