Citing past interest, Yelm City Councilor Molly Carmody on Tuesday, July 7, brought a proposition forward to the council during a study session to begin discussion of term limits for both the city council and the mayor.
Carmody said term limits for elected officials in both the legislative and executive city branches could encourage more opportunities for Yelm residents to serve and allow a larger diversity of ideas to come through the council.
Mayor JW Foster, who seemed to voice support for a potential ordinance, asked Carmody to draft language and bring it forward at a later meeting.
“I’ve heard it sort of bandied about by different members of council over the years, and I think it’s probably a really good idea that we start looking at this right now,” Carmody said, citing recent discussions in the United States Congress. “It’s a good thing to have fresh ideas, fresh people moving through this system, rather than having people on council or in the mayors seat for decades.”
Council member Joe DePinto, who voiced support for such a measure, said it makes sense given how much the city has grown in recent years and how many more people have voiced interest in serving on the council.
City council races in recent years have also become more contested while also drawing in a larger number of voters, he said.
“It makes sense to me that we have more opportunities for more people to run,” DePinto said, adding that he plans to limit himself to two terms.
Carmody added that the ordinance could also instill a system where if, by some chance, nobody decides to run for the mayor’s seat, the mayor pro-tem could be nominated by council to fill that seat in an absence, then the council could vote on someone to fill the vacant council seat.
Term limits for individuals serving on the city council are not required under Washington state law, but Foster said that state law does allow municipalities to establish guidelines for term limits.
Foster added that he believes it’s the right move given the council’s intentions.
“It does encourage more people to come into city government, so you do get an infusion of new ideas,” he said, adding that the action does instill a limit on the public’s right to pick whoever they want to fill a seat up for reelection.
Foster said there were representatives who’d served more than 25 years on the Nisqually Land Trust when he served as board president. They later established term limits of nine years.
Carmody said term limits could also move people from the city council to serve in smaller committees and other city civic duties that have vacancies.
Update on Purchase of City Biodryer
Public Works Director Cody Colt gave an update to the council at the study session on the city’s effort to purchase and install a biodryer, which would allow the city to remove moisture from the sewage byproduct that comes from the wastewater treatment facility.
The city currently trucks out its sewage material to another party, which costs the city heavily. Colt said a biodryer would allow the city to process the waste into a dry class A biosolids material, which could be used to cut fertilizer costs at the city and ultimately save the municipality roughly $305,000 in annual costs.
During his presentation, Colt noted that he would be recommending the city move forward with purchasing and installing the $245,000 machine alongside the new wastewater treatment facility, instead of later in 2024 as was previously planned.
“The reason why this biodryer makes sense is that we can add on to the system for future expansion at extremely low cost. We just add another biodryer to the side,” Colt said, adding that they could add three or four bio dryers that would cover them through the next 30 years.
The material could also be sold to residents at little to no cost.
A design contract could come forward to council as early as August, Colt said.