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City meeting schedule will benefit citizens

Menominee panel will hold one session per month at night

MENOMINEE - Jean Stegeman marked her first week as Menominee's new mayor by holding a committee of the whole meeting Monday. The first order of business was to brief the council on proposed changes to the meeting schedule.

Stegeman said in the interest of transparency and promoting discussion among council members she'd like to hold a committee of the whole meeting the first Monday of each month.

"I think we should perhaps do the committee of the whole in the evening as well to make it easy for citizens to come and observe," she said. "I think the more that they feel they are able to be involved based on their work schedules the easier it's going to be for all of us."

Committees will still meet in the morning on the second Monday of the month with the full council meeting at 6 p.m. on the third Monday.

Stegeman said there may be times when that first Monday meeting may not be necessary, depending on the weight of the issues on the agenda. She also said the format of the committee of the whole meeting would make it less likely there'd be any violations of the Open Meetings law.

"I want everybody to be able to participate," said the mayor. "But if we have a quorum and there are people sitting along the perimeter of the room who have something to add, we have a problem. I think this will prevent that and allow everybody to participate and share their thoughts."

Stegeman said the format will also allow the public to comment and witness the process first-hand.

The mayor on Monday also announced the following committee assignments for 2012:

Finance: Frank Pohlmann (chairman), Arnie Organ, Bill Plemel and Jean Stegeman.

Judicial and Legislative/Personnel and Labor: Plemel (chairman), Leon Felch, Pohlmann and Stegeman.

Parks and Recreation/Buildings and Grounds: Don Mick (chairman), Mark Erickson and Hugh Vary.

Public Safety/Public Works: Organ (chairman), Felch, Mick.

Special Projects/Community Relations: Al Walker (chairman), Erickson, Vary and Stegeman.
Cramer wants some city language clarified

EagleHerald staff writer

MENOMINEE - In an effort to better understand the city's purchasing and bid policies, Menominee City Manager Michael Cramer is asking the council to come up with language that is more specific.

The topic came up as a discussion item during a committee of the whole meeting Monday. Cramer said the current policies are too vague.

"None of them really give a full extensive view of what the council's intent at the time was for bidding out projects," he said.

Cramer said if every purchase order of $5,000 or more had to go through the council it could tie up the council with a lot of extra work. Cramer said he has been fielding questions from staff who are uncertain about making routine purchases such as the yearly salt supply, which has already been approved through the budget process.

Cramer said even the process of how to go about getting bids is unclear. The policy isn't clear if informal bids would be acceptable, such as doing a simple cost comparison, or a formal bid with specifications laid out and advertised.

"I'm sure that everyone of you has some sort of an opinion or thought on how that process should go," he said.

As part of his presentation, Cramer provided council members with ideas of how other communities deal with their bid and purchase policies and ordinances.

Cramer said the council could safeguard tax dollars more effectively by expanding the oversight requirements as the cost of the product or service increased.

The higher the cost, the more checks and balances that would be in place. "As the dollar value on purchases goes up, the strength of what you have to do to produce the information also goes up," said Cramer, who added that it would increase the transparency to the public.

Cramer stressed that none of the ideas he presented were "set in stone" but that it would be a good starting point for discussion purposes.

Councilman Arnie Organ questioned the need to pursue the discussion. "I see no reason to make a change. Why are we doing this?" he asked.

A couple council members expressed concern with the material handed out by Cramer where it mentioned a $25,000 figure before needing council approval. The manager again assured council members that the specific information in the material was simply to show how other communities deal with the issue and that the amounts could be changed to reflect the council's wishes.

Councilman Frank Pohlmann said he wanted to be sure the competitive bidding process wasn't minimized and that he doesn't believe the council should take a back seat in the decision making process.

Council member Bill Plemel said the city has, as practice, conducted bidding the same way for years where products or services are solicited with specifications, the bids come back, are opened in public and then voted on by council. He said that process is not spelled out in the charter and thought it would be a good idea to define the process in writing.

Plemel said the Judicial and Legislative Committee could take up the specifics of writing a formal policy and bring it back to the full council for review and a vote.


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