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03/05/14 Updated 03/06/14, 10:25 AM
Watch Your Wallet
We’ll get to the money part in a bit, but taking Monday’s (3/3/14) Council meeting in more or less chronological order, let’s start with approving the minutes of the previous meeting.
Early in the meeting, I
requested an amendment to the minutes, to add:
During the Administrator’s Report, Council Members Boncher and Will asked when the City Administrator’s next performance review was due, and why no performance review took place last year.
The City Administrator said his review was due at any time, and that he spoke to the Mayor last year, and they agreed that because there were two new members on the Council, the City Administrator would not receive a review in 2013 for 2012.
Pretty straightforward, it seems to me.
The City Administrator said my suggestion was “not correct”. Then he went on to say that yes, he had said his review was due and any time, and that he and the Mayor had discussed the review for 2012 (which would have been given in 2013), and that they agreed the new members should have more time to interact with the City Administrator before being asked to participate in a review.
Oooookay. How does my proposed amendment differ
from what the City Administrator offered as correct?
Due any time? Check.
Mayor and Administrator discussed? Check.
Review was not given? Check.
Reason review was not given? Two new members – check.
Council Member Will stated he thought my point was that the discussion took place, and that it was significant enough to be a part of the minutes.
I Didn’t Say
But maybe should have
Why was the discussion not included in the minutes in the first place? Surely staff would recall a discussion so clearly focused at something as significant as the City Administrator’s performance review, especially since the discussion involved the City Attorney.
Where did the City Administrator and the Mayor find the authority to decide the Council would not conduct the review?
What about the other five Council Members, who had a couple of years experience in dealing with the City Administrator? Are we chopped liver?
Why didn’t someone among the eight of us bring up the performance review issue months ago? (Yes, the missed performance review was partly my fault.)
The Walls Came Tumbling Down
There was no real Police Report this week, which was not unexpected. I took the opportunity to ask a few questions about the collapsed building. In essence the Chief said there is currently no reason to believe the collapse was the result of anything other than heavy snow on the roof. He added that the company insuring the building will be conducting an investigation, and when that’s complete we may get more information.
Contrary to what was published in some mainstream media, there was an evacuation. At least three residences were evacuated at approximately 1:30 AM, and those residents were given an okay to return at approximately 3:00 AM. Apparently the evacuees all got together at a neutral site, and had quite the party. Sort of puts a different spin on raising the roof.
The Council seems to be leaning toward a pilot program to equip a couple of Members with iPads as a test. Well duh.
Here, in part, is what I wrote on JUG in November
Council Member Shaw has suggested that we go digital, and eliminate the paper info packs Councilors now receive. Seems like a reasonable idea, so I brought it up during the meeting. Confraternity, and all that, you know. I think we should start down that road by doing a pilot program.
It seems to me equipping a couple of Councilors with appropriate hardware and software would be a good first step.
So I suggested we instruct staff to begin researching digital info packs. The city of Lewiston, MN has gone digital, and may be willing to provide some information regarding their experience. I was prepared to provide some contact info at Lewiston.
I know from discussions with a Councilor in Lewiston that they faced a few issues such as assuring each Councilor had adequate internet access, that computers provided by the City of Lewiston were to be used only for Council business, and that computers remained the property of the City.
My IT sources tell me laptop computers offer larger viewing areas, more functionality than iPads, and are generally less expensive. Personally, I think a full keyboard would allow Councilors to enter notes into the various agenda items in a manner familiar to us luddites.
I offered a motion to instruct staff to begin research into digital information packs.
The silence was deafening. Again.
Leadership in action.
Remember, I brought that to the Council in 2012.
To Ante Up
The Engineer’s Report was the part of the meeting that made the till bell ding.
Item A. was the 2015 Street & Utility Improvements program.
