By Michael Rinker
Lake Powell Chronicle
William Shakespeare would have loved Page city council’s meeting Aug 8.
As the Bard wrote in Macbeth, “…It is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
I guess that makes me the idiot, because here’s the tale:
In a meeting at which council approved hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending, mostly for improvements to electric and water utilities infrastructure, perhaps 70 percent of the verbiage at the two-hour proceeding was dedicated to matters totaling $33,500.
The debate was full of sound — at times full of other things — and while it may not have been fully furious, it was most definitely contentious.
At issue was whether the city should cancel its contract with R Squared, which was hired last year to provide branding work and other marketing services in support of tourism development.
The Phoenix firm has already been paid $25,000, half of what the contract calls for. City Attorney Robert Wingo said his review of the agreement found “termination options.”
City Manager Rick Olson told council he placed the matter on its agenda because the tourism advisory board members indicated at two budget workshops they didn’t want to fund the remaining $25,000. At a subsequent workshop, however, they put the money in their budget, which was approved by council.
Vice Mayor John Kocjan, the most strident opponent of the contract, said he thought from the beginning the work shouldn’t have been contracted out.
“Fifty thousand dollars wasted on a little logo that local people could have done,” he said, referring to one of the high-profile tasks the consultant had done.
He also criticized the firm’s website as “nothing more than a billboard.”
Mayor Bill Diak, explaining his apparent “double talk” on the issue, said he always had nagging doubts about the contract, especially given the city’s current financial woes.
“Sixty-two weeks into this and I have not seen one thing except last week, when we saw some pictures,” he said, adding that the agreement called for a 19-week project.
He was referring to R Squared’s recent presentation to the tourism board, which included the logo, a somewhat difficult-to-read graphic rendering of the word “Page.”
The presentation also including proposed high-quality print ads and banners to be placed on light poles.
Councilor John Mayes, liaison to the tourism board, defended the firm’s apparent lack of production by noting board members had resigned en masse last October due to what they said was a poor working relationship with council.
The delay in replenishing the board, followed by the beginning of budget deliberations, left a void in providing leadership to R Squared, according to Mayes and tourism coordinator Vin Paitoon.
Mayes said previous tourism initiatives have been short-circuited and suggested following through with the firm, “unlike what’s happened in past years.”
“We’re starting to regain momentum,” he added.
Paitoon acknowledged that due to budget concerns, the original vision that drove the branding work is no longer attainable, referring specifically to changing the appearance of downtown to reflect an “Old West” or “outbacking” image.
Diak cautioned that if the work is not sustainable, “we might as well flush it down the toilet.”
Councilor Scott Sadler asked whether R Squared’s work to this point would belong to the city if the contract is terminated. Wingo said he’d have to review the agreement.
At one point, Mayes questioned why the issue had even been placed on the council agenda given that the “tourism board hasn’t decided whether it wants it or not.”
He suggested that the council’s advisory board provide the council with some advice.
Board member Georgia Owens agreed, saying she and her colleagues had received R Squared’s presentation at its meeting just the week before and hadn’t had time to review it.
“You’re not giving your board a chance to discuss it and bring a recommendation to you,” she said.
Council members found that to be a revelation and agreed to take no action on the matter until hearing from the board.
Sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Next up was Paitoon’s request to hire an event assistant as soon as possible because work on the Balloon Regatta — Page’s “premier event,” Diak noted — is woefully behind schedule.
Kocjan started the discussion by questioning if the tourism board was on board with the request, saying he was at its last meeting and it “wasn’t that pretty” and “they had to arm-twist it.”
His assertion notwithstanding, the debate eventually centered on whether Paitoon could bypass the city’s procurement procedures and hire someone without putting it out to bid. He was asking council to approve $8,500 for the position.
Olson told council members they could approve the move immediately if they determined it was an emergency. The regatta is scheduled for Nov. 1-4.
Side issues included whether Paitoon had predetermined whom he would hire, Diak’s call to “rejuvenate volunteerism” and “roll up our sleeves and make it happen,” and the mayor’s tart observation that perhaps council should provide guidance to Paitoon and the tourism board that the Balloon Regatta is a high priority.
Councilor David Tennis, evoked laughter around council chambers by taking a swipe at the apparent lack of planning for the event, noting, “November comes between Halloween and Christmas every year.”
Paitoon was directed to follow procedure.
In more collegial discussions, council:
• Approved $122,086 for replacing electricity meters at 338 homes in the city. Page Utilities Enterprise general manager Bryan Hill said the modernization is part of a pilot program that will allow more efficient metering of electricity usage and move the meters from residents’ backyards to areas more accessible to readers.
• Approved $428,128 to replace water lines on Birch St. Hill said aging lines around the city need to be replaced, and told council the cost is significantly under previous estimates. He also said using “horizontal drilling” will lessen the impact on residential properties. As is the case with the electrical meters, water meters will be moved to a more convenient location around the homes.
• Approved $84,000 as the city’s share to strengthen the runway aprons at Page Municipal Airport. The project will cost $1.2 million, with the federal government and the state funding the rest.
• Approved payment of $355,000 in road construction “recapture funds” to the Huntley Group in connection with the Indigo Ridge development. Council also approved a negotiated payment of $45,000 in interest because the amount was due in 2009. Interest could have been as much as $103,000.
• Directed staff to revise city code Chapter 2, which governs the Substance Abuse Task Force. The revisions will bring the task force more in line with other advisory boards that provide recommendations to council.
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