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Marinette Changes Utility Administrator Ordinance

Issue Date: December 26, 2013

By a six to two vote, the Marinette City Council at a meeting Thursday, Dec. 19 revised a city ordinance describing the duties of the Water and Wastewater Utility Administrator. The new ordinance provides for the new administrator to serve at the pleasure of the mayor and to be appointed by the Personnel and License Committee, the Mayor and the Council using procedures in the Marinette Municipal code. 

The Council stressed the chain of accountability for the new Administrator by changing the proposed language to read: The Chief Operator shall report to the Mayor and the Chairperson, as well as the Administrator of Utilities. This eliminates the original language that had the operator reporting the Mayor and/or the Chairperson. Alderpersons Ken Keller and Bradley Behrendt voted against the ordinance only because they believe that such a change is premature.

Tim Peterson, current administrator, will retire on Feb. 14.  Citing problems with management of the utility, the Council is considering changing the job description to that of an operator. The Water and Wastewater Utility commission hired a consultant from City Water LLC of Mequon to examine the utility’s needs and make recommendations in January. Both the Council and the Utility are considering hiring an interim administrator to work after Peterson’s departure until a new job description is established and a new person hired.

City Attorney Jonathan Sbar received several resumes for the administrator position that was advertised on Dec. 3, but he has not interviewed any candidates, as he is unsure what kind of position the city will want to fill.

In other business the Council voted unanimously to purchase two squad vehicles for the Police Department from The Motor Company in Marinette. Each vehicle will cost $25,652, about $1,500 per vehicle less than budgeted. Police Chief John Mabry reports the vehicles will be fully equipped.

With dissenting votes by Martha Karban and David Marx, the Council accepted from Rite-Way Towing on State Street for the post-arrest towing and storage of cars. Rite-Way will charge a base towing rate of $50, and $65 for use of a flat-bed truck. Rite-Way has the shortest response time at 15 minutes.

The Council also voted to grant a Class A retail fermented malt beverages and intoxicating liquor license to Darryl Lee Joy of JP Beverage, LLC, doing business as Haller’s Beverage at 1000 Pierce Avenue.

The meeting closed with a presentation by Richard Lundeen of Mead and Hunt Engineering about the future of facilities owned and maintained by the city.  A concept plan for converting the former county Jail into Marinette Police Department headquarters was included. 

Other items under discussion were the Fire Station, the Public Works Garage, the Civic Center Hockey Dome, Tennis Dome and Pool, and City Hall. Lundeen presented a chart with six possible options for most facilities from staying in place to new construction or remodeling for facilities most in need of updating. He noted that the current Fire Station was in an optimal place to respond to emergencies in heavy industrial settings. Between the station’s location and the high quality of firefighter training, manufacturers were able to purchase insurance at favorable rates.

Alderpersons Karban, Marx, Behrendt, Keller, Dorothy Kowalski, Carol Kempka, Martha Karban, David Buechler, and Dennis Colborn were joined by Mabry, Sbar, Mayor Denise Ruleau and City Clerk Jim Anderson at the meeting.

Two Council Committees also met Thursday, Dec. 10 at the Finance and Insurance Committee. Members voted to pay $3,080 to Tyler Technologies of Lubbock, Tex., if Business Manager Kathy Cleven is unable to negotiate a lower amount with the term. The committee reviewed the history of the work that Tyler did for the city in January 2012 when the company sold the city computer software and sent a staff member to Marinette to train city workers. Officials have been unable to locate a signed agreement with the company. 

Committee members also believe the city handled the instructor’s schedule poorly by failing to notify several staff members until the day before the instructor’s departure. Further, Cleven reports the company has all of the appropriate paperwork detailing the hours of training that were performed by the instructor.

The committee also a denied a request to waive $111.04 in delinquent tax penalties owed by Perry Wos. Wos owned a double wide mobile home on a leased lot for several years, and sold it in February of 2011 to an individual who died on Sept. 20, 2012. Wos misunderstood city statutes that he owed property taxes on the mobile home for all of 2011. He paid the delinquent taxes but asked to have the late fees and interest charges waived. Members commended Wos on taking the initiative to clear up the matter, but did not want to create a precedent of waiving fees in this situation.

Cleven also informed the committee that Water Utility employees worked a significant number of overtime hours during November. Referring to an ongoing conflict between the Council and the Water and Wastewater Commission, Cleven told the committee, I was not pleased with overtime for last month. She further reported the Water and Wastewater utility needs to work on its system of internal controls to prevent extraordinary overtime hours worked in non-emergency situations.

Ipads for council members have been ordered and are expected in two to three weeks. City Hall staff will teach Council members about how to use them in two small group sessions.

Shared Revenue funds from Wisconsin totaled $4,600,000, about $100,000 more than had been expected.

Committee members Bradley Behrendt, David Buechler, John Marx and Carol Kempka took part in the meeting and were joined by Cleven, Mayor Denise Ruleau, City Clerk Mike Anderson and City Attorney Jonathan Sbar.

At the Personnel and License Committee members vigorously discussed a revised job description for the Utilities Administrator. They agreed that the new Administrator should report directly to the Mayor, and changed the proposed language in the description to read Reports to: Mayor and Water Utility Chairperson. 

The matter is on hold, however, until the Council decides whether to hire a new administrator or hire a person who would be considered an operator of the utility. A consultant from City Water LLC of Mequon will examine the Water and Wastewater utility operation in early January, and report to the Council.

City Attorney Jonathan Sbar added his job description should include the duties of a Human Resources Director, because that has been part of the work he does for years. The city, he reports, cannot afford a separate Human Resources Director.

Brian Miller, Director of Public Works and City Engineer suggested a few changes in his job description, including the removal of several committees and task forces that no longer exist from his duties. The committee voted to recommend changes to the Council.

The committee also voted to recommend that the council grant a Class A retail fermented malt beverages and intoxicating liquor license to Darryl Lee Joy of JP Beverage, LLC, which does business as Haller’s Beverage at 1000 Pierce Avenue. The group also granted a mobile Home Park License for 2014 to Golden Sands Mobile Home Park on Cleveland Avenue. Sign Erector Licenses for 2014 were granted to Jones Sign Company, MJB Industries, Inc., Colortech of Wisconsin, Inc., and United Sign Corporation.

Alderpersons David Buechler, Ken Keller, Dorothy Kowalski, John Marx, and Bradley Beherendt participated, and were joined by Mayor Denise Ruleau, City Clerk Ken Anderson, and City Attorney Jonathan Sbar.


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