Jay Lenkersdorfer

Every four years the voters throughout the State of Idaho have the opportunity to change the direction their city is moving. For voters in the City of Burley this is the best opportunity to put a stop to the never-ending cycle of utility bill increases as well as six-digit losses at the golf course.

The city council has the responsibility to manage the policies and procedures of everything that goes on in the city, including the prices you pay for your sewer, water, garbage and electricity. The trend has been raising steadily upward ever since the present council took office. On November 5th you can go to your voting precinct and fire the councilmen you feel aren’t representing you the way you want.

The three seats coming open are currently held by Russ Mallory, John Craner and Randy Hawkins. These three men were put into office way back in 2012 and have spent the past eight years protecting their interests at the golf course and raising your utility bills.

Councilman Randy Hawkins has elected not to seek a third term which leaves that seat wide open for a replacement. Unfortunately, John Craner and Russ Mallory are once again asking you to vote them back in for another four years. In my opinion, this duo needs to be sent packing and the sooner the better. Here are just a few reasons why I am asking you to replace them.

First, this group of men have become experts at approving everything City Administrator, Mark Mitton asks for. I can honestly tell you that they are giving him cart blanche on everything from rate increases, policies, and the best equipment money can buy. If you want some proof of their wanton disregard for your family budget, simply look no further than the city owned golf course.

The members of the Burley City Council play golf for free as a part of their wellness program. This program existed back when I was on the council, too, but I probably took advantage of it four times in the four years I served as a Burley City Councilman. City employees also get this benefit, but they must walk the course for this deal to apply. Riding a golf cart voids the free golf benefit and would require the councilman to pay for his round of golf as well as for the cart.

Over the past eight years the fiscal losses at the golf course have skyrocketed, blooming to more than $300,000 last year alone. If you were a business owner you would never be able to run your business if it lost money so many years in a row, but Councilmen Craner, Mallory and Hawkins, along with the other three councilmen not up for reelection, have simply overcharged you for all of your utility bills, using the extra money to protect their beloved golf course.

As recently as one month ago councilman Craner pledged to maintain the golf course at the highest standards possible, citing it as a jewel that must be protected and managed to be the best golf course in Idaho. The problem with this attitude is that the golf course doesn’t get enough business to justify this high standard.

In the past eight years the council bought new golf carts, new mowers and other equipment that it simply couldn’t afford. Sure, it’s wonderful to drive a nice new golf cart, but the price the golfer pays doesn’t even come close to what it costs the City of Burley. The difference in cost is paid by you – the non-golfing residents of Burley. True, you don’t get a bill for $22 that says “golf” the city is much more creative than that.

You get utility increase after utility increase that the city says it needs to cover the cost of electricity, sewer, water or garbage services, which is partially true. The part that isn’t true is in the way the city moves the extra money out of the utility funds and into the golf fund, among others. Simply put, the city charges its utility funds exorbitant rates for rent, legal services and billing services, moving the money into the general fund where it is spent however Mr. Mitton wants.

It is my opinion that non-golfers should not be forced to pay for rounds of golf that they don’t play. The true cost of a round of golf should be passed on to those who are golfing. If that doesn’t generate enough money to have the golf course break even then the maintenance of the golf course needs to be downgraded to match the money available to maintain it. I can understand why Russ Mallory would want the course to be perfect, after all he golfs nearly every day, but he isn’t willing to pay extra for the country club level of maintenance. He is more than happy, however, to overcharge you for your electricity usage to give him his pristine golf course. The question I have for you is this; Is this the kind of person you want representing you on the Burley City Council?

In all the council meetings I have attended in person or watched over the internet, I have never heard anyone on the city council ask the department heads or Mr. Mitton what they are doing to offset the cost increases they are forcing you to pay. At the most recent city council meeting the managers of the water department and electric department asked the city council to increase what you pay, but not one councilman pushed back, asking what steps that department had taken to be more efficient. Not a single question was asked about rate increases for industrial customers, who apparently won’t be asked to pay more for the services you are now paying more for.

The department heads told the council they aren’t buying new trucks, but if you were to look at their recent expenditures you would see new vehicle after new vehicle. Really, have you ever seen so many white trucks running around that say “City of Burley?” Typically, the electric department buys a couple of new pickup trucks every year or two, passing their old trucks down the line. There are so many city trucks out there that even the weed crew drives a City of Burley pickup truck.

You and I manage our expenses every time we pay bills. If one bill is higher than normal we find somewhere else in our budget to cut back. Sadly, this same practice is not followed by the Burley City Council. They simply pass every increase on to you without any regard for the hardships you are experiencing. Your recourse against this type of ignorance comes just once every four years, so if you want things to change, get out and vote to replace Mallory and Craner on November 5th.

I believe that all three challengers for the Burley City Council will be far better than those up for reelection. Please join me in changing the makeup of the council to a group who will watch out for you and me and who will ask the hard questions.

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