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Getting a Feel For Electorate

It is just as well that Monday night’s highly anticipated St. Clairsville City Council meeting proved to be something of an anticlimax.

Council members had been slated to vote on a proposal to sell the municipal water and sewer systems to a private company, Aqua Ohio. But when the issue came up, the vote was 3-2 in favor of the sale. As Law Director Richard Myser noted, St. Clairsville’s charter requires four votes in favor of any new ordinances.

“The only thing we’re going to be able to do is table this matter until the next council” meeting, Myser explained.

Monday’s 3-2 vote occurred because Councilman Perry Basile had been called away for a family medical emergency and could not attend the meeting. Another factor was a vacancy created by the resignation of Tim Porter, who had served as council president.

Council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Nov. 18. It is possible that by then, someone will have been appointed to fill the vacancy created by Porter’s departure.

But the situation on Nov. 18 may be much diffferent than that on Monday. Municipal elections were held Tuesday. On the ballot were the St. Clairsville mayor’s position and three slots on council.

Controversy over the proposed water/sewer system sale has proven to be the big issue in the election. In some ways, it was a referendum on the question, giving voters an opportunity to express themselves directly on whether they think the system should be sold.

After the matter was tabled Monday, Mayor Terry Pugh, who favors privatization, said council was “kicking the can down the road more and more.” Safety and Service Director Jim Zucal opined that, “I think the games are being played. … It’s not in the best interest of the city.”

But knowing, or at least having a feel for, how voters view the issue is a good thing. Those elected Tuesday will not take office until Jan. 1, but their stances on privatization — again, as a reflection of the electorate — ought to be taken into consideration in the Nov. 18 vote.

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