Union Gap coming close to government change - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Union Gap coming close to government change

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UNION GAP, Wash.-- Thousands of ballots are still being counted across the state, but many local races have already been decided. Early results in Union Gap show Proposition One passing by a 10% margin, meaning the city's form of government will be over-hauled.

Prop. One essentially strips Union Gap's mayor of his power, making him just another council member when the change takes affect in January.

Until then, the council has some work to do to find a city manager capable of running a city and balancing the budget.  

"Am I sad about it? Definitely not, definitely not," said Union Gap Mayor, Jim Lemon.

Just minutes after early results came in, Lemon said he's actually relieved he'll no longer be in the hot seat, trying to solve the city's problems. But he says not having a mayor is bad for everyone.

"Five years ago I thought this was the best thing to do too. But since then I've realized that there's really some important protection with having a mayor," said Lemon.

Voters in Union Gap decided to change the form of government from a Strong Mayor style, to a Council-Manager form, similar to Yakima.

That means there will no longer be a voted on mayor, and a city manager will have to be hired to run things.
"We need somebody with credentials. We need somebody that's seasoned. We need somebody that's really qualified to be running a city and knows how it's done," said Councilman Dan Olson.

But a qualified candidate could come at a price. Olson would not say how much money they're willing to pay a potential city manager, but Mayor Lemon says it'll cost them a lot.

However, now that the mayor's out, his $20,000 a year salary will go back into the city's funds along with $30,000 a year paid to the recently hired city administrator.

Money that will likely be used to help pay for the new city manager.     

Councilman Olson would not give any specifics to why they decided to push for the change this year. But several voters we spoke to say a combination of recent lawsuits against the city, and the ongoing mold issue led them to vote the mayor out.

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