Plenty of meetings, but none of them secret

Our City
By A.F. Mayor Marc Beitia

At the annual FFA Appreciation get together last Thursday I enjoyed seeing the parents of many of my students along with several area producers and business owners. FFA members provided hamburgers, salads, chips and desserts to those in attendance. The FFA Chapter sends a special thanks to Marshall Jensen of Snake River Cattle and Ken’s Market for their generous donations.

I found it interesting that a few folks pulled me aside and asked about the “secret” meetings the city had been having. Sorry, there have been a lot of meetings but no secret meetings. It seems that once I finish my day job meeting is all I do any more. It seems that in order to work with people in a cooperative way and try to move things progressively forward it takes some face time. Sorry, not the iPhone app, the real sit down with someone and have an open discussion about the possibilities kind of face time. As mayor I perceive that to be one of my most important functions. I flesh-out possibilities in order to bring them to the city council for their decision and or vote. I don’t know any other way to do it. Perhaps I am not as enlightened as the rumor mill in the ways of man and progress. That is quite possible as I am a bit dim-witted in the wiles of backroom intrigue.

On Tuesday last I had a very productive meeting with Dusty Whited and Bill Ince of the Union Pacific. The meeting was set up the week prior in response to a few things. The first being a flooding issue experienced by Bingham Coop during major rain events like we experienced last Aug. 28 and again Feb. 9. There is a design flaw in the storm drain that is supposed to drain that area of town. Without going into a too much detail that portion of the system has collection pipes that are set in the ground at different elevations, so water does not flow straight downhill, which causes back pressure and these flooding issues at Fort Hall and Van Buren. One of the points of drainage that needs to be fixed ends on Union Pacific property, which will require their permission to address. One of those meetings that have to be done on site so all parties can see the whole picture. I believe we came to an equitable solution however. Bill will have to talk to his higher-ups to get clearance to proceed and I need to get some engineering done on our portion of the solution. But progress was made. I do not know if this fix will solve the entire problem, as there are serious design flaws in the old system, but it should eliminate much of the back pressure. The total solution would cost upwards of a million dollars and we will work toward that but for now we have to do what we can afford to do. Lack of funding seems to be the root of many shortcomings in small towns and it may well have been the reason this portion of the storm water system was designed so poorly nearly 60 years ago, but who knows?

Bill, Dusty and I also talked about the rail crossings on Elevator Street as those two crossings are due to be closed sometime this summer. The Elevator Street decision by the city council in partnership with General Mills is almost two years old. Some things just take time to get all the right pieces in place. From there we headed out to the rail crossing that leads to Willow Bay and the second reason I ask Bill to meet with me. The new grant that the city received last week will allow for the construction of a 1.2 mile link between Marina Road and SH-39 but requires that the city come up with 7.34 percent match to the $2.6 million grant. The Union Pacific Railroad is always looking for crossings to close as a matter of safety. The last city council and I were looking to find another way around this particular crossing as a matter of safety and emergency response. It seems the UP and the city are looking for the same thing in this instance. My words were, “Bill I am here with my hat in my hand. Our budget is fixed and very tight. Can you help us?” He responded with, “Yes, we can.” The goal of Union Pacific is to close about a quarter of their rail crossings nationwide. The City in partnership with General Mills and the UP will be closing three crossings for safety reasons. I cannot tell you what Union Pacific’s donation will be as Bill has to again check with his higher-ups. I would like to thank Bill for his time and neighborly efforts in helping make American Falls a better and safer place to live.

The council, department superintendents, JUB and Keller Engineering, and I had a work session, not really a meeting, prior to Wednesday night’s regular city council meeting to review and edit our strategic plan. It is my goal to have the plan in final form by the March 19 council meeting where I hope it will be adopted. I am anxious for this portion of the process to be completed. The hard part will come when we have to begin to budget, save and find grants to pay for where we as a city collectively see our future being. I am proud of our council, their vision and commitment to you the community of American Falls. This has been no easy task and it will get harder.

My nights have been spent back at the high school, not in meetings, but with the start-up of the Simplot displaced workers welding program. A comment was made by one of the participants that struck a cord, “I am grateful for the opportunity to learn a new skill, most companies would have just closed the doors and not looked back.” Wow! What a great attitude. Yet, I look at many in the classes and wonder to myself, could I do this? Many men and women my age who in essence are starting over, yet learning a skill they can take and use almost anywhere. I admire them for that very reason. In the face of adversity they have chosen the proactive route, not the easy out. I am contemplating how to use this awesome example as a teaching moment for some of my less motivated students. For some kids it is hard to see the future or even reality when they are caught in the imperviousness of youth and believe that all things will eventually come their way if they just wait for something to happen.

Life ain’t like that! You have to meet it head-on or in some cases you have to meet difficult situations face to face to make positive things happen. Whoever said, “Good things come to he who waits,” must still be waiting. I, like those brave souls from Simplot, who choose to meet our future head-on and make it what we believe it can be…

Until next week…

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