The annexation of 500 acres property roughly bordering 199th St., was a surprise in that it did not appear on the city’s published agenda Oct. 6, and was apparently added sometime late Oct. 7 just before the meeting.
There was no time for public debate regarding the annexation, and Steve Shute, mayor, publicly thanked a quasi-governmental “bridging the gap” group for bringing the annexation to fruition.
“Bridging the gap” is the same group mentioned by council members regarding the early termination and $350,000 buyout of Cheryl Harrison-Lee, city administrator, who Jim Pruetting, current city administrator, replaced.
The council voted 4-1 last April to confirm Pruetting’s four-year, $150,000 appointment after a 20 minute executive session and a discussion that centered on Pruetting’s qualification for the job and a bonus clause in his contract.
According to the contract, the city will pay for Pruetting to go to graduate school for a certificate in city and county administration and offered him a $15,000 bonus upon graduation.
Pruetting’s contract also provides an extra $2,500 for every 250 acres that the city annexes up to a maximum of 4,000 acres. According to the ICMA code of ethics, tenet 12, “Public office is a public trust. A member shall not leverage his or her position for personal gain or benefit.” The complete code of ethics is available at https://icma.org/icma-code-ethics
Regarding statements about ICMA and Pruetting, Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo, Gardner public information officer, says her contact with the ICMA indicates it is okay for the governing body to determine compensation if compensation is approved at a duly authorized public meeting. It is perfectly acceptable for the governing body to set expectations for the manager and decide how the manager will be compensated for meeting those expectations, according to Marshall-Oquendo.
Randy Gregorcyk, councilmember, was the lone councilmember against the appointment saying Pruetting, who was then police chief, lacked the requisite qualifications for the position.
During the Oct. 6 meeting, the council also approved a development agreement with Grata Development for 82 acres located along the north side of 199th street and south of I-35. The council, during a Sept. 3 meeting, had approved the annexation of 262 acres on the south side of 175th west of Clare Road. The passage had included the option that gave the city until Oct. 31 to determine a development agreement that would be acceptable to the land owners. The development will utilize a Special Benefit District to finance the project, and the developer has requested a seventy-five percent property tax abatement for 10 years on multi-family properties and the use of Industrial Revenue Bonds to finance the development.
The city has annexed about 761 acres in the last month, besides an ongoing effort to annex the Hillsdale water treatment plant in Miami County.
Rich Melton, councilmember, referred to the council’s actions as an “annexation bonanza.”