It was another long and unusual meeting for Edgewood on Oct. 13, when the governing body spent more time during the hours-long meeting in closed session—as its livestream platforms showed a blank screen or instructions on how to join the meeting to the public.
By contrast to the hundreds who showed up virtually on a public hearing about Campbell Ranch, about a dozen tuned in Oct. 13 for the regular town council meeting.
Behind closed doors, the council considered hiring of a clerk-treasurer, along with two lawsuits against the town and Councilor Sherry Abraham. This was accomplished through three separate closed sessions through the course of the meeting.
Absent was the vitriol that has come to characterize recent town council meetings, both among the governing body and from the public. Very few people weighed in during the public hearing, and discussion among the council was minimal in open session.
The first closed session, on the topic of hiring a clerk-treasurer, lasted two hours, after which the council put off action to a special meeting, “possibly next week,” as Mayor Pro Tem John Abrams said in his motion, which passed unanimously.
Abrams had put forward Tracy Sweat, who previously worked for the town and had applied for the vacancy.
Edgewood lost three senior people in the past few weeks: clerk-treasurer Juan Torres, who moved on to a job as deputy county manager in Torrance County; deputy clerk Carla Salazar; and planning and zoning administrator Tawyna Mortensen.
Reconvening in open session, the council unanimously approved a Project Participation Agreement, or PPA, between the town and FatPipe, LLC.
FatPipe has been in business in Edgewood for about a year, offering shared office space, conference rooms and other meeting space, and amenities like high-speed internet to its clients and the community at large.
The PPA allows Edgewood to act as fiscal agent and pass through money from the state to FatPipe, to reimburse the company for extending fiber optic to the north side of Interstate 40, under the town’s LEDA ordinance, the Economic Development Plan Ordinance.
The PPA passes $26,317.18 in grant funding from the state’s Department of Information Technology, or DoIt, to FatPipe for the cost of extending the fiber optic line.
FatPipe agrees to “create full-time equivalent jobs,” to pay gross receipts and property taxes to the town, and to grant the town an infrastructure easement as part of the agreement.
Myra Pancrazio, executive director of the Estancia Valley Economic Development Association, or EVEDA, spoke in support of the project, and explained the funding mechanism to the council.
The public hearing had been put off from a Sept. 8 meeting, at which the governing body did not have a quorum due to the absence of Abraham and fellow councilor Audrey Jaramillo, and therefore could not do business.
Another item on the agenda that night was the town’s “wish list” for funding from the state Legislature; the deadline for submission is now past. In spite of that, the council updated its list to include $200,000 for a bike track and bathrooms at the town’s recreational field on Section 16.
Abrams said the town would submit the ICIP, adding that he thinks it is “probably a moot point” because the deadline has passed.
The council disagreed sharply on a resolution about Covid that would have extended the town’s ability to give employees time off for Covid without using their sick days. Abrams’ motion to approve the resolution died for lack of a majority, with Jaramillo and Abraham voting against it, and Abrams and Councilor Linda Holle voting in favor.
Jaramillo argued that town facilities should be open, stating that numbers of cases have declined, while Abrams said that statewide numbers of Covid cases have risen and “the numbers of deaths has not idled the least bit.” Town offices will remain closed to the public, he said.
After about an hour in open session, the council took up two closed sessions on pending lawsuits, previously reported on in The Independent.
One targets Abraham, alleging fraud and conspiracy and seeking to remove her from office; Abraham’s term expires at the end of the year and she is not seeking re-election.
The other names the town as defendant, alleging violation of the Inspection of Public Records Act and that councilors Abraham and Jaramillo used personal emails for public business.
Abrams first asked to combine the two items to a single closed session on pending litigation, but Abraham said she chose not to participate in the closed session for the lawsuit naming her as a defendant.
With very little action other than affirming what had been discussed in closed session and that no actions had been taken, the council bounced in and out of closed sessions, reconvening around 10:45 p.m. to adjourn the meeting.