October 31, 2014

New members sworn in at council meeting

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com

Gardner’s new city council members, Larry Fotovich, Chris Morrow and Dennis Pugh, received a crash course in the role of city officials during their first council meeting Monday night.

The newbies as well as returning council members Brian Broxterman and Kristina Harrison listened as interim city administrator Melissa Mundt talked them through a council member orientation book she had prepared.

The new members were quick to ask questions.

Fotovich inquired how things were put on the agenda and why council members receive the meeting agenda on a Thursday before a Monday meeting.

“I always tell council to take (agenda items) to the Mayor,” Mundt said. “He ultimately has agenda-setting authority.”

She explained that city staff work up until the last minute on Thursday putting together city council packets.

“As a staff, we’re out ahead as much as we can be,” she said. “We do have a policy that (the agenda) has to be out by Thursday, and we meet it every single time.”

The public receives access to agenda information on the Friday before a Monday meeting, and Fotovich said that doesn’t allow enough time to research the topics.

Drovetta said critical issues are discussed at work sessions before being addressed in meetings.

However, Harrison said much of the information about work sessions isn’t available to the public before it’s voted on at  a council meeting.

“We’re a participatory government. We encourage people to come to meetings,” Drovetta said. “There’s a certain amount that we as citizens have to take responsibility.”

Fotovich also said he would like to see three items the last council approved the night before the election discussed again by the new members.

He worried that the council’s decision to spend $10,000 on a citizen survey was a waste of money and said the new council might reach a different decision.

During an April 4 meeting, the previous council hired ETC to conduct a citizen survey in a 3-2 split decision with Broxterman and Harrison voting against doing the survey.

Mundt said surveys should be in the mail this week, and it’s too late to address the issue.
Fotovich also questioned the previous council’s decision to continue with the city’s existing healthcare insurance pool.

“That decision occurred the night before the election, and that’s a significant part of the budget,” Fotovich explained. “…It’s a significant expense and there are better plans out there.”

The city’s healthcare insurance doesn’t coincide with the calendar year. Instead, employee health plans run on a July through June fiscal year. Mundt said the decision only obligated the new council through half of next year’s budget.

Fotovich also inquired about re-examining the city codes the previous council passed on April 4. The controversial update to city property codes passed 4-1.

“Maybe this council would vote the same way, but I doubt it,” Fotovich said.

Drovetta responded that the issue had been beaten several times.

“Perhaps we ought to let the codes work for awhile,” he said. “It is something we addressed based on our citizens saying this is something we would like. Perhaps we should allow it to work before we address it again.”

In other business:

• Drovetta thanked retiring council members Steve Hale, Dan Newburg and Todd Winters for their service.

• Council members approved a 10-year conditional use permit for Santa Fe Self Storage.

Comments

  1. Why has my request for videotaping ALL city meetings not been placed on the Council agenda????? Broxterman promised me that it would be and yet I am still waiting. Big Dave got anything to do with that issue NOT being placed on the agenda??? In my opinion Drovetta NEVER wants an informed and educated electorate – it would truly mess up with how he operates. The litmus tests will be given once again to the Council to see if they will be providing any checks and balances – I won’t be holding my breath based on past experience.

  2. GardnerPride says:

    New Councilman Morrow noted the videotaping of the council meetings as a neccessity in his opinion. Perhaps you should reach out to Chris now that he is in office and ask that he bring this to the forefront once again.

  3. welcomebackgp says:

    Welcome back GP, I thought maybe since your public retirement you would stay off the boards. I haven’t seen Mayor Ecosto for a bit.

  4. All of those Council members know what the issues are. The big question is if they will eliminate the bottle neck’s power and work for the greater good of the citizens.

  5. Judith–

    The first thing on the agenda when any government body convenes the current session, (whether local, state, federal), usually is to raise their salaries. Then, everything else can coast along, since the #1 issue of importance has been covered.

  6. I have a few different opinions that aren’t directly related to each other. I don’t see the point in flooding the page with them in separate posts so I will include them all here. I apologize if it makes my post hard to follow. With that in mind…

    Let’s not bang the salary drum. I do not know the salary paid to the council and Mayor off the top of my head but it isn’t much. Nowhere near anything to be used as a sole income. They are grossly underpaid considering their duties. More reason that anyone who runs for our City’s Council and Mayor positions should be commended, regardless of their views.

    Changing gears- I know that you already know the answer, Judith, but Ms. Mundt confirmed your assumption about the agenda and who is responsible for keeping the videotaping issue off of it when she stated:

    “I always tell council to take (agenda items) to the Mayor,” Mundt said. “He ultimately has agenda-setting authority.”

    I am intrigued as to why something so simple hasn’t been addressed for once and for all. It certainly doesn’t appear to have any opposition from council members.

