Mayor proposes committees handle their own minutes and postings
Four Bemidji city staffers provide support for 11 city committees or commissions.
But Mayor Richard Lehmann is wondering whether three committees could save staff time by taking their own minutes and handling their own postings.
Lehmann, noting that most committees elect a chairman or woman, a secretary and a treasurer, has proposed that the Heritage Preservation Commission, Sustainability Committee and Deer Committee handle their own minutes and postings.
Currently, Michelle Miller, the legal secretary/deputy city clerk provides support for the HPC and Sustainability Committee. Teresa Vincent, the administrative assistant/human resources technician/ deputy city clerk, provides support for the Deer Committee.
"Staff does a great job," Lehmann said during Monday's council meeting. "This is not in any way, shape or form to say that staff does not do a good job.
"But because staff keeps getting more and more work to do and less hours to do (the work), I thought that ... the secretary person could take the minutes and then submit them to city staff."
Councilor Kevin Waldhausen, who serves on the HPC and Sustainability Committee, asked that the matter be tabled until July 19. He said he wants to be able to talk over the proposal with the full commissions before any action is taking.
One of the committee members, Waldhausen said, feels the proposal would be further evidence of "dwindling city support" and would likely to lead to the member's resignation.
Lehmann said the intent was not to erode city support, but rather allow city staff members to focus on other duties.
Councilor Roger Hellquist said he used to take the minutes for committees that he served on as city staff was not available.
The decision should be based on what is the best use of staff's time, he said.
City Clerk Kay Murphy, who records minutes for the City Council and four committees, said none of the three meetings is overly time-consuming as the Deer Committee does not meet often and the other two meet monthly.
"I don't think that they take a great deal of time personally ... and very little comp time is acquired," she said.
Waldhausen also said he was worried about having citizens have to meet the requirements of the Open meeting Law, when city staff members are more familiar with it s requirements.
"I don't think that's a bridge we should really cross," he said.
Announcements of upcoming meetings are posted in City Hall in a glass case near the main entrance.
Murphy noted that city staff members are the only ones with a key to the case, so they will have to deal with meeting postings anyway.
"I just think to lose staff support in a meeting is not benefitting the public," she said.
The issue has been tabled to the council's July 19 meeting.