Westby councilman Lyle Lund brought forward concerns he has regarding a lack of committee use by Mayor Dan Helgerson before items are brought directly to the full city council for a vote.
Lund said he became concerned after the May 15, city council meeting when the council approved spending $20,000 of TIF funding to make improvements at Syverson Park, including a shelter, picnic tables and landscaping, with no park committee involvement in the recommendation process.
Lund said he might be old-school, but he believes the city has committees in place to do the leg work for proposed projects or areas of concern within the city of Westby and that the Mayor should not be just handling things on his own if a committee is in place for that purpose.
“It’s like the rest of the city council is just supposed rubber stamp anything placed before us by the Mayor. I think if we are spending taxpayer dollars that recommendations should come to the full council from a committee, not directly from the Mayor,” Lund said.
Over the past several months Lund said he has spent a lot of time reviewing established city ordinances and is concerned the city is not following its own guidelines properly.
On June 19, Lund first broached the subject and revisited it again on July 3. He said the city has committees in place for almost everything from parks, rec, streets, lights, public safety, sanitation and more, but that too many decisions are being made by the Mayor without any committee involvement.
Mayor Helgerson said even if he does the advance legwork on agenda items the full council has the right to table any item and send it to committee for further review before they approve or deny anything.
Discussion regarding mayoral, common council and standing committees (references and reports section) power and purposes was held with differing opinions over the definition of verbiage in the city ordinances by both the Mayor and Lund.
For reference at the July 3 meeting Mayor Helgerson provided each council member with a legal reference handbook from the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, which provided a better outline and interpretation for the council to review and follow if they have concerns.
Mayor Helgerson said he understood where Lund’s concern was coming from and would consider more committee use in the future, but reiterated that he is very careful to make sure he isn’t overstepping his authority and uses the Wisconsin League of Municipalities book as a guide.
Councilman Rick Rognstad said he was fine with the Mayor doing some of the legwork in advance. He said most of the council members are not retired and it saves the full council time when they do meet.
“He does the leg work, but we all have a vote. The final decision is ours, not his,” Rognstad said.
In other Westby Council business:
- Amy Swiggum was appointed as the Deputy City Clerk;
- Lisa Janzen was hired as the new front office administrative assistant;
- Kurt Anderson presented the annual waste water treatment report;
- Monthly police activity and utility reports were presented for June and July;
- Westby Area School District renewed its $4,900 contract with the city of Westby the regarding athletic park facility use;
- Norseland Nursing Home parking lot improvements were approved;
- Tree replacement was approved for the “Mayoral Trees” that line Black River Rd, by Norseland Nursing Home;
- Westby approved a contract with Gundersen Quartz Health Insurance for employee coverage through June 30, 2019.
On a special note, Living Waters Bible Camp students and employees were thanked for volunteering their services with several maintenance projects in the city limits during the month of June. Some projects completed included repainting city park restrooms and the faded signs welcoming people to Westby.
Westby City Council will meet again on Tuesday, June 17, Westby City Hall, 6 p.m.