Most of what’s going into the 2015 program is pretty cut and dry. The estimated cost is $1,909,400.00 (with a disclaimer attached to the estimate that says “The CIP is very conceptual in nature, with the intent of providing a roughly estimated cost for a scope of work that may not be fully defined.” In other words, costs could go up or down. Bolton & Menk has been pretty good about keeping projects under estimated costs. And maintaining City infrastructure is part of what City government is for. In broad terms, I have no qualms about most of what was presented. The cost of getting an estimate for the 2015 Street & Utility Improvements is estimated at $80,000.00.
One of the items presented was replacing aged and failing sewer lines under First Street, and Water Street, between Broadway and Rice Streets. As part of their research in this two-block square area , the City Engineers propose to do fact finding, interviews and such about parking, lighting, sidewalks and green space.
We spent $36,000.00 on a Downtown Master Plan. We spent something like $27,000.00 on a Downtown Parking Study. Hello? Didn’t we learn anything useful from either of those studies?
The vote to authorize the $80,000.00 study was 6 to 1.
Incidentally, property owners on Water and First Streets, between Broadway and Rice may be looking at assessments. One of my colleagues mumbled something about $5,000.00 to $17,000.00 worth per property. The numbers are speculative right now, but if you own property in that area, I suggest you stay on top of what’s happening.
Item B. was the SW [SouthWest] Interceptor.
This is a $4.3 million dollar proposal to build additional sewer capacity to support growth. Once again, the City is trying to decide whether to gamble tax dollars on growth that may, or may not happen.
Earlier in the meeting, the City Engineer said 18% is the accepted standard for soft costs in a project. Soft costs means design, engineering, planning, surveying, getting permits and whatnot to prepare for a project - the stuff your City Council approved starting.
$774,000.00 in soft costs? Maybe. No other number was provided.
Your City Council voted 5:2 to begin preliminary design and development (and spending) now, for a project that will be of little value to the taxpayers funding it. The main beneficiaries of today’s spending will be tomorrow’s developers who come to Jordan after the SW Interceptor is in place. And your Council (most of it, anyway) made that decision without any idea what the soft costs would be.
Believe me, Bolton & Menk won’t be doing the preliminary design and development for free.
Item C. regarded traffic on Valley View Drive. The City will conduct a $1,250.00 dollar study this Spring, to determine how many trucks currently use Valley View Drive.
Council Member Velishek requested we go to a closed session to discuss union contract negotiations. This was a very gutsy move on her part, and I applaud her for getting the entire Council involved, rather than trying to hash out something in the Personnel Committee.
I am not at liberty to tell you what happened during the closed session. Don’t bother to ask. What I can tell you is that closed sessions are a lot like workshops – much more “free form”, with a fair amount of cross-talk and interruption.
A Reader Responds Concerning Possible Sewer Assessments
Just wondering if the buildings designated for green space would be assessed for the sewer lines? Interesting!
More studies? REALLY?
And I Say . . .
That smacking sound you just heard is me giving myself one upside the head. Why didn't I think of this Monday night?
Another Reader Responds Concerning Performance Reviews
What I want to know . . . did the City Administrator get a raise for the year he did not get a performance review?
And I Say . . .
Could be. His raises may be determined by his (Council Approved) contract, and not necessarily affected by performance reviews. That's why I asked that all Council Members be sent a copy of his contract, along with previous performance reviews. I'm still waiting for that information, but staff is busy, what with collapsed buildings and all . . .
“Where is the politician who has not promised to fight to the death for lower taxes- and who has not proceeded to vote for the very spending projects that make tax cuts impossible?”
The next City Council Meeting is Monday, March 17th, 6:30 PM, at Jordan City Hall.
Videos are now on the Video page.
I welcome public comment on this topic. Anyone willing to give his or her name, and willing to limit his or her response to about 150 words is welcome to respond here. Thom.Boncher@JordanUnderGround.com No anonymous responses will be posted. No obscene language will be permitted. Threats, personal attacks, and spam will not be posted. My house, my rules. But if you have something to say, and if you are willing to put your name on it, I won’t refuse to let you be heard.