Council approves 2020 budget amendments, changes regular meeting times
As part of their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 13, the City of Merrill Common Council would approve budget amendments to remove $40,000 from the Festival Grounds Cattle Barn repair/renovation fund, as well as allocating $70,000 for street lights on Grand Avenue. Later in the meeting, the council approved an ordinance that will bump up their regular meeting start times to 6 p.m., rather than 7 p.m.
A motion from second district alderman Steve Hass to approve the removal of $40,000 from the Festival Grounds Cattle Barn repair fund was seconded by district six alderman Mike Rick. During discussion District One Alderman and Council President Paul Russell asked City Administrator Dave Johnson if the action would eliminate all funds for the project.
“It will not take away all of the money for the cattle barn repairs,” Johnson explained. “As of right now, we have $40,000 in funds from the Bierman Family Foundation. I had just got the estimate for the roof repairs, which we will have to take care of first, because that is what is holding the building together. The estimate for the roof repairs, along with the deck replacement, will run between $15,000 and $20,000.”
District five alderman John Van Leishout then asked if anyone would be open to removing only $20,000 from the repair fund, in order to use the outside funds elsewhere on the cattle barn, however district eight alderman, Steve Sabatke was not convinced that it was necessary.
”I’m just not sure what those funds are needed for,” stated Sabatke. “This $20,000 roof repair is the best information I’ve gotten on what this money will actually be used for. I would be open to it if I knew what the money was going to be used for, but I just don’t see where the money will be going .”
The motion passed by 6:2 voice vote, with alderman Van Lieshout and district seven alderman Mark Weix, voting “no”.
The council then went on to touch on a 2020 budget amendment, allocating $70,000 for street lights on the stretch of Grand Avenue that is currently undergoing repairs. Alderman Russell made the motion to approve the amendment, with a second coming from alderman Van Leishout. After no further discussion on the topic, the motion would pass with a unanimous “yes” vote.
The final piece of business the council tended to at the meeting was an ordinance amendment, related to allowable start time for Common Council meetings (Ordinance #2020-09), which will allow the council to start their regularly scheduled meetings at 6 p.m. A motion to approve the amendment was made by Russell, with a second coming from Van Lieshout. The motion was approved by 7:1 voice vote, with alderman Hass being the only one to object.The revised ordinance reads:
”The Common Council of the City of Merrill, Wisconsin, does ordain as follows:
Section 1. Chapter 2, Article IV, Section 2-84 of the Code of Ordinances for the City of Merrill is amended to read as follows:
(a) Annual organization meeting. Following a regular city election, the common council shall meet on the third Tuesday in April for the purpose of organization.
(b) Date and time of regular meetings. Regular meetings of the common council shall be held at the council chambers in the city hall on the second Tuesday of each month no earlier than 6:00 p.m., at 7:00 p.m., except:
(1) When the day for holding any regular meeting is a legal holiday or election day, the regular meeting shall be held at the time and place on the following day; or
(2) Alternatively, when at the previous meeting, the mayor or an alderperson shall make a request for a change due to a valid public or private reason, any regular meeting date or time may be changed if any such change does not unreasonably conflict with the public or private schedule of the mayor or any other alderperson.
(c) Public hearings, time of day. Any public hearing, notice of which is required by ordinance,regulation or statute to be published in the official newspaper, shall commence not earlier than 6:00 p.m. on the date thereof.”
When asked why the council decided to move meeting start times, Russell explained that 7 p.m. seemed too late to start some meetings.”Some meetings can get pretty long and starting them at 7 p.m. can make for a long night,” said Russell.
“A lot of the council members, including myself, felt like we could get started an hour earlier just to make life easier on all of us.”
In other news from the May 13 common council meeting:
The Personnel and Finance Committee has directed City Administrator Johnson, Community Development Program Coordinator Shari Wicke and city staff to prepare revisions to the Small Business Emergency Support Program policy and submit those revisions to the May Common Council meeting. City Administrator Johnson reported that, after discussion with City staff, no changes were made to the program policies. Johnson also stated that out of the $200,000 allocated for the program, the city still has about $100,000 available for grants and loans. Council President Russell suggested the money be made available to businesses still struggling from the COVID-19 closures. No action was taken at the meeting, as the council referred this topic to the Committee of the Whole for further discussion.