NEW ULM The New Ulm City Council approved Tuesday extending the completion date for the Minnesota River flood levee project to Dec. 27.
Mathiowetz Construction, general contractor for the levee, sought the extension after delivery delays held up the arrival of three sluice gates. The extension will not add any cost to the contract for the project.
Survey of public services
The Council also received the second annual Survey of Public Services and Performance Measurement Report, which surveys residents and has them rate the quality of each city service on a 1 to 5 scale.
This year's results showed very slight decreases in approval for all city services except for the slight approval increase for snow plowing, which may be due to last year's mild winter. However, many ratings also showed a net decrease in the poorest ratings that were only counterbalanced by a decrease in the best ratings. For example, approval of City operations overall swelled in the second-best rating of "good" and the middle rating of "satisfactory" while generating no "poor ratings" and dropping a good chunk of the "excellent" ratings.
City Manager Brian Gramentz said the rankings were close enough to last year, indicating he difference may only be based on the public perception or opinion of the City.
The City survey started last year as a Minnesota Legislature-funded initiative that was a prerequisite for avoiding any tax levy limits. However, the City has since considered doing the survey annually to track the improvement or decrease of public opinion on city operations. Approval to continue the survey has not yet been made, but the tentative plan would be to show the trend of scores over several years. The duration could be up to five years for the annual analysis and even more years for future long-term analysis of services.
Shortly before adjournment, Councilor Ken RockVam initiated a motion to rescind the pay raise approved last spring for Council members and the mayor. RockVam said he initially approved of the raise and he believes people dramatically underestimate how much work councilors perform . However, he said the number of rebukes the Council has received over the decision made him change his mind.
After discussion, the motion was determined to be Out of Order because it was required to be an agenda item ahead of time, giving the public a chance to voice their opinion on the topic. RockVam responded by apologizing for presenting the motion, stating he simply wanted to bring the issue up for discussion.
Councilors Charles Schmitz, Ruth Ann Webster and Les Schultz each said they still supported the pay raise. Schultz said he believes the backlash was universal whenever elected officials give themselves a raise.
"We could have raised it $5 and they still would have shouted. It's all about people not liking the idea of a raise at all, given the current economy," said Schmitz.
The previously approved raise increased the annual pay for councilors by $2,000 to $8,000 annually and the Mayor's pay by $3,900 to $10,500. These positions can only have pay increases authorized in election years, thus giving voters a chance to respond to the action. City officials were uncertain Tuesday night whether a pay decrease could be approved at any time of the year, but felt that it was likely to be allowed.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)