By TIM HORAN
ENTERPRISE—Despite pressure from members of the city council and several members of the community, Enterprise Councilman Debra Kamhi said she will not relinquish her seat.
During a work study session last Tuesday, an audit showed that since 1998, Enterprise has accrued $118,000 in bad utility debts. Kamhi is past due over $4,000.
The subject of utility billing was again on the table at the regularly scheduled meeting of the council Thursday night.
“I was not going to resign on a threat by the mayor,” Kamhi said during the meeting.
Mayor Larry Jantz never made a comment on the issue during the meeting.
Councilman Brent McKeeman, however, asked Kamhi two questions.
“Do you intend to make good on your debt? Will you resign from this council?” he asked.
“No,” Kamhi quickly responded to the second question.
“It is my bill and I till take care of it,” she answered to the first question. McKeeman said that after Kamhi became a council member she paid only the $47.17 per month, the amount the City of Enterprise pays her for being on the council.
“This, to me, is an abuse of power,” McKeeman went on. “This is not a threat but I think the best thing you can do for the people of Enterprise is to resign to eliminate this conflict of interest.”
“I said I will work it out,” Kamhi responded. “Somehow, I will make the payments.”
“This, to me, is a very clear case of abuse of power,” McKeeman reiterated.
“It is not special,” Kamhi fired back. “There are other people as well.”
A payment plan was discussed. But Kamhi said she talked to only one person about a payment plan and the figure was one she could not work with.
“I am not willing to do any special deal with a council member,” McKeeman said. “I will not help with, I will not create, a special deal with a council member.”
“We are trying to recoup something here,” said Councilman Mike Rutz.
“We need to treat it as any past due utility and the next step is collection,” McKeeman said.
“Go for it, then,” Kamhi said. “There’s nothing to collect.
“Make sure you do it with everybody,” she added. “It’s a private matter and it should have been kept private.”
The utility bill is currently being paid by the landlord.
Members of the audience became involved in the discussion of utility billing. One question, “What is our procedure?”
“I thought if you didn’t pay your bill, you were cut off,” one member said. “Who authorized her to continue to have service with that kind of a bill? I would assume that if I didn’t pay my bill I would be cut off. Someone has to have known that.”
“I’m not the only one either,” Kamhi replied. “You need to know that as well.”
“How many people are allowed to do that and why?” came the response.
“That’s what we are trying to fix,” Rutz said.
“Unfortunately, the ones that knew about it were not the ones that should be or could be making that decision,” Vilcot said. “It’s one of those “fall between the cracks” things until we ended up with an auditor that said, ‘What’s this?’ That’s where we are at now.
“We are reworking our ordinances and we are working on how to recoup the money,” he added. “Lady, you are no more upset than I am because just a couple months ago we raised the mil levy and here we have money out there that we need.”
The Enterprise procedure is that if the bill is not paid by the 10th of the month, on the 20th a notice will be posted on the door. The next step is termination.
Kathy Gay said the city wasn’t compassionate to her when her husband Dennis was involved in a serious car accident that left him out of work.
“I had our power cut off,” she said. “I had zero income for two years. You got special treatment because you are sitting on the council. I had four babies at home. My husband was laid up. That’s not fair to the rest of us. I was wondering where my next meal was going to come with no power. Period.”
Discussion of a recall election occurred.
Phyllis Jackson said from experience a recall is “ugly” and expensive.
Councilman Sheldon Jones called Kahmi a “good person” and she had not done anything criminal. The matter is a civil case.
“But the people that voted to bring you here have lost your respect, a majority of them. You have talked to your people and said you have people that have encouraged you to stay on. Explain to the community how you can effectively be looked at as a leader? Is your resistance to resign selfish? Does it serve Kahmi’s best interest or City of Enterprises’ best interest?
The city plans to discuss utility billing at a work session at 8 p.m. on Oct. 1.
Kathy Horan (right) and Kristine Barrett are looping teachers at McKinley Elementary. (Photo by Tiffany Roney)