Danedri Thompson
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Council members hashed out the purpose of committee that will study a potential public-private partnership to lease Gardner’s utilities during a meeting Oct. 3.
Council member Chris Morrow is charged with leading the committee, but told council members he’s had little success getting the committee off the ground. Morrow said he’s had ongoing discussions with interim-city administrator Melissa Mundt about the committee.
“I don’t think we’re understanding each other very well,” he said.
Council members reached a consensus to create an ad-hoc committee of Gardner citizens to study the issue on Aug. 3. They offered formal approval at an Aug. 15 meeting. Morrow said he was under the impression that the committee would be fully operational before the Oct. 3 council meeting.
“It’s two months after we started talking about the committee. I’ve had volunteers in place before we approved the committee on Aug. 15,” Morrow said. “This item didn’t even make it on the agenda. I would like to move forward with this committee.”
Morrow was prepared to host a meeting this week, but was told by staff to halt.
“I would like to get informal consensus to move forward,” he said.
Staff drafted a Request for Information (RFI) asking potential companies that might be interested in forming a partnership with the city, in which the city would lease its utilities to a company and the company would take over daily operations, to submit their interest.
To date, four companies supplied RFIs, but Mundt said staff won’t begin examining the packets until Wednesday. In the meantime, she said city staff should be included in committee meetings. That, she said, requires that staff be provided an agenda in advance of a meeting.
“The citizen committee was intended to be a citizen committee,” Morrow said. “I don’t know that we have to have staff members at every single meeting.”
However, city attorney Jim Hubbard said it would be his preference that city staff be included in meetings.
Ideally, the committee will function as a collaboration rather than a group that takes its orders and ideas from city staff or from him.
“You’re talking about myself or you coming up with what we need to study,” he said.
Morrow said he asked a city staff member and Gardner resident to serve on the committee, which he would like to see meet every Tuesday night.
“It’s more of an issue of what we already have on our plates,” Mundt said. She listed possible annexation related to the Gardner-Edgerton School District bond issue as a top priority above the utility committee.
The utility committee will hosted an informal meeting after press time at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night. Council agreed to approve the committee members and proceed with more formal meetings sometime after the Oct. 17 council meeting.