The clerk started the meeting by saying that the Omni Room will be available for overflow crowds at every council meeting until the renovations to the regular council chambers are complete. The clerk thought the renovations would be finished for the Aug 21st meeting. I was certainly happy to hear the clerk take this step as it ensures that everyone will be able to view the meetings without the fear of being locked out. It should also be noted that the doors were left open throughout the meeting tonight.
Next, Don Schmidt said the Allen County Commissioners sent him a letter saying the county has lost $3 million from annexation and that they will not have the necessary funds to maintain all the county bridges. The commissioners proposed creating a task force to explore potential solutions. One solution mentioned was to have the city pay for the bridges within its boundaries but have the county loan the necessary experts to the city to ensure the maintenance is done properly.
There were changes made to the city's policy and procedures manual including adding a floating holiday (designated by the mayor) for all employees. This one made absolutely no sense to me as the city already gets several paid holidays. Tom Didier inquired about the extra expense this would create and the director of Human Resources said they planned to offset the cost by changing the bereavement leave policy. After listening to the bereavement policy changes it's my opinion that there is absolutely NO WAY this is revenue neutral - it will cost the city money. The city admitted that they had no metrics or basis for claiming the changes would be revenue neutral yet nobody on the council challenged them.
The main debate at tonight's meeting was over an ordinance discussing changes to how firefighters are hired, promoted and disciplined. The firefighters want to create a Merit Commission to handle this and this board would essentially replace the Public Safety Board as far as firefighters are concerned. Their rational for this was that the members of the Public Safety Board are all appointed by the mayor and thus it could become too politicized. Their merit board would consist of 2 members appointed by the mayor, 2 by the firefighters (active duty members are ineligible) and 1 by the city council.
There was vigorous debate over this with the Fire and Police Chiefs arguing to stick with the status quo. They felt there was nothing wrong with the current system and that this would shift too much authority away from management and policy positions. There were a couple of amendments offered that didn't seem to be that big of a deal but took almost an hours worth of debate. The vote on the ordinance ended in a 4-4 tie since Councilman Hines was not present and so he will become the deciding vote at next week's meeting.
As an interesting side note, due to the tie vote, the council said the bill would be moved out of committee with no recommendation. The city clerk was visibly upset about this and was quietly protesting that a tie vote equated to a recommendation of do not pass. Because of the clerk's concerns, Schmidt decided to make a motion (that was passed) to move the bill out of committee with no recommendation. The clerk insisted that they could not do that but her concerns were ignored.