Mayor Paul Aylward, and in the next photo, City Commissioner Gary Harrington
HURON — As a large audience of family, friends and supporters looked on, Paul Aylward took the oath of office as mayor and Gary Harrington was sworn in as a new city commissioner Monday.
The full board also, by law, reorganized for the coming year by assigning commissioners to specific departments and reappointing the appointive officers of the city.
In the April election, Aylward defeated two-term Commissioner Kerwin Haeder and Harrington outpolled Dick Freske.
Before handing the gavel to his successor, retiring Mayor David McGirr opened the meeting and then shared some observations of his time in public office. He served nine years as a city commissioner before being elected mayor six years ago.
He said when he came into office 15 years ago, the city was reeling from the loss of Dakota Pork. After a period of grieving, the community rallied and, with the new slogan, “It’s a Brand New Day,” went about the business of rebounding.
Since 2005, retail sales have grown 58 percent and in the last five years Huron has added 1,000 new jobs. McGirr pointed to major accomplishments, including Central Park, expansion of the library, Ravine Lake development, a new baseball field, a Huron Community Campus that now boasts 150 students, infrastructure and technology improvements and more openness in city government with televised commission meetings.
McGirr cited growth of the State Fair and new housing while there have been no tax increases. Dakota Provisions has building plans in 2014 and starting a second shift two years later, he said.
He said Huron’s accomplishments are due to the cooperation of many people, and among others he thanked city staff, former and current commissioners, service groups and chamber and development officials.
As he left office, Haeder thanked city staff, volunteers and citizens, and wished Aylward and Harrington well.
In his first official duty, the new mayor thanked McGirr and Haeder for their many years of public service.
In the reorganization process, commissioners approved their departmental assignments for the next year.
All will stay in the same positions and Harrington will succeed Haeder as utilities commissioner. Jan Manolis continues as public works commissioner, Mark Robish remains as public safety commissioner and Dale Schneider continues as finance commissioner.
Aylward said he had wished for more time to discuss commission assignments but by state law they have to be done at the first meeting in the month after the election when new members also take office. He said assignments should be rotated so members become familiar with all of the departments.
Meanwhile, the board fielded three questions from Cliff Hadley of Huron, who had asked for time to ask about a statement made by Harrington last month. As published in the Plainsman, Harrington had said there had been too much secrecy in city government and that it would end.
Hadley asked for specific examples and if public resources had been wasted. He wanted to know if the commission had met in closed session illegally, and he asked what specific policy questions are being proposed to end secrecy.
Harrington said it was not his perception, but the perception of voters during the campaign regarding secrecy. He said people wanted to know if taxes were being spent wisely. He said he can’t provide examples because it is a public perception and added that if the commission does its due diligence the issue will take care of itself.
Aylward said he had mentioned many times in the campaign that he thinks executive sessions should be limited, but that those rules are set by state law. He said the city can’t change the law through policy, but he also said he favors tape recording of the sessions. Attempts to allow that have failed in the Legislature.
Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron, said it’s obvious there is a perception that state government lacks transparency because of so many open government bills introduced since 2009 and the appointment of an open government task force.
There is a perception that tax dollars are not being spent wisely and decisions are made secretly and that view is filtering down to the city level, she said.
The board also:
• Purchased road oil for chip sealing from a Beadle County bid that was $637 per ton from Jebro Inc. of Sioux City, Iowa.
• Approved a change order for A-Tech Sewer of Watertown for a net change of $5,890 and a progress payment of $175,680 for the sewer main lining project.
• Approved the transfer of a 2013 retail on-sale liquor license from Omega Properties Inc. to Gunsmoke Group LLC for the Tailgate Restaurant.
• Approved requests from the Red Arrow Bar to close the parking lot and two alleys, have a noise permit and allow alcoholic beverage consumption for an outdoor event from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on May 17.
• Proclaimed National Nurses Week, May 6-12 and Nurses Day May 14, National Hospital Week May 12-18 and National Police Week May 12-17 and Peace Officer’s Memorial Day May 15.
• Approved a request for alcoholic beverage consumption from the State Fair for an event from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday.
• Approved a request to apply for a Community Oriented Policy (COPS) Office grant to add a second school resource officer.
The current officer spends most of his time at the high school and the balance of his time at the middle school and doesn’t have an opportunity to work with the elementary and private schools much.
• Approved the regular full-time status of Robert Harder in the solid waste department and hired Robert Heintzi to fill a position in the solid waste department.For the complete article see the 05-07-2013 issue.
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