Not always able to help

Our City
by A.F. Mayor Marc Beitia

The lyrics go something like, “Talkin’ to myself and feeling old. Sometimes I’d like to quit; nothing ever seems to fit; hangin’ around, nothing to do but frown; rainy days and Mondays always get me down. What I’ve got they used to call the blues: nothin’ is really wrong; feelin’ like I don’t belong; walkin’ around, some kind of lonely clown; rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” It was a Carpenters’ tune.

It is only Wednesday night and here I sit with not much more than a frown. This job when done like I prefer to do it tends to be an emotional rollercoaster. Today was definitely a blue Wednesday for a number of reasons. My students will tell you I love the Blues. True. As a musical genre. Not so much as a state of mind, which is why I “pump sunshine” so much, Patty. But some days the blues just catch up to me. I guess today was one of those days.

The day actually started pretty well. I was at school a bit before 6:30 to help two students with their senior projects and get my lesson plans ready for the day. My introductory lessons on meiosis in my first two periods went well as did my dual enrollment plant science class. Then I got an email that didn’t sit well, and the day got rainy literally and figuratively from there.

The mental rain broke at around noon, over my lunch break, when I had a scheduled meeting with Phil Keene of U.S. Bank to further discuss the storied Silver Horseshoe Bar lot and a potential agreement between the city and his bank’s property. You will remember Phil from a month or so ago; he was the one that “OKed” the encroachment on the bank’s lot for the purpose of demolishing the Horseshoe. We met today to discuss the possibility of U.S. Bank entering into an agreement that would allow the city to install a drain field, catch basin and grassy park area between the two properties. The truth be told, on U.S. Bank’s property. Phil’s words, “We want to be good community members and good neighbors. We can make that work.” So, to those of you who use the community building – there were four cars using the new parking lot today – stop by U.S. Bank and tell them thanks. The plan is to have the drainfield and catch basin engineered and installed by early summer. With a bit more luck and good-will there will be a new landscaping and a small park where once a dilapidated building, dirt and concrete existed. Phil, thanks again for making better things possible in American Falls. It was the bright spot of the day to be sure.

I got to city hall at about 3:45. We had our bid openings for Willow Bay and the Golf Pro position at 2 and 4 p.m. respectively. At about 5:30 I found myself still at city hall talking with Clerk Herndon and Council President Dan Hammond when a phone call came from Street Superintendent Dusty Whited. To date the hardest thing for me to do in this position is to not take everything to heart and, as a personal responsibility, “fix” it. The best thing about American Falls is that it is a small town. It is also the worst sometimes; especially when you think of everyone as your neighbor.

I tend to take things personal when they are close-to-home. Growing up on the Big Springs, between Wells and Wendover, Nevada, we had neighbors who lived in Grouse Creek, Utah. We went to their 4th of July shebang about every other year. Of course when I taught Ag in Malta, Idaho I had students who came from Grouse Creek, too. It is kind of a hub, I guess, center to a lot of places. But, then neighbors and neighborhoods are a matter of perspective.

When a call comes in and someone needs help it is impossible for me to ignore; can’t help it. We, Dusty and the street crew, had helped this family before, once on August 28th and again on the weekend of February 9th. We helped quite a few folks on those two days, not as many as we would have liked, but as many as we had manpower to. The part about this position that sucks is having to tell someone, “no we can’t help you.” They are good folks, he works, and she raises two kids in a modest home. I assume they live paycheck to paycheck like so many of us do and emergencies catch them at the most inopportune times. I wrote three weeks ago about the state’s transportation reimbursement to the cities, and its glaring lack of redistribution back to the municipalities. This family suffers from that lack of funding. There are few curbs and gutters in their neighborhood and when things get really wet their yard and basement serve as a catch basin to the whole area. Dusty has a plan to remedy the problem that doesn’t entail rebuilding several city blocks, although this area is a high priority for that very thing if grants and other funding sources can be secured.

The remedy can’t be put in place until the ground thaws and dries a bit. In the meantime I had to tell the wife that we would no longer be able to help her outside the normal workday. Because of decreased funding for transportation the city’s overtime line item for our street department has been cut almost in half. Off duty man hours are hard to budget for and justify when maintenance needs can barely be met. I can hear some saying, “Well you had enough to redo downtown!” True, but how long did it take us to save our share? And, please don’t tell me it didn’t need it. I feel bad for the family and we will do what we can to help them and others who find themselves in a bad spot.

My door is always open and I welcome your direct input at all times. To those who find themselves down and out in our town, I won’t make a promise I cannot keep, but if we physically and fiscally can, we will help.

Until next week…

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