New Council Sworn In: Former Mayor Mary Rossing opened the meeting with remarks about achievements during the past four years, and gave some advice for the new council. The most important, she said, is for councilors to know the difference between elected and appointed officials and staff. The newly elected are “now the city”. Noting the importance of getting the “financial house in order” during her and the next terms, it is important for the city to maintain the double A bond rating and to thank business owners who have the greatest property tax burden. It is also important to focus on core services – water, sewers, streets and safety – and then “go to the dessert table.”
City Clerk Deb Little performed the swearing in of Mayor Dana Graham, At Large Councilor David Ludescher, Second Ward Councilor David DeLong, and returning Third Ward Councilor Erica Zweifel.
Website Committee Report: Elizabeth Wheeler, in her role as Director of Information Technology, introduced the large group of city staff who had had a role in working on this complex project. She noted that in addition to the staff, a number of citizens helped select the consultant, Loren Lovhaug, provided photographs for website banners, and will participate in an open house next week for assessing site for usability. Mr. Lovhaug and staff members, with the prototype projected on a large screen, showed the features of the new tool, emphasizing the interactivity of the site.
On January 14, 15 and 16, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. in the training room at city hall, the production site will be available at city hall for the public to navigate and make comments which will be considered by the website committee prior to the projected January 24, 2013 public launching.
Civic Plus, a Kansas firm which works with public bodies, has a contract with the city for development, roll out, support and hosting for the next four years. They will provide 24/7 support for city employees. The site redesign is financed from the cable fund.
Police Facility Update: Architect Michael Clark of DLR Group, who has worked with the city on the design, gave a report on the site plan and facility design for the council to review before approving the plan and specifications at their January 15th meeting. He noted that two new challenges have arisen: the presence of a culvert on the site which requires that a storm sewer be constructed; and a rock ledge, requiring raising the building two feet by bringing in fill (rather than removing the rock.) These will add an unforeseen cost to the project of about $150,000. (In addition, Finance Director Kathleen McBride called attention to bond issuance costs, which are not in the budget.) Mr. Clark noted some changes in the design were necessary to reduce the cost., but also result in reduction of usable space.
Councilor David DeLong said everyone knows we need a new police station, but the price has stayed very high. “I’ve been watching this for three years and the cost has kept going up.” Councilor David Ludescher said it would help him if “we take the time to do it right.” He has “lots of questions and would like to explore doing the project for $4 million. We still haven’t decided about the fire station. Three of us are brand new councilors.”
If councilors have questions, they could send them to staff who will answer them, suggested Councilor Rhonda Pownell. Councilor Suzy Nakasian added that the rest of the council could also receive both the questions and answers. Councilor Ludescher responded that the public won’t get the value of seeing the councilors asking the questions in an email.
At this point, because the council had exceeded their 10:00 p.m. adjournment deadline, Mayor Graham stated that the council has had time to review this and know what the process has been. City Administrator Tim Madigan suggested that a councilor could make a motion at their meeting next week to determine if the council wants to move forward, or to go back to a work session.
Other Actions: Approval of the final plat and development agreement for Spring Creek Town Homes; designation of Northfield News as the official newspaper; and approval of contract with the Sergeant Unit and compensation for officers of the Northfield Fire Deparetment.
The packet contained comprehensive information including: Council Goals; Rules of Council; Work Plan; Calendar and miscellaneous information including information about the open meeting law. Because of the late hour, the council did not take up either the review and update of their rules of business or review of topics from the previous work plan in preparation for their January 22 discussion in greater detail. Nor did they discuss the proposed Rules of Business which are schedule for approval next week.
The work session adjourned at about 10:25.
Comment: Each time there is an election, there is the possibility that there will be new councilors who will not have been involved with preparation of serious decisions and will not be ready to vote on them. This was apparent at this meeting when both Councilors DeLong and Ludescher raised questions about the safety facility planning. The new councilors may feel they have been elected to challenge previous processes. Tonight, the work session offered a forum for them to bring up issues beyond the focus on the site and design questions before them at this meeting. For some time, Councilor Ludescher has questioned the lease revenue method of funding – insisting instead that this project should go to the voters for approval. Councilor DeLong wants a less expensive facility.
On the other hand, hard as it may be, newly elected officials may have a responsibility to respect the work done by their predecessors.
There was a tangible mood of discomfort during the discussion. Mayor Graham and the returning councilors appear ready to move forward and approve the site, plan, exterior development and cost estimates scheduled for next week. This will trigger the next steps: creation of construction documents in preparation for approval of bids in late April and construction beginning in May. It remains to be seen how the new councilors will pursue their concerns next week.