Legion Opt-Out Letter Lost, Council Discusses Insuring ‘Domestic Partners’
By LYNNETTE FORTH | For The Prairie Advocate News
MORRISON – Morrison City Council members discussed at length whether to allow a request made by a city employee to insure domestic partners, and the American Legion’s Historic District opt-out request at its February 25th meeting held in the Whiteside County Board room. Although Pat Zuidema and Dave Rose were absent, enough members were present to hold the meeting.
City Administrator Wise announced to the council that the City had received its first gaming revenue check from the State for the month of January in the amount of $300.05.
Sports Complex Director Jim Dubois gave a presentation of the Sports Complex. Council members and the audience were shown a breakdown of revenue and expenses.
“The finance report shows what we spend and earn, but it doesn’t show the immeasurable good things being done for the community,” Dubois said. “The money spent is used to attract new businesses, and reduce health costs. We choose to stay in and around Morrison. Research shows that people who live near trails are 50% more likely to meet physical activity guidelines, and also that park systems economically benefit cities by providing quality family time and increasing mental health.”
Dubois also provided a revenue and deficit comparison for the Sports Complex from the last three years, and informed the council that three new buildings and six new fields have been added.
Alderman Connelly inquired of Dubois about ideas for bringing in more income. Dubois suggests increasing concession sales by being open more during the week, and adding additional menu items, as well as possibly hosting some winter tournaments.
“I am looking at hiring a seasonal adult person to supervise the concession stand, hoping that will increase sales. We are also looking at the possibility of establishing a Park District, which could double our income.”
Connelly added, “It doesn’t hurt to educate ourselves; the Complex is a sizeable investment. Michael Blean agreed, stating “There has to be an economic threshold.”
The consent agenda was approved, which included the February 11, 2013 regular session minutes, February 12, 2013 budget discussion minutes, Bills Payable in the amount of $98,819.71, acceptance of Odell Library board member Terry Noble’s resignation, and the appointment of new Odell Library board member Kelly West.
Items for consideration and possible action included a request to insure domestic partners for health and dental coverage. A representative from the insurance company was present to answer questions posed by the council. Currently the city does not offer domestic coverage. In order to be covered, the employees would have to meet six requirements.
Alderman Scott Connelly voiced concern over adding more cost to the city. Council members voted against offering the coverage for domestic partners.
Chief Melton would like to see a more significant fine of $500.00 regarding Ordinance #13-06-Amend Drug Paraphernalia and Cannabis Control Act Ordinances.
In response to the Odell Library letter regarding agreement with the City, Administrator Wise said, “This is another step in negotiations in the agreement since 1994. The Library will not agree to the 90 days termination clause.”
Council members agreed to allow City Attorney Zollinger to approach the Library with a shorter contract without the 90 day clause.
Council discussed the review and acceptance of the 101/103 West Main Street Engineering Audit. Mayor Drey asked Fehr/Graham to conduct the audit because he felt that they would have no preconceived notions regarding the properties. “They are an excellent source to give an objective review.”
Noah Carmichael of Fehr/Graham thanked the City for the opportunity, adding, “I found nothing out of the ordinary; everything looked to be in order.” Aldermen approved the audit, with Wood voting no.
The American Legion made a request to opt out of Historic District. Council members came to no decision on the topic after much discussion. Dale Usterbowski of the Legion spoke to the council stating that he mailed a letter with four signatures on December 17th, in order to ensure a December 31st postmark date. A return address was on the top of the envelope.
“I represent 124 veterans. Twenty four of the members present voted for the opt-out, feeling that our building is not Historical.”
Mayor Drey stated that he has looked all over for the letter, which cannot be found, therefore, placing the Legion on the Historic registry. Sarah Thorndike viewed a copy of the letter, stating “The letter states no mention of wanting to opt out. It doesn’t show what you want.”
Marti Wood added, “They wouldn’t have turned in any paperwork if they didn’t want to opt out.” Mayor Drey concluded, “Even without the letter, they did mail it in time, we just don’t have it.”
Attorney Zollinger stated, “Although it was mailed on 12/17, it wasn’t received. You would need to change the original ordinance. It could be changed, but that’s up to the council.” Leo Sullivan said, “A reasonable amount of evidence shows that the paperwork was submitted. What would we have to do to the ordinance to accept this change?” Zollinger concluded “Nothing too significant”.
Gus Hayenga said that he was concerned because the letter doesn’t state what they want. “It doesn’t say opt-out”. City Administrator Wise stated, “They had plenty of time. If you move to revise the ordinance, you may hinder your Governmental status benefits. I advise you to let this go with apologies”.
Mayor Drey urged council members to think about the situation and discuss it further at the next meeting, adding, “It’s not going to cost the Legion anything if they are in the District a while longer.”
Other Items for Consideration, Discussion and Information:
Alderman Thorndike asked the council to consider allowing dogs to be walked in the cemetery, and to put this topic on the agenda for the next meeting.
The next meeting of the Morrison City Council is planned for March 11th, 2013.