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Charter Commission recommends five wards

FAIRMONT– At the July meeting, the Fairmont Charter Commission discussed moving forward with five wards. During Tuesday night’s meeting, the commission discussed amending the charter to have five council members in five wards and no councilor at-large.

The first subject matter was the establishment of five council members. The second subject mater was the election of the five council members.

Chuck Omvig said that before the changes they’re making go to the city council, he thinks they should be reviewed by attorneys with the League of Minnesota Cities.

“I’d like to see it done fairly quickly so that it has a possibility of being presented to the council and voted on. If it’s a 5-0 vote, okay, if it’s not, then we can prepare it for the election,” said Omvig.

Katzenmeyer said they were clarifying the language from what they approved in July.

The Charter Commission recommended the charter to read as follows: There shall be a city council comprised of the mayor and five members. One council members shall be nominated and elected by the voters of each of the five wards. At the first first municipal election under this amended charter, five council members shall be elected. The council members from the odd number wards shall serve for terms of four years. The council members from even number wards shall serve for terms of two years. Thereafter all council members shall serve for terms of four years.

The commission moved to recommend to amend the charter.

The commission also discussed limiting what boards and commissions the mayor can sit on.

“In the past the mayor has never been a liaison to a board or commission,” said Omvig.

“They’re not supposed to be,” said Terry Anderson.

He said mayors have never served as liaisons in the past. Chair of the Charter Commission, Mike Katzenmeyer asked Omvig what he wanted to change.

“What’s happening is it’s eroded into what it is now,” Anderson said.

Katzenmeyer recommended that they look at the current verbiage of the charter. Omvig said there’s nothing in there now, which is why he wants to add something. Katzenmeyer asked if anyone could see the word liaison in the charter.

“No it’s the fact that she’s on committees right now playing liaison right now and she shouldn’t be. What he’s saying is we make it official so that she can’t. Right now what she’s doing is taking advantage of the situation,” Anderson said.

Katzenmeyer asked the commission where the new sentence should be inserted.

The commission formatted the new sentence in the charter to read : “The mayor shall not serve as a liaison to committees, board or commissions in any capacity appointed by the council.”

Dale Martens asked to change it to say “she or he, may appoint with advise and consent of the council, members of citizen advisory boards and commissions, but shall not serve as a liaison in any capacity. “

Katzenmeyer clarified that nothing is being changed in the charter, but that something is being added. The Charter Commission recommended to amend the charter, in part, to: ” …In times of public danger or emergency, the mayor may with consent of the council, take command of the police, maintain order, enforce the law, boards and commission and perform other duties specified by the council, but, shall not serve as liaison to committees, boards or commissions by the council.”

The commission approved recommending to amend the charter.

There was also some discussion as to whether there should be a residency requirement for the city administrator. It was later discussed that the city administrator should be available to respond to an emergency within 20 minutes.

Martens asked if the council should require a response time from the city administrator. He directed his question to city administrator, Cathy Reynolds.

“You could. This kind of language is usually discussed in contract negotiations,” said Reynolds.

The commission ultimately decided that no language regarding residency or response time should be amended in the charter.

Next the commission discussed whether to add education requirements for the city administrator into the charter.

Currently the charter calls for the administrator to be appointed on the basis of executive and administrative qualifications.

The charter discussed amending it to require a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration, Business, Finance or a related field: A Master’s Degree in Public Administration or a related field is preferred.

Omvig said he thinks having “related field” in the charter is too broad.

“If a related is preferred, if we did that then I believe our present city administrator would not be qualified,” Martens said with a laugh.

“She’s here for two years so by the time she’s done it wouldn’t be a big thing,” said Anderson.

Martens asked Reynolds if she believes her JD degree is a related field.

“Some people will argue it. I would say this is your decision on what you want to do. My position, I’m here so it doesn’t apply to my recruitment and my hiring,” Reynolds said.

Anderson said he agrees with Omvig that “related field is preferred” should be eliminated from the charter. The Charter Commission approved adding the education requirements language in the charter.

The next charter commission meeting will take place on Tuesday Oct. 19

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