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Bessemer City Council struggles with social media policy's


Ian Minielly/Daily Globe

BESSEMER CITY Council members review the agenda Monday in Bessemer. Seated from left to right are Linda Nelson, Kathy Whitburn, John Frello, and Al Gaiss. The council agreed to allow Charly Loper, city manager, to pursue two new grants with short turn arounds while having a lengthy discussion on the cities social media policy.


Bessemer - Those time worn words uttered during the trial of Jesus, "What is truth," found call for usage on Monday during the Bessemer City Council meeting. During a discussion focused on updating the cities social media policy, Charly Loper, city manager, mentioned three options to address with the policy changes.

Those options were: A. Employees and city officials personal use of social media, B. Management of the cities official page and inclusion of a disclaimer, and C. How to update the official page.

The current employee handbook addresses city employee usage of social media, but John Frello mentioned the handbook does not really cover the council or committees and that non-employees conducting business for the city would also need to be handled separately.

Linda Nelson highlighted some issues with the proposed language. Nelson disagreed with the effort of the policy to dictate a persons personal, non-work schedule. Nelson discussed how misleading the requirement is to force employees and council members to go up the chain of command before talking to the press, while also pointing out the frequency people share information with the press in their roles and how this would be a major hindrance.

The third issue Nelson had with the proposed language is the egregious and disparagement language that would limit the ability of the council to truthfully discuss matters at hand, without violating the clause because nothing negative could be said.

After some back and forth between the council discussing truth, what is truth, and having the freedom to communicate, Loper interjected she understood the National Labor Relations Board rulings on the matters differently, which led to further discussion between the members.

Loper informed the board she had shared the proposed language with the cities attorney already, who Loper said found nothing wrong with the language.

Nelson acknowledged that much of the discussion they were having was because of her Facebook page and she asked the council rhetorically, "Are we afraid to tell the public what happens at meetings?"

After further discussion of the proposed language and the request to move the language to a second attorney handling the employee handbook modifications, the council voted. Kathy Whitburn's motion to request Loper give the proposed language to the second attorney was passed.

In other old business, the council voted to give Loper the ability to move the retirement funds into the agreed upon investment vehicle, to move forward on the Wastewater project, and to allow Loper to develop language that would allow her to spend emergency money for the wastewater and water projects without seeking council approval for up to $20,000.

Under new business, the Bessemer Historical Society informed the council of their plans to build a larger building to house their museum at one of three places, due to the graciousness of a private benefactor that wishes to remain anonymous. The three locations under consideration are on Sophie Street, near the Matonich Building, on the northwest corner of the Sophie and Seller intersection, or where the former Hunter's Inn location was. The Historical Society is only just beginning the process and could either begin building this year or next.

Loper advised the council of two potential grant opportunities she wanted to apply for. The first grant was through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and would be a combined grant with Ironwood. Bessemer would receive enough money to replace the "Welcome to Bessemer" signs with their portion of the grant. The second grant, through the Economic Development Center, ranges from $500,000 to $2,000,000 and if received would pay for one of two projects, either a new water tower at Blackjack to service the city or to replace the line up Tilden Hill because the current line is too small.

The council discussed the potential need to increase sewer rates in the near future. Bessemer currently charges a flat fee to everyone, while the demands and costs are considerably different depending on the meter installed.

The proposal to increase sewer rates on 19 businesses that have large meters was discussed, but the council also recognized this could impact those 19 businesses in a significant manner. The council agreed this was something that needed further discussion.


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