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.
New members sworn in at council meeting