WAVERLY — With a new mayor at the helm and three new council members seated, it was clear it wouldn’t be politics as usual for the Waverly City Council.
“The bewitching hour is here,” new Mayor Dean Soash said Monday night at the start of the council’s first regular meeting of the year.
Even how the meeting began — with no prayer, as former mayor Charles Infelt would have done, and the Pledge of Allegiance given by a cadre of local Boy Scouts acting as color guard — signaled a change in how business would be conducted under Soash.
Soash told The Courier in previous articles he was committed to listening to others, and on Monday showed he was open to that by deferring to Denver resident and atheist activist Justin Scott’s suggestion to eliminate a public prayer from council agendas going forward.
WAVERLY -- After a discussion with a local atheist activist, the new mayor of Waverly has de…
Others also came to the podium during public comments with their own requests.
Tim Griggs asked the council to delay approval of the Cedar River Parkway, a big item on the 2018 agenda.
“I’ve yet to hear a good argument why it’s a good thing,” Griggs said. “We don’t need the ‘Autobahn’ from Waverly to Denver.”
Matthew Schneider said he hoped the council would be more transparent than it had in the past and specifically wanted members to pare down some of the big-ticket items they planned to place on this year’s budget so taxes would not rise.
“Seventy-six percent of households nationally are paycheck to paycheck. ... I would ask you guys to take time on some of these projects,” Schneider said. “There’s definitely some construction fatigue in the city.”
Despite those protestations — and some reservations of their own — the council voted 6-1 to set a public hearing on the Cedar River Parkway improvements for 7 p.m. Feb. 19 in the council chambers. They did, however, take some property acquisition for the project off of the agenda and voted to postpone until Monday eminent domain proceedings for other property affected by the project.
Ward 2 council member Dan McKenzie was the lone “no” vote on setting the public hearing, noting he didn’t want to bid the project before the public hearing.
“We saw that with the green bridge — we put it out for bid and decided not to do it for financial reasons,” McKenzie said. “I’d hate to see us do that again.”
New Ward 3 council member Rodney Drenkow noted he liked the project for the future, but believed the city didn’t have the money for it this year.
“I am concerned about priorities,” he said. “If we had unlimited resources, yes, but we do not.”
In other council business, at-large council member Edith Waldstein was approved as mayor pro tem, Soash announced the boards and commissions now had no vacancies after the council approved a large slate of appointees, and a media or public-use table was reinstated in council chambers.
Soash also gave out his cell phone number, 240-2989, to the public and said he would hold office hours every Monday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon.
“I would encourage you to get involved with the city,” he said. “Tonight was the start of a new era, a new chapter in the city’s history.”