    Shifting again- I am impressed with the performances of Mr. Broxterman and Ms. Harrison. I made the mistake of assuming that the would more or less be rubber stamper. Not based on who they are as people but because of the way that they obtained their seats. That was foolish of me to do. Both members have proven to be representatives of the people and far from rubber stampers. I don’t believe that I ever voiced my assumption but if I did, I certainly would owe both of them as well, as the Mayor, an apology. I’m not a fan of Mayor Drovetta nor am I a fan of appointments for elected positions but the Mayor got it right.

    And lastly- The comment:

    “We’re a participatory government. We encourage people to come to meetings,” Drovetta said. “There’s a certain amount that we as citizens have to take responsibility.”

    is absolutely true. I would add that anyone who is making the effort to view any video or transcripts of said meetings is taking just as much responsibility as those who go to the live meetings. It would also be nice to have it available for archival purposes. It’s 2011, the technology to make it happen is available. It has been for a decade but it’s even more efficient yet cheaper now. There is demand for it. Make it happen already.

  7. I believe the Parks and Rec Dept. head is making more money than our Asst. City Mgr. and our Financial Officer. If that is correct, then I think that is not as it should be. I have nothing against Mr. Stewart but I do not think his position carries the responibilities that an Asst. City Mgr. (who right now is working three positions) or Financial Officer carries.

    Robb, I believe Mr. Fairburn made between $90,000 to $100,000 or a little more. You state this is not enough for a sole income. Myself and I am sure there are many, many families who would consider this a small yearly fortune compared to what they are making. I just read where the average CEO pay is 343 times higher than the average worker – no way do I consider that as to the way it should be.

    Do you think you are going to get a new city administrator to come here for less pay than the Parks and Rec Dept. head or maybe for just a few dollars more. It appears to me an Open Records request needs to be submitted to Ms. Bush, the HR Director with the city, to obtain salaries of all employees and then the citizens would know exactly what they are paying for. I had no problem in requesting and receiving the salaries of the electric employees and there should be no problem in getting the other salaries – it is your money, for crying out loud – you have the right to know.

    My opinion of Ms. Harrison and Mr. Broxterman is totally different than yours, Robb and the reason for that is they have not met my expectations on numerous issues and have promised me something and have not come thru. I believe they have used their rubber stamp time and time again and also not protected the citizens best interests by not having the knowledge or doing the research as they should. It is always in the eye of the beholder and we all will have different opinions.

    But I think all citizens should be concerned when the city blocks what citizens evidently want (such as when they would not let the people vote on that 85% tax incentive on the intermodal developer), connive to get around the Open Meeting law or when they put that stone wall up to keep the citizens from being fully informed and educated. Those kind of things should scare the living daylights out of citizens in my opinion.

  8. GardnerPride says:

    I believe Robb was referring only to the stipend given to the Mayor and City Council Judith. I believe those numbers are $12000/year for the Mayor, and $1200 per year for councilmen. Assuming they spend just 4 hours per week attending to their elected duties, that works out to less than $6 per hour.

  9. My comment about salaries was in regards to Granny’s opinion of council members and the mayor putting a pay raise for themselves at the top of the agenda. After a quick search I was not able to find the exact amount paid to them but did find the pay range.

    Mayor: $3,720 – $8,520 Annually
    Council: $1,200 – $4,920 Annually

    Source: http://www.gardnerkansas.gov/images/uploads/City%20Clerk/Ordinances/2010%20Ordinances/OR2351.pdf

    The salary range for all other city employees can be found at the same link.

  10. Salary ranges do not cut it with me. I want to know the actual salary being currently paid and for each of the past 5 years so I can see what kind of raises these people are getting.

    I have no problem with the amount paid to the Mayor and the Council members and for the most part paid to the employees. What I have a problem with is the conniving, the half-truths, not being forthcoming, controlling and not involving the electorate or ignoring the concerns of the electorate, the back room deals, the risks and the costs they place on the citizens, the huge debt they have run up in the past 10 to 11 years and many, many other things that have transpired – I don’t want to pay a dime for those actions.

    I also want to remind you that on that property at 183rd & Center St. of which the citizens have bankrolled the takers that the owner/developer submitted an ag lease to the Appraiser’s Office (which they won’t let citizens see) which enabled the owner to get a farm appraisal on the property which brings the value and taxes down to almost zilch. On just one of the parcels the tax bill shows the yearly taxes are around $8.00 but the special assessment for paying for those utilities is around $21,000. To me I believe this should be investigated for fraud because I have lived across from that property for 8 years and there has never been a farm crop on it. You want to do business with entities who would be pulling this kind of crud, then that is your perogative but it sure isn’t mine and I will continue to speak out against this type of economic development which I call economic raping of the average citizen.

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