Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/13/2010 04:22:33 PM PST

GRAND TERRACE – Big tasks are in store for the newly elected City Council, but one of the first decisions will shape the others.

The council is scheduled to decide tonight what the future holds for the seat vacated by Councilman Walt Stanckiewitz when he becomes mayor today.

The council can opt to appoint someone to the seat, hold a special election, or leave the seat vacant until the next regular election in November 2012.

An empty council seat could lead to potential 2-2 gridlock for the rest of the two-year term.

While the four incoming members say they will consider all sides and any public input, initial positions indicate the decision on how to end the deadlock may deadlock.

Stanckiewitz and Councilman Bernardo Sandoval say the city can’t afford the cost of an election. Councilwomen Darcy McNaboe and Lee Ann Garcia say residents deserve to have their voices heard.

An election in the city would cost $45,000 to $50,000, or $31,000 for a mail-in election, according to estimates by the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters. That money would have to come from the city’s General Fund reserve of $1.6 million, according to the staff’s report.

“We’re sitting here talking about conserving our resources, and this has a price tag I’m not sure we can afford,” Stanckiewitz said. “That’s something we’ll have to discuss and come to a solution.”

Stanckiewitz said he hoped people who had not previously run would apply for the job, but many think an appointment would go to Sylvia Robles, who lost to McNaboe in November by 45 votes, just over 1 percent.

“I think the voters have already spoken,” Robles said. “While the city is considering their cost in an election, my supporters put in a serious cost as far as money and time also.”

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