If you thought that South Dakota city council meetings were polite, sleepy little powwows, you’re in for a Mount Rushmore-sized reality check.
Maybe it’s because Mercury is in retrograde, or perhaps because Mayor Cindy Donnell was taking the night off, but city administrator Nolan Schroeder was on the receiving end of some Hot Springs hot rage all night.
A burly man in a t-shirt bulldozed his way to the front of the stage where the aldermen–all but two of whom were technically alderwomen–sat vulnerable.
“Craig Romey,” he announced his presence. “When I was on the council–” Ahhh, a former alderman looking to share the wisdom of his years. How fortunate! Yes, my good man, you have something to say about drug testing of lifeguards?
“You guys aren’t doing it. Nobody is being drug tested are they?” he spoke haltingly, as if his CPU was buffering the words in his head. “I would classify it as life saving…lifeguard. And they’re not being drug tested. I’d like to know why…It’s the law.”
The youthful city administrator drew in a breath. “That’s actually…not factual. [The law] mostly applies to first responders, EMT, firefighters, police.”
“You don’t think a lifeguard is lifesaving?” ex-Alderman Romey demanded.
“That’s not my call. We do follow the law.” Cool and collected until this point, Schroeder showed a hint of disdain for his inquisitor. “YOUR interpretation may be different than what’s required for us to do.”
But Romey admirably–and belligerently–insisted that HE was right. “I was going by what Sheriff Evans told myself–”
“We gave you our best answer, SIR,” snapped the city administrator abruptly.
The aldermen awkwardly averted their eyes. Romey took his seat. The unlucky job of seguing fell to Alderman Timothy Tescher. But there was one small problem.
“We have a small problem. We gather up brush all year long and we don’t have a chipper of our own. And we can’t burn it.” The other aldermen looked on blankly. “The way the air flows through that canyon, people down at the hospital get upset because their air exchangers are sucking our smoke into their hospital.”
He sighed. “We’re just about down to where we have to chip it.”
But a $16,000 wood-chipping extravaganza didn’t sit well with the tall glass of water in a short-sleeved shirt who stood to protest.
“I just can’t believe [the VA home] wouldn’t be interested in the pile if alls they gotta do is pay for the chipping,” he grumbled.
Alderman Tescher shook his head. “They can’t use them.”
“We CAN burn it, Tim,” insisted the man, escalating the situation like a brush fire in South Dakota. “It’s FACTUAL. We CAN burn it. That’s $16,000 you’re playing with!”
“It’s out of consideration to the neighbors we do not burn it,” Schroeder jumped in to remind the man, who apparently did not hear the part about hospitalized people inhaling smoke. “It’s a three-day process–”
“I KNOW how long it is, NOLAN,” he barked. “Take ’em out to the airport. Put ’em down in the pit. Then you could burn them. It wouldn’t bother anyone.”
The city administrator paused, wondering how to safely respond to someone who really, REALLY wants to set things on fire.
“It’s an interesting idea,” he said, completely uninterested.
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