Edgewood Council Meeting Heats Up
The debates at Edgewood's Town Council meetings have gotten a bit spirited lately, and not everyone is happy about it.
On Jan. 4, the first meeting of 2012, Mayor Robert Stearley even exchanged a few heated words with an audience member, Sandra Pemberton. Stearley was proposing not to improve West Hill Ranch Road, but to lay a hard surface down on Venus Road instead.
But Pemberton had championed West Hill Ranch, and even brought a signed petition in support of improving the road to the town council. Stearley pressed a point about the personal benefit to Pemberton if that road was paved, Pemberton reacted.
"Are you holding it against me that I live here?" she asked.
Councilor Brad Hill cut into the discussion and told Stearley he was out of line.
"I think you're disrespecting the council. I think you're disrespecting the audience," he said.
Councilor Chuck Ring said the discussion had turned into "a shouting match," and that, when they are asked for their input, members of the audience should be allowed to talk without being interrupted.
Soon after that exchange, Stearley dropped the agenda item, which he had brought to the council in an attempt to alter the town's plan for paving roads. Immediately after the discussion ended, Pemberton and Janelle Turner both left the Edgewood Community Center, and they declined to comment on the exchange, and Pemberton did not respond to a voice mail message.
It was Councilor John Abrams who put forward the original resolution to improve the town's roads. In a telephone interview, he called the accusatory tone during the meetings "reprehensible."
"There should be civility and honest discussion, without a resort to, I don't even know what I would even call that …" he said. "… There are ways to discuss topics without resorting to that language, I guess."
Abrams' resolution, which is still in place, calls for West Hill Ranch Road, Williams Ranch Road and the area around Moriarty, Duke and Willard roads to be improved. Stearley pointed out that, in Abrams' commute, he uses part of West Hill Ranch Road. He explained his point in a telephone interview.
"My position is that we should be using the town's money to benefit as many people as possible," he said. "(The council) preferred to pave the road that goes by this councilor's (John Abrams') house … I was elected to serve all the people not just councilors or special interests."
He said the numbers from the traffic counts should be the primary measure for setting priorities. However, the numbers don't tell the full story.
The traffic counts on West Hill Ranch Road were taken from Dec. 23 through 28, according to town Administrator Karen Mahalick. Hill pointed out that those counts were taken over a Christmas holiday, which could have affected the numbers.
And there were questions about the counts on West Venus road, which runs just north of Edgewood Middle School and First Choice Clinic. The road is already paved from N.M. 344 west to around the entrance to the school.
Councilors argued that even though the traffic count is significantly higher, most of those cars would have been dropping children off or picking them up from school.
Mahalick confirmed that the count was taken on the dirt road, right around where the pavement ends. At that location, cars that were heading into the school on a paved road would have been part of the count, she said.
Stearley has said he is concerned about the dust that is kicked up when cars travel west, past the paved area. That dust is blown over the school's athletic fields and bothers the students, he said.
Ring suggested that the town should lay down a hard surface on a short stretch of road to keep the dust from down in that area, but Stearley didn't find that to be an acceptable solution either.
On Monday, Hill — who has challenged Stearley a number of times over the road issues — said he would, in fact, be running for mayor in the upcoming election. In October, Hill said he wasn't running for mayor, but he said he had recently changed his mind.
"I think that we can do better," he said. "I'm not running because of Bob Stearley negatives. I think there's a lot of people that want to participate in the direction of the town, and I think we can do better in providing them those opportunities.
He added that he, too, feels that the council meetings should be less quarrelsome than they have been.
"I think it would benefit us all if we would take a deep breath and step back and not have such contentious discussions at council meetings," he said.