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Tuesday’s Council work session turns testy

MASON CITY – A City Council work session held Tuesday afternoon at City Hall covered a range of topics and turned testy at the tail end. The work session allowed for discussion of seven topics brought forward by Council members. Don Nelson and Jeff Marsters did not attend.

Item #1 on the agenda was from Scott Tornquist, regarding a possible multi-purpose arena project. He requested discussion on how staff would receive and evaluate various proposals from local design teams and at what stage the Council would become involved in site selection. viewed the agenda on Friday, January 21st and asked Tornquist via email that day to give more background on the agenda item. We asked “(we) assume the Council is getting ready to look at proposals from local architects on a possible multi-use arena? Just a few weeks ago you told Ed Wineinger that the Council was nowhere near ready for proposals. Would the Council entertain proposals from outside Mason City? Just trying to clarify, thanks.”

Tornquist, in answer to this question and other questions we asked in the email, stated “These are really bad questions… I’ve responded this time, but I’ll be ignoring future emails with similar content.” Tornquist then went on to say “Don’t ‘assume’ anything. I have not seen the agenda, but I requested discussion on how STAFF would evaluate proposals in terms of making financial analysis, and at what point staff sees the council getting involved in site selection. If I knew the answers to these questions, there really wouldn’t be any reason for me to put this on the agenda for discussion, would there?”

City Administrator Brent Trout did say that “we’ll need to put out some type of notice to every firm in town and ask them if they have an interest in bringing a proposal forward.”

Max Weaver brought up the point the multi-purpose arena issue could end up in front of voters in a referendum and asked how that would affect proposals from design firms. Trout says he would likely ask design teams to make “exploratory presentations” and not submit full proposals until after any vote would be taken.

Item #2 on the agenda was again from Tornquist, requesting discussion on the architect and engineering hiring process.

Tornquist advocated looking into spreading the project around to multiple local firms. Trout answered that in his work experience in other communities, architectural firms were chosen on a ‘points’ system in order to make the selection process fair and each year firms would be evaluated as to whether they were qualified to perform design services.

Item #3 on the agenda was from Max Weaver, requesting discussion of the 28 funds available in the City budget (what are they used for and how much is in each fund).

City Finance Director Kevin Jacobson gave a lengthy explanation as to how the 28 funds are broken down, how much overall was in the funds, etc. Jacobson said there are 50 bank accounts combined into 28 funds that are identified in the annual financial report. “This is so moneys are not co-mingled.”

Item #4 on the agenda from Max Weaver, requested discussion of Visit Mason City (CVB).

On this item, Weaver said “I want to cut the middleman out,” referring to the Mason City Chamber of Commerce and a 28E agreement the City has between the Chamber and the Convention and Visitors Board. According to comments at the meeting, the City collects taxes on hotel use in Mason City and then part of those taxes are paid to the Chamber of Commerce, who then funnels those funds to the CVB. Weaver wants the CVB to take the funds directly, and not have the City hand the funds to the Chamber first. Referring to the 28E contract, he proposed giving the Chamber a 1 year notice of termination and then training the CVB staff, which has two employees, to take on the added responsibilities.

Tornquist asked City Attorney Tom Meyer if it was possible for the City to enter into agreement with the CVB, and Meyer said “That could happen.”

Item #5 on the agenda was from Weaver, requesting discussion regarding a statement allegedly made by Mayor Bookmeyer referring to his preference to appoint young people to vacancies on boards and commissions. There has been some Mason City senior citizens that have voiced their concern over the Mayor’s statements, with some asking if this could be considered age discrimination.

Bookmeyer addressed the issue first, saying “if I have the opportunity to grab young talent, I’m going to do it.” Weaver called for the Mayor to apologize. See the video below for the full discussion on this agenda item.

Item #6 on the agenda was from Weaver, requesting discussion regarding the vacant North Iowa Corridor position and funding. Weaver advocated for former Mayor Roger Bang taking the director position temporarily while a permanent director is found.

Item #7 on the agenda was again from Weaver, requesting discussion of a Human Rights position. Currently, City Attorney Tom Meyer handles most or all human resources duties at City Hall. He does have an assistant, currently. Weaver wants to separate the City Attorney position from human resources and create a Human Resources Director, and have no assistants for either position.



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