City Council OKs changes in ordinances relating to utilities

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

At its regular meeting Monday, the Marshall City Council approved a number of modifications to the ordinance governing the operations of the Marshall Municipal Utilities Board of Public Works.

The amendment makes about a dozen changes to Section 30 of the city's ordinance code.

One resident, developer Louis Rasse, was present to ask questions about the changes. Rasse, who in the past has been at odds with the city over utility operations, asked who drafted the proposed changes and whether the changes would be retroactive.

Mayor Mitch Geisler responded by saying the entire council had input into the changes, which would not be retroactive.

Tuesday morning, Rasse commented on concerns he has with the changes. He pointed out that the amendment only now allows the Board of Public Works to appoint a general manager. However, Paul Jensen has served in this capacity for 13 years.

Rasse provided the Democrat-News with a copy of a letter from Jensen dated Sept. 27, 2001. In it, Jensen writes that MMU had no documentation confirming he was the general manager.

Jensen said Tuesday that the general manager position was previously called general superintendent and was changed unofficially before his arrival.

Jensen said the changes approved Monday simply make official what have been MMU's operating procedures.

"Basically we were trying to get the ordinance to reflect what we actually do," he said.

For example, one change reduces the amount of required monthly board meetings from two to one. Jensen said this is because the board meets on the Wednesday prior to City Council meetings, not on a set date.

This month, that means the board met only once, but next month it will meet three times.

Other modifications in the ordinance include:

* allowing the general manager to sign contracts and official acts;

* changing payment of the Board of Public Works members' salaries from quarterly to monthly;

* changing the board's secretary from an elected office to an appointed position;

* adding sanitary sewers to the list of utilities under the control of MMU;

* allowing the Board of Public Works, rather than city ordinance, to set the number of and salaries for board appointees and employees;

* requiring MMU salaries to be certified by the City Council;

* and removing the section concerning overtime pay for MMU employees.

Rasse said he felt the changes will weaken the city's ability to govern operation of the utilities.

The amendments were approved by the council on a 7-1 vote, with Ward 3 Councilman Tom Marshall casting the dissenting vote.

In other business, the council approved a lawn care bid and heard reports about the city's natural gas franchise and recent actions by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

City Administrator Charlie Tryban said two bids had been received to provide lawn care services on several pieces of property owned by the city. The low bid of $667 came from E-Z Green Professional Turf Management. True Green Chem Lawn submitted a bid of $740.

The E-Z Green bid was approved 7-0, with Ward 1 Councilman Mark Cook abstaining.

Tryban also told the council about the natural gas franchise agreement with Aquila. He provided a draft of the agreement to council members for their review and noted it is similar to the one currently in use. The council is expected to take action on the matter at a future meeting.

Reporting for the Planning and Zoning Commission, Tryban said a pair of requests had been approved 9-0 at the commission's most recent meeting.

He recommended a public hearing prior to the next City Council meeting to hear comments about a request from Daniel Burkhart to allow apartments on the ground floor of commercial buildings by special use permit and a rezoning request in the Claiborne Fox subdivision from Midwestern Residential Development.

The hearing will be held at 6:55 p.m. Monday, April 7.

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