Max Denning

In just his second meeting as mayor of Cove, Del Little established new rules for the public comment section of council meetings — as well as for councilors wanting to speak.

“The last meeting was not a pleasant situation. It had become a hostile environment,” Little said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

While the meeting included fewer interruptions and comments from attendees, members of the council, Little and Public Works Director Michael Brown continued to clash over Little’s proposed sidewalk ordinance.

The ordinance Little drafted was the subject of much ire and debate among councilors at the January board meeting. The ordinance, which was not available to the public, would set up standards for anyone constructing a sidewalk regarding ADA accessibility and the sidewalk’s grade and width. In addition, it would set rules for who must repair a sidewalk in the case one gets damaged.

In January, Councilor Matt McCowan made clear his qualms with Little’s proposed ordinances. The council as a whole offered a few criticisms, including worries that one line of the ordinance made it sound like all individuals must construct a sidewalk in front of their properties. Yet, when the ordinance was reintroduced by Little on Tuesday, no edits had been made. Little told the council Tuesday the line about constructing sidewalks was taken out of context and does not imply all property owners must construct sidewalks.

“No changes (will be) made until we receive input from all of the councilors,” Little said.

Councilor Lana Shira mentioned the sidewalk ordinance refers to the nuisance ordinance multiple times and because she and a number of other councilors hadn’t read the nuisance ordinance they didn’t have adequate information.

As the talks progressed, Little brought up how the current nuisance ordinance has no way to be enforced. Without a municipal court, no fines can be placed on any individual who refuses to comply with the nuisance ordinance. Little said he spoke with Elgin about possibly having an intergovernmental agency agreement allowing Cove to use Elgin’s municipal court to settle disputes. A number of councilors were worried about taking property owners to court. McCowan called it a “big change for a very small town like Cove.” No decision was made or motion passed about the potential use of a municipal court.

Earlier in the meeting, the council heard from Cindy Edwards, chair of the Cove Community Association — which puts on the Cherry Fair — who spoke about the 20th anniversary of this iteration of the Cherry Fair and the association’s plans.

The council also heard from Bob Kavanaugh, former director of the Union County Chamber of Commerce, and now working for Old West Federal Credit Union. Kavanaugh encouraged the councilors to consider moving the city’s banking to Old West’s branch in Union when it opens this spring, noting Union is closer to Cove than La Grande, where the city’s banking is currently handled.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer