Dalton residents ready for a reset

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RALPH BARTHOLDT/Press Dalton Gardens City Hall was quiet Wednesday, the day after the recall election.

Governor seeking applications for one Dalton Gardens city council seat

Gov. Brad Little’s office is accepting applications to fill a vacancy on the Dalton Gardens city council following Tuesday’s recall election.

The special election resulted in the recall of the city’s mayor Steve Roberge and council members, Joe Myers and Denise Lundy.

Two other council members, Scott Jordan and Jamie Smith, were retained by voters.

“The recall necessitates the governor appointing one city council member, at which point the city council will have a quorum and can appoint the fourth city council member and the mayor,” said a news release.

The appointment will be for the remainder of the term, which expires at the end of this year.

Applicants must be residents of Dalton Gardens, and applications for the position are available online at https://gov.idaho.gov/appointments/, or by calling the governor’s office at 208-334-2100.

Questions about the appointment application process can be directed to Zach Forster, Special Assistant for Appointments, by calling 208-334-2100. Applications must be e-mailed to Zach.Forster@gov.idaho.gov by 4 p.m. PDT on March 18.

- Ralph Bartholdt

It’s a quiet day at Dalton Gardens City Hall, the day after a recall election that left the city without two of its council members and its mayor.

Longtime Dalton Mayor Steve Roberge was ousted by voters along with council members Joe Myers and Denise Lundy, while two other council members, Scott Jordan and Jamie Smith, retained their seats.

The officials will hold their seats until the votes are made official by Kootenai County commissioners next week.

As cars pass on Fourth Street through the quickly melting snow of Tuesday’s late-winter deluge, Valerie Anderson, the city clerk, has been on the phone with the governor’s office in Boise in an effort to learn what comes next.

With only two surviving council members, Anderson wonders who will run the city of 2,400 and, without a quorum, how decisions will be reached.

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” Anderson said.

A large turnout of more than 60 percent of the city’s approximately 1,600 registered voters cast ballots in the Tuesday election, which is unusual for a March election, according to Kootenai County officials. Usually around 15 percent of voters turn out for the spring elections.

Farther north on Fourth Street, a pickup truck driven by a member of a group called Save Dalton Gardens splashes through the slush as its crew picks up red recall signs from yards. Dick Flugel, who is clearing a driveway, throttles down a snow blower and tosses a red sign into the truck bed.

The latest election has invigorated residents who felt that City Hall was leaving them behind, Flugel said.

Residents used the power of the ballot box to put themselves back into the driver’s seat, he said.

“I think that showed,” Flugel said.

Save Dalton Gardens group members raised the issue of a recall last year after questioning a proposal by City Hall to allow a small, family-owned subdivision on the 7000 block of 16th Street. To make the subdivision work, the city issued a nonconforming permit, a variance from city rules that require street frontage for residential lots.

The decision inflamed neighbors, including Jeff Crandall, who lives next door and is one of the group’s organizers. Crandall said most people who live in Dalton Gardens want to retain the rural feel of large, acre-or-more lots and big squares of undeveloped property — unbuildable because it has no street frontage. He and his group argued the subdivision plan would open the door to similar subdivisions.

“It’s not going to be hard to get people fired up about this,” Crandall said last year. “Because they already are.”

But Flugel and other residents said the subdivision was just one issue that may have died on the vine had the city not pushed for a plan to urbanize Fourth Street, adding sidewalks, wider bicycle and pedestrian lanes and roundabouts on the town’s residential north-to-south thoroughfare.

City residents who packed into a City Hall meeting earlier this year said it was the first time they had heard of the City Council and mayor’s plan to accept a $4 million federal grand for the widening project.

“A lot of people felt deceived by the city,” Dalton resident Mike Chase said. “There was a lot of anger out there.”

The widening project, residents fear, will make Fourth Street a major arterial for motorists trying to avoid the traffic lights on Government Way.

“If we widen the streets and put roundabouts in, all we’re doing is encouraging more traffic through here.” Flugel said.

Despite a 25 mph zone, the street, flanked on both sides by homes, already has its share of speeding motorists.

“They are just negligent,” Flugel said.

The former mayor couldn’t be reached Wednesday and remaining council members Jamie Smith and Scott Jordan didn’t return requests for comment.

Kristie Winslow of the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office said the governor will likely be called upon to appoint one council member, which would provide the needed quorum for the council to proceed with appointing a mayor and a fourth council member.

Winslow said recall elections are unusual and usually require a concerted effort to be successful.

“It’s not an uncomplicated process,” Winslow said.

Crandall and his fellow Save Dalton Gardens volunteers plan to celebrate the outcome of the small city’s recall.

“We worked really hard for this,” he said. “We knew we had an uphill battle.”

The voters made the right decision by retaining the two remaining council members, Crandall said.

“It will provide some continuity to the council,” he said. “We hope we can work together moving forward.”

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