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Heidi Shaffer, Published October 17 2010

Police to attend Monday’s meeting discussing sign code plans

The sign code update fueled strong opposition – and in some cases heated commentary – during the more than a year of meetings on the overhaul.

Uniformed police officers attended some of the sign code meetings, including the Oct. 4 City Commission meeting, at Mayor Dennis Walaker’s request.

“When we deal with something controversial or some person that wants to present a view that’s somewhat controversial, I just feel better” having officers present, Walaker said.

Officers will attend Monday’s meeting because the sign code is again on the agenda, but no one from the city had formally requested their presence, Police Chief Keith Ternes said.

Ternes said it doesn’t happen often, but having officers at a meeting is not unique.

Officers have never needed to intervene during a meeting. They are there to ensure that discussion remains “responsible” and no one’s safety is a concern, Ternes said.

Businessman Steven Stremick has spoken against the sign code during most of the public meetings held.

In May, City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn called police after a planning commission meeting about Stremick’s electronic messaging center.

Piepkorn told police that Stremick made a threatening gesture, shaping his hand to look like a gun, according to police reports.

No charges were filed because a prosecutor found that evidence did not rise to a level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But officers were present during at least two commission meetings following the incident.

Walaker said he was not singling out Stremick by requesting officers at the Oct. 4 meeting.

Stremick said this week that he never made the gesture, and the city was trying to ruin is credibility with the claims.

The public will be limited during Monday’s commission meeting to 10 minutes per person, Walaker said.

In an e-mail to Senior Planner Jim Hinderaker, Stremick said his presentation Monday will take “no more than two hours,” and the city is violating his constitutional rights by limiting his time.

Stremick, who spoke for about 45 minutes during the planning commission final discussion on the sign code, said the city spent hundreds of hours on the draft, “and to limit comment is improper.”

“I appreciate everybody’s right to be heard, but … we have to have respect for the other people that have items on the agenda,” Walaker said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511