City Council argues over consent agenda<br>
Winslow City Council members Tuesday extensively discussed how they should seek information from city staff and how staff should inform the council about contracts.
The discussion ensued during council discussion of several items Councilwoman Judy Howell removed from the council’s consent agenda, as well as a proposed ordinance regulating requests for information.
The council had requested staff to prepare the ordinance at a previous meeting in response to Howell’s frequent requests for information and performance of special projects.
The consent agenda comprises items on which council already has reached consensus or other routine items. The council votes on the consent agenda items en masse, unless a council member asks for removal of items as the clerk is reading the list.
One of the items Howell removed was an expenditure of $2,918.44 for the Standin’ on the Corner celebration. Staff had asked the council to approve transferring the money from the mayor and council’s special events account to appropriate accounts to cover the amount the event expenditures exceeded the original budget.
City Administrator John Roche explained the event went over budget when Waste Management Inc., which previously had donated trash collection services and portable toilets told the city after the event that it would bill for those services.
Roche added that next year, the city should consider putting a cap on the amount of money it’s going to spend on the event.
The council voted 6-1 to pay the bill with Howell dissenting.
Another consent agenda item Howell pulled was granting an 81-day contract extension to McCauley Construction to allow planting of more than 1,600 shrubs and lay 7,800 square feet of turf in the park on First Street as part of the downtown redevelopment project.
Roche said a number of factors, including the contractor having to go through some completed work to bring electrical service to workers, contributed to delays that pushed things into the cold winter months when planting shrubs and turf would be impractical.
Howell moved that the council grant the extension but that the city not pay the contractor the remaining 19 percent of the money still due on the project until completion.
Roche said normal city procedure is to pay the contractor for the portions of work as the workers complete them and to hold back 10 percent until the contractor completes a final punch list.
Howell said she didn’t see how that would create any incentive for the contractor to complete the project promptly and it could drag on until July.
Her motion died for lack of a second, and the council approved the original staff recommendation 6-1 with Howell dissenting.
The last pulled consent agenda item to get Howell’s attention was a staff recommendation to award a $519,357.35 contract to Surface Contracting of Glendale and approve $30,000 in change orders if necessary for street improvement in Winslow Heights.
Roche explained to the council that the project is unique. It calls for going through and “milling” the current street surface, adding oil, rolling it down again and adding a chip seal.
The budget did not allow for full-scale paving, Roche said, but this process will lay down a surface suitable for full paving later.
Howell said she wants contracts spelled out more clearly.
“I don’t feel comfortable voting on these items without knowing the penalty and the specific work involved,” she said.
Roche said most contracts have “boiler plate” provisions that call for completion within 100 days and $500 a day damages for each day the contract takes beyond that to finish the job.
He added that it is standard for most city contracts.
Howell subsequently voted with her colleagues when the council approved the project unanimously.
The final source of controversy at the meeting was first reading of a proposed ordinance to establish a policy on requests from the mayor or council members for documents or projects by city staff.
The ordinance would require council approval in an open meeting for copying of any document of more than 25 pages that a city council member or the mayor requested.
It also would require council approval of any request by the mayor or a council member for a task that would take a staff member more than an hour to complete.
If a mayor or city council member requests documents less than the limits the ordinance prescribes, the staff member receiving the request will check with the mayor and other council members to see if they want copies of the same documents.
The draft ordinance also includes a form for the person requesting documents to fill out.
Howell took immediate issue with the proposal.
“I want to have information,” she said. “I need information. To withhold information is not in the best interests of the staff, the people of Winslow.”
Councilwoman Dee Rodriguez said no one had ever withheld information from her. If it was in a “big book,” she might have to review it at City Hall, but it was open to the public.
“Heretofore,” Mayor Boles said, “we have not had council ask staff to do hours and hours of work at one council member’s behest, because someone asked the council member for it.”
Howell countered that she had never asked staff for any information that she didn’t want herself.
“If someone did want information I obtained,” she said, “I passed it on to them.”
The mayor said the ordinance is an effort to minimize requests that require staff members to “drop what they’re doing” and spend extensive time on a request from one council member.
The council approved the first reading of the ordinance 6-1 with Howell voting “no.”
Council votes 6-1 to deny enacting a ‘big box’ ordinance for Winslow
Winslow will not be enacting an ordinance to regulate “big-box” retailers such as a proposed Super Wal-Mart any time soon.
The Winslow City Council on Dec. 14 voted to accept a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission that the city not enact an ordinance at this time.
The council on Oct. 12 had asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to examine whether the city needs such an ordinance and report back to the council.
Mayor Jim Boles told the council the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously that it is not in Winslow’s best interest to consider a “big box” ordinance at the present time.
During discussion, Councilman Harold D. Soehner said that even if Winslow were to enact such an ordinance, mass discount retailers probably could find a way to circumvent it.
The council voted 6-1 to accept the Planning and Zoning Commission recommendation with Judy Howell dissenting.