Charter amendments, ballot issues considered

June 1, 2018

Rochester City Council will discuss over the next several weeks what city charter amendments and ballot proposals they will be sending to the voters during this November's general election and what will be held until 2019.

Rochester City Attorney Jeffrey Kragt said council as a whole, and individual members, had previously requested a number of city charter amendments and ballot proposals be investigated to be placed on the ballot. In response,  city manager Blaine Wing recommended council schedule a special workshop meeting between June 26 and July 9 to allow staff to provide background information on each item, which would allow council to discuss whether they would move forward with the items. However, Kragt said pushing the discussion into July could delay some items to the point where they wouldn't make it on the ballot in November.

Councilman Ben Giovanelli said some of the items are "housekeeping" issues that wouldn't be controversial, but was concerned about overwhelming voters with too many proposals at once. Further, he said, he preferred discussions to take place during televised meetings for more transparency.

Charter amendments requested by city council include changing the appointment of the city clerk and treasurer from city council to the city manager; changing the appointment of the fire chief to the city manager and eliminating the requirement of nomination by members of the fire department; and removing language regarding a spending threshold in purchasing and contractual procedures.

At least one member of council also proposed charter amendments, including changing the city's fiscal year to coincide with the calendar year, and as well as the due date for the final approval of the budget.

Kragt also recommended charter amendments to have council pay set by city ordinance; repeal a section regarding a board of health; repeal a chapter regarding having a municipal court; and repealing a section regarding notice to the city of claim for injuries.

Possible ballot proposals may include a fire millage; the sale of city property; and employee retirement systems.

No action was taken on Tuesday, May 29, at the council meeting, when the items were discussed.

"I suggest we get the no brainers going, and then work on the remainder between now and the drop dead date for the 2019 ballot so we have about a year to work on the rest of it," Giovanelli said.

Council members Stuart Bikson and Ann Peterson agreed.

"There's no point of rushing into this," Bikson said.

Kragt suggesting moving forward with a charter amendment regarding spending thresholds, as council had addressed the matter in an ordinance amendment in October of 2017. That amendment increased the requirement for the city to follow a bid process from purchases and contracts from $2,000 to $15,000. At the time, Kragt said the city's charter should be amended to reflect the policy.

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